New Brunswick auditor general to review province’s COVID-19 response

Click to play video: 'New Brunswick MLAs vote for review of province’s handling of COVID-19'
New Brunswick MLAs vote for review of province’s handling of COVID-19
WATCH: New Brunswick MLAs have voted, and the province's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic will be reviewed by the auditor general. It’s something many have been calling for for months. Premier Blaine Higgs says the review can get started right away, with the hopes it could be finished by the end of the year. Nathalie Sturgeon has more – Apr 1, 2022

Four months ago, the New Brunswick Liberals introduced a motion to have the auditor general review the province’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic — that motion has now been unanimously passed.

At the time, the government argued it wouldn’t want to review something until the crisis is over. Premier Blaine Higgs called the move an “opposition tactic.”

“We are still dealing with issues related to the health and safety of citizens,” he said back in December.

The motion, which outlines several key areas that should be examined by auditor general Paul Martin, gives him subpoena powers.

On Friday, though, Higgs said he would like the review to start immediately and hopes to have a final report by the end of the year.

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When asked whether they’d offer further funds to the office of the AG, Higgs said it would make them available if it was needed.

He said now that the emergency order has been lifted, the argument not to move ahead with the review no longer stands.

“The reality became doing an emergency order isn’t something you take lightly and we value our rights and freedoms,” he said speaking to reporters Friday. “So, for us, when we could take it off realistically and manage with Public Health rules and regulations, the better.”

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In an emailed statement, the office of the auditor general said it has received a request for a review by the Executive Council Office and will undertake the review.

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“The Office is pleased to undertake a review with the objective to provide valuable insight and recommendations to assist in future responses to potential similar situations,” a spokesperson said in an email.

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It said it is still determining the parameters of the project.

“The findings will be shared with the public once the report is released.”

Green Party Leader David Coon said he welcomes the idea of the review.

“So, it’s quite appropriate now, after two years, to take a look at all dimensions of the pandemic response to see what things could have been improved, what things worked and what things we maybe shouldn’t do again,” he said.

Coon said there was clearly a sense of unpreparedness in the plans that were outlined for previous serious health crises like H1N1.

For Coon, the history of unanimous motions with the current government isn’t great.

“We’ve seen motion after motion that were unanimous go unimplemented,” he said. “We’re still waiting for the mental health advocate to be appointed, for what, two years now since that was unanimously adopted.”

Roger Melanson, interim Liberal leader, said he feels the government was caught off guard that the party came up with the idea before them and didn’t want to give them credit.

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He said during the debate on Thursday it was raised that many MLAs also wanted a review but couldn’t say that at the time.

“I really think they wanted to do a review at one point in time, but internally, that would have been a mistake,” he said. “From my perspective, we need to have complete independence, objective and neutrality in how this is reviewed.”

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