New Brunswick

Liberals vow to keep top public health officer's job independent

New Brunswick’s Liberal government says it will keep its election promise on the independence of the chief medical officer of health.

Independence of chief medical officer of health's job was a campaign commitment

Dr. Eilish Cleary said she was fired from her job on Monday 'without cause.' (Submitted by Eilish Cleary)

New Brunswick's Liberal government says it will keep its election promise on the independence of the chief medical officer of health.

That promise comes in the midst of controversy over the firing of the woman who held the position, Dr. Eilish Cleary.

The Liberals made the promise in last year's campaign platform, reacting to Cleary's report on the health impact of shale gas development.

Their measures to protect the environment would include "ensuring the independence of the medical officers of health," they said at the time.

Cabinet minister Donald Arseneault says the Liberals will honour the party's commitment to ensure the independence of the chief medical officers of health. (CBC)
Cabinet minister Donald Arseneault repeated that promise on Wednesday.

"What's in our platform, including that, we believe in that," he told reporters. "We're going to fulfill our commitment."

Arseneault wouldn't say whether that will involve legislation or some other measure.

"I'll leave that to the minister of health to do that work within his department, when he's ready to bring it forward. But I can guarantee you it will be brought forward within our mandate."

Activists accuse government of muzzling Cleary

Cleary's firing has alarmed environmental activists, who have speculated that it's related to her plan to study the herbicide glyphosate or to a pending Liberal review of its moratorium on shale gas development.

On Monday, just a few hours before Cleary was fired, several dozen activists demonstrated outside the downtown Fredericton office building where her office is located.

They accused the Liberals of putting her on leave to muzzle her.

Health Minister Victor Boudreau says he may be able to release information about Dr. Eilish Cleary's case if she consents. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)
The Liberals won't comment on the reason for the firing, calling it a personnel matter.

They say it wasn't "politically motivated" and they've pointed out the glyphosate study is continuing under her acting replacement.

On Tuesday, Health Minister Victor Boudreau said he'd be willing to release more information on why Cleary was fired if she gives her consent.

Cleary has not yet responded to a request by CBC News on whether she'll agree to Boudreau's suggestion.


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