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New Brunswick Tory annual meeting in Fredericton met by protesters

Protesters gather in Fredericton at N.B. PC event
WATCH: As members of the PC Party of New Brunswick gathered in Fredericton on Saturday, they were met by protesters. Megan Yamoah reports.

Members of the Progressive Conservative Party of New Brunswick gathered at the Fredericton Inn in Fredericton on Saturday to go over their to-do-list of top priorities, but a vocal group of protesters also turned up to voice their discontent with the provincial government.

Nursing home workers and members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) shouted and chanted as they demand fair wages.

New Brunswick’s nursing home workers have been without a contract since 2016 and over the last year have been locked in a bitter labour dispute with the provincial government.

READ MORE: N.B. Court of Appeal upholds nursing home workers’ right to strike

“They need to roll up their sleeves and come to the table, bargain fair collective agreements and bargain fair wages that take into account the cost of living in this province,” said Sandy Harding, CUPE regional director for the Maritimes.

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Highest court in New Brunswick upheld nursing home workers’ right to strike
Highest court in New Brunswick upheld nursing home workers’ right to strike

Premier Blaine Higgs said he wants to end the bad blood and come to a resolution with CUPE.

“I’ve met with them last night, talked with them very cordial. There’s been no issue here and you know, I would like to change that fist into a [hand shake],” said Higgs, referring to CUPE’s logo that displays a fist.

In fact, the PC Party of New Brunswick’s first annual general meeting had a conciliatory theme. The party says they are moving forward with the goal of “doing what is right.”

“The next phase of that is working with people in the communities because they need to see that we are not only working for people that are part of our party but this is an engagement of the citizens of the province,” explained Higgs.

As for the protesters who remain in negotiations, they say they’re still waiting for the province to do the right thing.

CEO of NB Power grilled by committee over its multi-million dollar investment into startup company
CEO of NB Power grilled by committee over its multi-million dollar investment into startup company

Health and education a priority

Two priorities that are definitely hot button issues in the province are dependable public health care and education.

Las month Clinic 554 in Fredericton, the only private abortion clinic in New Brunswick, announced it was closing due to financial instability and lack of funding from the provincial government.

On Saturday, Health Minister Ted Flemming said that abortions are available at select hospitals.

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“The procedure is offered in Vitalité and Horizon. We don’t fund private healthcare. Our position is consistent with the position of the previous government and several previous governments before that,” he said.

READ MORE: Clinic 554 cautiously optimistic after health authority urges government to fund out-of-hospital abortions

With only two hospitals in the entire province providing the service, accessibility is still an issue and many say that is becoming a government problem.

“There isn’t any change to our position,” said Flemming

N.B. Department of Education to bring back skilled trades programs, eliminate elementary school grades
N.B. Department of Education to bring back skilled trades programs, eliminate elementary school grades

Education Minister Dominic Cardy spoke to a packed room at the Fredericton Inn pushing the government’s plan to mix grade classes. As an example, Kindergarten to Grade 2 students would be in the same classroom.

“If you put a kid in one grade, dump them into another grade, if they don’t know what they are doing and we’ve just passed them because we’ve decided that saying you failed is somehow unfair, those children start to see a learning gap developing that has huge impacts on the rest of their life,” said Cardy.

Despite criticism and concern that children will end up losing in the end, Higgs remains optimistic.

“We’re going to continue to make decisions that we believe make sense … [and] put the justification around them so that they can see that yes this is right for New Brunswick, and that’s our goal,” said Higgs.
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