Public health, public trust

10/12/2015 - Cheryl M.G. Robertson

Over the last few days, there have been a lot of concerns expressed to us regarding the dismissal of Dr. Eilish Cleary as New Brunswick’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.

Because of that, on behalf of the Commissioners, I want to reiterate our respect for the work done by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health on the issue of shale gas development.

Like most of you, I found out about Dr. Cleary’s termination via the news media. It comes just as we have begun our internal deliberations and drafting of our final report, which we intend to deliver to Premier Brian Gallant in early 2016.

Over the course of our work, we have met three times with members of the Office, including two extensive meetings with Dr. Cleary, in order to gain a deeper understanding of her findings and in particular the Office’s recommendations regarding health impact assessments. 

This very public news story, while understandably raising concerns, will have no bearing on how we integrate the work of Dr. Cleary and the work of that Office’s staff into our final report.

On the broader issue of public trust, we are saddened, but not surprised at the strong reaction Dr. Cleary’s dismissal has caused as many New Brunswickers we met identified her as a trusted public official who represented the public’s concerns and interests.

This speaks to one of the core findings of our work: that for some New Brunswick citizens, distrust of public institutions runs deep.

As we stated in our Opening Perspective, we recognize that there is anger, frustration and a strong sense of weariness on all sides, and our goal is to engage New Brunswickers in a conversation about our shared energy future in an open and respectful way.

We remain committed to that goal as we begin our final deliberations.

By Cheryl M.G. Robertson