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Rally in Rothesay, N.B. keeps Clinic 554 an election issue

Click to play video 'Advocates call for access to abortion and LGBTQ healthcare in Rothesay, N.B.' Advocates call for access to abortion and LGBTQ healthcare in Rothesay, N.B.
With Clinic 554 still facing closure due to funding problems, a group of activists met in Rothesay, N.B., to bring awareness to access to abortion services and LGBTQ-focused healthcare in the province. Travis Fortnum reports.

Forty people attended a rally in Rothesay on Thursday afternoon with the aim of furthering the conversation around funding Clinic 554.

The clinic – which offers a range of LGBT healthcare and New Brunswick’s only out-of-hospital access to abortion services – has become an election issue, with PC Leader Blaine Higgs remaining adamant that his government was not in violation of the Canada Health Act by withholding funding.

READ MORE: Push to save Clinic 554 intensifies during N.B. election campaign

Organized by newly-formed grassroots activist group FLIP Saint John and held in incumbent Health Minister Ted Flemming’s home riding, Thursday’s rally brought out a number of candidates competing for a seat in the legislature – including the Interim Leader of New Brunswick’s NDP Mackenzie Thomason, who says securing funding the clinic is in his party’s plans.

“It’s something that will be in our platform until the Liberal or PC government, whichever we get next, comes to the table and fixes their mistakes,” he says.

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“We need access in all languages,” reads one sign at the rally.
“We need access in all languages,” reads one sign at the rally. Travis Fortnum / Global News

Thomason says there were four NDP candidates at the rally in all.

There were five local Green candidates there – including Joanna Killen, who’s running in Saint John Lancaster.

“We are showing up like we will after the election as well,” says Killen. “It’s important because I feel like our politicians aren’t being seen in public and that’s what we’re starting to get frustrated with,” she says

READ MORE:All our New Brunswick election 2020 coverage

“Above party lines, in party lines, I don’t think it really matters when it comes to people’s health,” says Jason Hickey, who’s running against Flemming in the Rothesay riding for the Liberal Party.

“I think it’s great to have it happening in our riding, I think it should be happening in every riding,” he says.

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There were no NB Progressive Conservative nor People’s Alliance candidates at the rally.

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In a statement, a spokesperson for the PCs says “the premier has spoke [sic.] to this on several occasions and his stance remains the same.”

Last Friday, incumbent premier Higgs said he believes the province has not violated the Canada Health Act and says anyone who disagrees can challenge the matter in court.

Rothesay PA candidate Mike Griffin did not respond to requests for a statement.