The health minister yesterday announced 10 new undergraduate medical school seats will open at Dalhousie University over the next two years and those chosen for the program will get tuition support in exchange for their commitment to practice wherever the government deems necessary.
The Liberals have been fighting for the seats to ease doctor shortages in the province and party leader Stephen McNeil said he was disappointed last week when the seats weren’t included in the provincial budget.
After Health Minister Chris d’Entremont announced the program at the legislature yesterday, a member of the New Democrat Party noted its opportune timing.
“There certainly is, kind of like a marriage of convenience,” said New Democrat MLA Frank Corbett, referring to the possibility the government announced the seats simply for the Liberal vote.
The budget vote — which takes place next Thursday — is a confidence vote and gives the Liberal and New Democrat parties the power to topple Premier Rodney MacDonald’s minority government if they both choose to vote against it.
Health Minister Chris d’Entremont said the 10 new seats, which will cost the government about $400,000, weren’t part of last week’s budget because the agreement with Dalhousie was not yet settled.
“It’s Dal who does the training on our behalf,” he said. “They felt they weren’t ready.”
Since the details of the budget were released last week, McNeil has said his vote is not a guarantee, though yesterday his tune was slightly different.
“I’m pleased for Nova Scotians,” he said, referring to the new seats.
He said if the sitting of the legislature continues in such a positive direction, the party may be able to vote in support of the budget.