Fredericton — As a strike by the Canadian Union of Public Employees begin across the province this morning, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs is reiterating his comments from a press conference earlier this week, during which he called strike actions during a pandemic “irresponsible.”
“I’m disappointed in CUPE’s members striking during a state of emergency — these actions put the health and safety of New Brunswickers at risk,” said Higgs, who rescinded the provincial mask mandate this past summer and removed health and safety restrictions across the province prior to the Aug. 2 long weekend against the recommendations of provincial health experts and despite the fact that vaccination targets had not been reached.
“CUPE is using the pandemic as leverage to forward their own agenda, and that is disheartening,” added Higgs, who called a provincial election early on in the pandemic when it was clear he was on a path to a majority government.
Across the provinces, schools are closed as CUPE workers walk off the job demanding better wages, causing a ripple effect across the provincial economy. The government worries this may affect things like hospital services, which are normally closed or cancelled, but for different reasons.
“Normally, we have to cancel things like elective surgeries and emergency rooms due to general lack of staff, or because the government is focusing on its COVID response and nothing else,” said a Department of Health spokesperson. “But today we are closing them because CUPE made us stay home with our kids, so that’s the reason these services are canceled this time, let’s say.
“Hopefully this strike is resolved so we can continue to not offer services to New Brunswickers for other reasons,” they added.
At press time, the provincial government was looking into the possibility of invoking its emergency powers to send peace officers to hand out fines and disperse the large crowds on the picket lines in order to “keep people safe” during the pandemic.