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Liberals and Greens discuss health care reform in TV debate

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The Premier of New Brunswick was absent from a debate between heads of state and government on health care reform on Tuesday evening.

The top politicians of the three parties with seats in the provincial parliament were invited to participate.

Liberal Party Leader Susan Holt and Green Party Leader David Coon were present at the debate, which was streamed on Rogers TV.

However, according to moderator Terry Seguin, Prime Minister Blaine Higgs declined an invitation to participate.

Both heads of state and government present expressed their disappointment at the Prime Minister's decision not to attend.

“The system is failing us and the fact that the person who is currently in charge of government and wants to remain in charge is not engaging in sharing his ideas and talking about his record, I think, shows a great deal of respect for the people of New Brunswick,” Holt said.

“It reveals a lack of respect for the voters and the people who work in the health care system,” Coon added.

The debate was presented by CUPE Local 1252, which represents over 9,000 health care workers in the province.

Holt said she believes New Brunswick's health care system is at the end of its life, adding that she considers the current state to be “uniquely bad.”

“Everyone feels burned out, feels like no one is listening to them when they express their concerns, when they propose solutions. They are not at the table when plans are being made,” she said during the hour-long debate.

The Liberal leader said she had seen other provinces try to address similar problems, but New Brunswick was “doing half-measures at best.”

Coon, meanwhile, said New Brunswick needs a “generational investment” – something he believes the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives are not ready to make.

“People need to be paid, they need to have good working conditions, and what we have seen in recent years is that people are leaving the health care system for Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island because they couldn't get permanent employment,” he said.

Holt said that while recruiting new employees to the province's health system is important, we need to start with retaining new employees.

“There's no point in hiring new employees if you keep losing them. In order for us to increase the number of employees in our system, we need to keep the people we have today,” she said.

You can watch the full debate below.