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July 27, 2022

Hon. Bruce Fitch Minister of Health Chancery Place

P.O. Box  6000 Fredericton, N.B. E3B 5H1

Via email:

Dear Minister Fitch,

Employers are currently facing an unprecedented labour shortage. Economists have long warned of the pending workforce crunch due to our aging demographic. The Government of Canada Job Bank stated that in 2021, people 55 years of age and older accounted for 45.2 per cent of New Brunswick’s working-age population. That number is forecast to top 48 per cent by 2031.

According to Statistics Canada, at the end of March there were 16,000 vacant jobs in New Brunswick. These numbers have grown worse with the scarcity of seasonal tourism employees. Increased immigration is touted as the solution to our labour force needs and New Brunswick has done relatively well in this regard as our provincial population topped 800,000 earlier this year.

The New Brunswick government made a progressive move on newcomer retention this spring by introducing the Fair Registration Practices in Regulated Professions Act. The legislation mandates the 50 regulatory bodies that govern professions ranging from physicians to funeral directors establish “transparent, objective, impartial and efficient application and registration processes”.

Whether the new legislation creates streamlined pathways to foreign credential recognition remains to be seen, but it is a start.

However, newcomers to our province are having to wait several months with no status updates to receive their New Brunswick Medicare cards, long past the applicable timeframes stated in the New Brunswick Medical Services Payment Act. Newly arrived immigrants and newcomers from other Canadian provinces have all had to face similarly long wait times. The long delay limits access to certain health-related services and causes undue stress, financial worry, and a reticence to seek much needed services.

By some quirk in provincial regulations, students who arrive to start their studies in January must wait until they can supply a Confirmation of Enrolment for both a winter and fall term before they qualify. This despite the fact the Medical Services Payment Act states full-time students with a study permit are entitled to services under Medicare “on the first day of classes.”

The province has recently shown it can respond quickly on this issue and deliver a high level of service by providing Medicare access within days to recently arrived Ukrainians fleeing war. We need to increase processing capacity, so that this level of service becomes standard to all newcomers to New Brunswick, no matter the circumstance.

New Brunswick must attract people to our province to fill its job shortages and if our government is truly committed to this goal, we must do our best to remain attractive to newcomers. How we treat and service our newcomers affects not only our chances of the newly arriving people to stay permanently in New Brunswick, but also our potential to attract additional new and much needed people to our province.

The increase in the number of immigrants is no longer a valid reason to explain the delays. A myriad of organizations have been working on attracting newcomers, the province has stated that attraction of newcomers is a priority and now the province needs to urgently fix the medical limbo these newcomers find themselves in.

As the leading business voices in the province, we Chambers once again would like to add our voice to the growing concern regarding this issue and implore you, as Health Minister, to work towards promptly reducing these delays in the issue of Medicare cards for all newcomers to our province.

We remain available to discuss this issue and solutions at your convenience. Sincerely,

John Wishart CEO

Chamber of Commerce for Greater Moncton

Krista Ross CEO

Fredericton Chamber of Commerce

David Duplisea CEO

The Saint John Region Chamber of Commerce

Julie Pinette General Director

Chaleur Chamber of Commerce

Cathy Pelletier Executive Director

Edmundston Region Chamber of Commerce

Natalie Cormier President

Cap-Pelé/Beaubassin-Est Chamber of Commerce

Gilles Beaulieu CEO

Valley Chamber of Commerce

Cc: Hon. Blaine Higgs, Premier

Hon. Arlene Dunn, Minister of Economic Development and Small Business Hon. Mary E. Wilson, Minister responsible for Service New Brunswick Wilson Hon. Daniel Allain, Moncton East

Hon. Ernie Steeves, Moncton Northwest Hon. Hugh J.A. Flemming, Rothesay

Hon. Dorothy Shephard, Saint John Lancaster Hon. Mike Holland, Albert

Hon. Jill Green, Fredericton North

Hon. Trevor A. Holder, Portland-Simons

Hon. Dominic Cardy, Fredericton West-Hanwell

Hon. Tammy Scott-Wallace, Sussex-Fundy-St.Martins Hon. Margaret Johnson, Carleton- Victoria

Hon. Gary Crossman, Hampton Hon. Bill Oliver, Kings Centre Hon. Glen Savoie, Saint John East

Hon. Roger Melanson, Interim Leader, Liberal Party of New Brunswick Hon. David Coon, Leader, Green Party of New Brunswick

Greg Turner, Moncton South Glen Savoie, Saint John East

Andrea Anderson-Mason, Saint John West Réjean Savoie, Miramichi Bay-Neguac Michelle Conroy, Miramichi

Jeff Carr, New-Maryland-Sunbury Richard Ames, Carleton-York Sherry Wilson, Moncton Southwest Bill Hogan, Carleton

Ryan P. Cullins, Fredericton-York Kathy Bockus, Saint Croix

Ross Wetmore, Gagetown-Petitcodiac Kris Austin, Fredericton-Grand Lake

Nina Forbes, Director Medicare Operations

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