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N.B. deputy premier quits minority Tory government over health-care reforms

N.B. deputy premier quits minority Tory government over health-care reforms
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SHIPPAGAN, N.B. -- New Brunswick s governing Progressive Conservatives have lost their deputy premier with Robert Gauvin s announcement he is quitting in protest over health-care reforms.

Gauvin told constituents in his riding of Shippagan-Lameque-Miscou Friday he will sit as an Independent, dealing a blow to the minority government of Premier Blaine Higgs.

"If I don t feel the premier is protecting citizens," Gauvin said. "I have to do something."

His departure leaves the Tories and Liberals tied with 20 seats in the legislature. The Greens and People s Alliance have three each, there is one Independent and two seats are vacant. Both the Greens and Liberals have said they are prepared to defeat the government on a confidence motion.

The announcement, which drew applause from his supporters, follows the government s decision this week to close emergency rooms overnight in six community hospitals in the province.

Gauvin is the second Tory MLA to denounce the ER closures, following Bruce Northrup, who said Thursday he cannot support the move but intends to continue supporting the government in other areas.

Higgs has said his government is convinced it is doing the right thing to ensure the sustainability of the province s health-care system. The government says resources diverted from the overnight shift will shore up daytime services, enhance mental health services and allow for more long-term chronic care beds.

But Gauvin, who was the only francophone member of the Tory cabinet and caucus, said people from rural communities across the province urged him to take a stand.

"This reform is an attack on the rural nature of New Brunswick," he said.

The six communities that will lose their emergency rooms from midnight to 8 a.m., effective March 11, are Sussex, Sackville, Perth-Andover, Ste-Anne-de-Kent, Caraquet and Grand Falls.
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