Every New Brunswicker needs a family doctor

Commentary by Rosaire L’Italien in The Daily Gleaner

It’s a tale we know all too well: thousands of New Brunswickers do not have a family doctor.

It is estimated that some 80 per cent of what happens in our healthcare system takes place in that “primary care setting” which usually means family doctors offices. Yet right now 60,000 New Brunswickers are currently without a family doctor.

We simply do not have enough family doctors in New Brunswick. On average, doctors in New Brunswick have the highest patient load in Canada, with each doctor taking on average 1,800 patients, compared to a Canadian medium of 1,400 patients per doctor. That also means people have to wait longer for an appointment.

Successive governments have promised to give all New Brunswickers access to a family doctor. The current government said they would act by adding 50 net new general practitioners by 2018.

Primary care is a right that all citizens in New Brunswick should have, but don’t. Did the past successive governments take this seriously?  It appears they didn’t.

We all know someone, it may it be our family, friends or neighbours who do not have access to a doctor or who have waited years trying to find a doctor who is willing to take them under their care.

We all know students who have made the choice to come to New Brunswick for post secondary education but cannot find a family doctor throughout their time in school, and still cannot find one even as they enter the workforce after four or five years of studies.

We all know parents who are forced to wait for hours at walk-in clinics or in the ER with their kids for prescription refills, referrals or small ailments that could be treated in a physician’s office.

We all know seniors who are bounced around from doctor to doctor at clinics, where no one who knows their unique needs and medical challenges.

Often these stories are only told between friends and neighbours, but the premier and the Liberal government need to hear these stories.

One story found here on the pages of the Daily Gleaner from March 10 told of a Fredericton man who has spent close to three years on the Patient Connect list waiting for a family doctor.

This is unacceptable: our public healthcare system is built around primary care teams, which starts with the family doctor.

New Brunswick is the sickest province in the country. Sixty percent of New Brunswickers have at least one chronic disease, and 13 percent of those people are on six or more medications. We also have the second highest rates of disability in Canada. We have the third highest diabetes rate, and the third highest rate of cancer in Canada.

With an aged and aging population this failure by past governments has created a healthcare crisis that is going to get worse.

It’s time the premier took his promise seriously. Talk on the health care file simply isn’t enough, it’s time to address this shortage today.

The NDP would do things differently. Following the recommendation of the College of Family Physicians of Canada, we will implement the Patient’s Medical Home System in New Brunswick, which places the family physician at the centre of a healthcare team. This eases the burden on family physicians by allowing other healthcare professionals to be the patient’s first point of contact and allows for better and faster primary care for all New Brunswickers.

The NDP would also recruit more family doctors and specialists by increasing residencies by 20 per cent and working to ease restrictions on foreign educated doctors.

If New Brunswick is going to be promoted as the best place to live, start a family, or to start businesses,  access to a doctor must be an important part of that equation. It starts by building a healthcare system that’s envied around the world. That begins with primary care access and family doctors for all.

Rosaire L’Italien is the interim leader of the New Brunswick New Democratic Party.

NB NDP Leadership Contest Announced

The New Brunswick NDP 2017 Leadership contest has begun, Interim Leader Rosaire L’Italien and members of the party’s Executive announced today at a press conference in Fredericton.

“It is an exciting time to be a New Democrat in New Brunswick” said L’Italien

Party President Michel Boudreau stated that “the party is growing with new memberships, new donors and new staff. All over the province people are forming new riding associations and getting more involved.”

All potential candidates must be registered and have had their paperwork complete, by August 4th 2017.

Party Vice President Hélène Boudreau stated “the dates and process are very important for contestants to follow and the party is here to assist candidates if need be”.

In order to vote for the next leader of the NB NDP, members must be signed up by September 27th 2017 at 5pm.

Voting will be conducted with ranked ballots, which will be mailed out from the Provincial Office.

Further, Vice-President Boudreau stated “The final day to receive the ballots at the NB NDP office is October 27th at 5pm”.

In the event of a contested nomination, the results will be announced October 29th, and a winner declared.

NDP Statement on World Press Freedom Day

At a time when Canada has been slipping on Reporters Without Borders’ index of countries by media freedoms, this matters. When we attack the freedom of the press, we’re attacking our own people, democracy and freedom.

New Democrats will continue to fight for freedom of the press and stand with the media against attacks on their independence.

New Democrats thank journalists and the media for their invaluable work informing the public.

Is Premier Putting Vulnerable New Brunswickers At Risk?

Commentary by Rosaire L’Italien in The Daily Gleaner which appeared April 26th 2017

We are concerned that the property tax scandal will impact negatively many of the most vulnerable members of our community. New Brunswickers are fully aware of the fast-tracked process that has led to incorrect property tax assessments. We have seen property values rise substantially while no actual assessment was done to ensure accuracy.

We believe that Premier Brian Gallant had his chief of staff in the premier’s office direct Service New Brunswick to speed up the assessment process that has created false assessments and false renovations, and created a level of anxiety for property owners, tenants, seniors and their families that no person should endure.

The anxiety and worry that has extended to renters and residents of seniors’ homes will add to the burden that New Brunswickers already face due to huge challenges from the policies of this government. This is wrong.

We believe that unless this government calls for a full stop to the collection of property taxes where assessments rose higher than the percentage allowed by law, citizens as well as the property owners will feel and experience the brunt of this scandal.

Mr. Gallant’s government in the 2½ since it has been elected has raised taxes and increased fees on many services New Brunswickers need and upon which they depend. A rent increase for tenants and a rising cost for seniors due to interference from the premier are additional costs that can’t be shouldered by an already financially burdened community.

The costs of rent, food, electricity and transportation have been rising substantially, while wages stay about the same. People are already struggling to make ends meet.

For many New Brunswick tenants, paying the rent consumes a large percentage of income. Workers being paid minimum wage have a hard time paying the costs of day-to-day living. A rise in rent for them will be too much.

A shock increase in rents due to incorrect property tax assessments will create a tipping point financially for the most vulnerable New Brunswickers. That concerns us and should concern all residents of the province. More than 100,000 New Brunswickers live in poverty. This includes a staggering 23,000 people under the age of 18. New Brunswick simply can’t afford these tax increases.

For tenants on income assistance, rents consume almost all of the money that a person receives, and an added cost to their rents will be a burden they’ll be unable to address.

With fewer finances to operate households, this can and will create other unnecessary costs that all taxpayers in New Brunswick will have to cover.

The interference on the part of Premier Gallant has and will have a lasting negative effect on the growth of New Brunswick and impact people of our community directly.

Recently, New Brunswickers have heard that Cecile Casista of the New Brunswick Seniors Coalition has raised concerns that Nursing Homes fees have risen, and a nursing-home owner in Moncton cited property taxes as one of the direct causes for rising costs. The cost to seniors and their families is already high. More costs due to made-up property tax assessments aren’t only another financial challenge, but wrong.

We call on the premier to reverse the assessments, put tax payments on hold and allow Service New Brunswick to do its due diligence to ensure assessments are accurate and fair. New Brunswick property owner shouldn’t have to appeal their assessments where the values of the property have risen above the percentage legally allowed. The premier must act on this immediately to begin righting the wrong that he has created.

We believe that our tax system requires a complete overhaul, including the property assessment process. It requires no political interference, and Service New Brunswick staff must be permitted to do their jobs without interference to ensure accurate assessments.

We call on Premier Gallant to act immediately.

Rosaire L’Italien‎ is the interim leader of the New Brunswick New Democratic Party.

Full Overhaul Needed of NB’s Broken Property Tax System

commentary by Rosaire L’Italien in The Daily Gleaner
A tax system in crisis. $50 million in fabricated renovations. Public trust compromised and eroding. The New Democratic Party has been calling for a full overhaul of this province’s broken, incomprehensible and unfair property tax system for some time and this recent crisis reaffirms that.
Currently our property tax assessment system is a tale of two New Brunswicks.
It’s the best of times for the large corporations, which are being given endless tax breaks by not having their property tax assessments increased since the 1970s, which has cost this province hundreds of millions of dollars…
And it is the worst of times for thousands of everyday New Brunswickers who, through no fault of their own, have seen their property taxes skyrocket through the roof with no explanation.
New Brunswickers are frustrated when they see their property values decrease and their required tax payment increase. What further exasperates New Brunswickers is properties in the same neighborhoods assessed at different values, with the lesser valued property paying a higher tax bill. This is totally unacceptable.
According to Premier Gallant this problem has been with us since 2011. Premier Gallant stated that the same errors were committed in 2011 under the previous Progressive Conservative government of David Alward. This illustrates a pattern where New Brunswickers have overpaid their tax bills for a number of years. It must be determined whether political interference occurred in both 2011 and 2017.
We also believe that accountability begins and ends with the Premier. Our Premier has not been one to accept responsibility for the government’s actions and decisions. We have seen in many instances where the Premier and government placed the blame with staffers and the civil service. We have seen this recently with safety standards at Parlee Beach and financing for the Bas-Caraquet shipyard being blamed on civil servants rather than Ministers taking responsibility for things that went wrong on their watch. We urge the Premier and his ministers to lead and accept responsibility not only in this matter but in any issue where public trust has been eroded.
What the New Democratic Party knows is that the two previous governments cut jobs in Service New Brunswick. We believe that this reduced workforce contributed to the hasty assessments compounded by possible interference from the Premier’s office.
We applaud that Justice Robertson will lead an inquiry into how property assessments are done. While we support an inquiry, we feel that Justice Robertson should be given a broader mandate beyond just the recent assessment processes, and undertake a full-scale review of the property tax system. Our hope is for a more open taxation process that takes away sweetheart deals given by the province to large companies behind closed doors, where their properties are not assessed for 40+ years. We need a system that’s fair across the board. We also feel that any inquiry into this issue requires full public disclosure: recent changes to the Inquiries Act will give Judge Robertson authority to restrict public access to information or prohibit public reporting. This could allow for hearings to be held in private. That would be unacceptable to New Brunswickers.
Finally, we are more than a little confused that at the exact same time as the Premier announced Justice Robertson’s inquiry he also announced that the property tax assessment branch of Service New Brunswick would be made “independent.” That seemed an awful lot like announcing the inquiry’s recommendations at the same time as launching the inquiry. Our hope is that “independent” does not mean privatized in the eyes of the Premier. Privatization will lower standards of work and lower the standard of living for workers. Giving control of property tax assessments to for profit private companies has been tried elsewhere with negative results, and is the wrong move.