New Brunswick Liberals call for review of government’s pandemic response

Click to play video: 'Opposition calls for independent review over New Brunswick’s COVID-19 handling' Opposition calls for independent review over New Brunswick’s COVID-19 handling
WATCH: Questions are being raised over how New Brunswick has handled the COVID-19 pandemic and now the Liberal opposition is calling for an independent review. Nathalie Sturgeon reports. – Dec 9, 2021

The official opposition in New Brunswick has tabled a motion for an independent review of the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was brought forward originally by interim Liberal leader Roger Melanson and tabled again on Thursday by Liberal health critic Jean-Claude D’Amours.

The move comes amid a flurry of political back-and-forth on transparency and communication on the current situation in the province.

“An independent review would look at all aspects,” Melanson said speaking to reporters on Thursday. “The decision making process, the data collection, how it was interpreted, the communications, the role of all different stakeholders … the federal government relationships.”

Read more: COVID-19: N.B. sets daily record with 174 new cases, 2 more deaths

He said a lot of positive efforts were made but a comprehensive independent review must look at the pandemic response as a whole, and determine recommendations for the future.

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The Liberals and the Greens have called for greater use of restrictive measures and clearer communications from the province about COVID-19 rules.

In July, the province moved to lift all restrictions but the fourth wave soon followed. Cases began rising again shortly after and did not shown any signs of slowing down.

In October, the province move to reinstate mask requirements.

Since the summer, the active case count in New Brunswick has not dropped below 100 active cases at any time. According to Health Canada, New Brunswick ranks second in the rate of cases per 100,000 in the country and is in the same place on deaths per 100,000.

Melanson said the confusion has implications.

“When you communicate a message around COVID-19 it’s got to be crystal clear,” he said.

Read more: Some N.B. patients learning their unvaccinated doctors have been suspended

He doubled down on confusing comments made the premier over the past week relating to the source of hospital outbreaks, which have since been refuted by the two health authorities.

But Premier Blaine Higgs said now is not the time for a review. He called the motion another “opposition tactic.”

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“We are still dealing issues related to health and safety of citizens,” Higgs said. “You may do reviews later and say what would we do different and how would we react differently but in the middle of the pandemic basically a review or a study that takes away from the resources that you need to deal with the issues at hand.”

He said Melanson walked away from the COVID-19 cabinet committee where he was apart of the decision-making process.

Read more: Support for private health-care options has grown since start of pandemic: survey

“You would not do that in the middle of a pandemic,” he said. “He quit the pandemic team. I guess maybe one should assess why he quit or where he was when decisions were made in the past.”

However, Higgs, said when the pandemic is decidedly over he would consider a review.

People’s Alliance leader Kris Austin made similar comments about the review.

“The thing for me is timing,” he said.

But Austin did say pandemic communication is an issue.

“Communication, in my opinion, has always been the downfall of the pandemic response,” he said on Thursday. “I often do see somewhat of a disconnect between what is communicated to the public and what even sometimes I understand as a COVID cabinet member.”

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The province’s Winter Action Plan was unveiled by the health minister on Dec. 3. Higgs confirmed assessments have not been triggered by Public Health to move to more restrictive levels in the plan, including in Zone 3, the Fredericton region.

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