- As part of the standing committee on economic policy, the Liberal Opposition grilled the government on a proposed measure that would give the chief medical officer of health in New Brunswick more authority.
On Tuesday, the Liberal Opposition grilled the government as part of the standing committee on economic policy on a proposed bill that would give the chief medical officer of health in New Brunswick more authority.
Bill 104 would empower the chief medical officer of health (CMOH) to issue targeted public health orders, obviating the need for broad emergency measures in future infectious disease epidemics.
The amendments would bring New Brunswick in line with the majority of other provinces and eliminate the province’s long-standing usage of the Emergency Measures Act, which was in effect from March 2020 to July 2021 and then again from September 2021 to March 2022.
On Tuesday, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard told the house that the govt followed the Saskatchewan approach, like most other jurisdictions, either gives the minister or the CMOH power, not both.
However, Liberal health critic Jean-Claude D’Amours questioned if it gives the chief medical officer of health actual independence and power.
D’Amours questioned whether government decisions were fundamentally political and not fully reflective of the CMOH’s recommendations at the time.
“Will there be a system to allow citizens to know what the cabinet’s recommendations were before a decision?” he questioned in French Shephard.
Shepherd did not directly respond to the question but did say that “none of the government’s choices were made without the approval of Public Health.”
The revisions are meant to avoid using the Emergency Measures Act, which Shephard has described as a blunt tool that should never be utilized for long periods.
“The measure overcomes several present inadequacies in the current Public Health Act,” said Lyle Skinner, a constitutional lawyer specializing in parliamentary and disaster management law, in a blog post.
The benefit of the minister of health taking this move, he wrote in the post, is that it establishes a political tie of accountability as well as responsibility back to the legislative assembly.
“Because the Minister is exercising power rather than the cabinet, it does not have the same restrictions on cabinet confidentiality,” the post stated. “This means that, compared to judgments taken at the cabinet level, the Minister can present an additional public reason for decisions.”
Despite the political wrangling, Dr. Yves Leger, acting chief medical officer of health, believes the revisions to the legislation are beneficial.
“To better manage future pandemics, if the need arises, to help streamline systems without needing to resort to using the Emergency Measures Act, which was never intended to be used in that manner,” he said in an interview on Tuesday.
Source: Global News
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