Saint John-area MLA kicked out of Tory caucus

Saint John-area Tory MLA Jim Parrott, who recently criticized his government over health bilingualism and duality, has been kicked out of the Progressive Conservative caucus.

Premier David Alward made the announcement on the steps of the legislature on Thursday afternoon, following a unanimous vote of caucus, based on his recommendation.

Alward said the decision was based on more than Parrott's recent newspaper commentary, which also criticized the government's lack of consultation with physicians.

"This is been an on-going issue for some time," the premier said. "And I can tell you that I have met with the member in the past over a number of issues.

"For the importance of our parliamentary system to work, there needs to be a level of trust and confidence in each member" to allow for dialogue and debate. "And I'm very disappointed to say that the member has broken that trust."

The removal takes effect immediately, Alward said.

Parrott, a retired heart surgeon who represents Fundy-River Valley, will sit as an independent.

"I'm disappointed it's gone this way," Parrott told CBC News, adding that he had no knowledge of the caucus meeting until the premier called him to tell him he had been ousted.

Parrott said he wanted to speak to his riding president before making any comments, but did say there are problems that need to be addressed and he felt no other forum was provided.

But Alward said the caucus recently had a three-day retreat with "outstanding discussions.

"It was probably the best meeting we've had as a caucus since we've come together as a government," he said.

Yet Parrott did not raise any concerns at the time, Alward said.

"I find that very disappointing, regrettable."

Asked about that, Parrott said: "I've been raising these issues for … 20 years."

Parrott said he expects to be clearing out his office on Friday.

Parrott's removal means the Progressive Conservatives now have 41 seats in the legislature, while the Opposition Liberals have 13.

The NDP has been without a seat in the legislature since Elizabeth Weir resigned to become the president of and chief executive officer of Efficiency New Brunswick in 2005.

The Liberals are not entertaining the idea of having Parrott join their caucus, Interim Leader Victor Boudreau said in a statement.

Parrott is a member of the Progressive Conservative Party, which disqualifies him from even being eligible to become a member of the Liberal Party, let alone caucus, said Boudreau.

"His recent comments on health care alone indicate he does not share the same values of the Liberal Party and our caucus," Boudreau added.

Earlier this week, while the premier was in China on a trade mission, Parrott questioned the cost of what he called linguistic "duality" in the health system.

The government is currently developing a new 10-year health plan for the province, which is slated to be released by the end of the year.

Parrott said duplicating services in anglophone and francophone communities isnot sustainable.

At the time, the backbencher said he did not fear any political repercussions for speaking out.

Parrott has broken ranks with the Alward government more than once.

In February, he criticized his government in a newspaper commentary over its plans to use only 1.5T magnetic resonance imaging machines to equip five regional hospitals.

Parrott argued the province needs at least two 3T machines in order to bring diagnostic imaging up to standards — one in Saint John and another in Moncton, which are both specialized hospitals.

Parrott was elected in the 2010 provincial election.