NL immigration minister blasts PC candidate over comments on recruiting doctors from India, Pakistan

Newfoundland and Labrador’s immigration minister says comments made by a Progressive Conservative candidate in an ongoing byelection are full of “overtones” that are “unacceptable.”

Minister Gerry Byrne says the leader of the PC Party needs to consider if he still wants Lin Paddock to be a representative of his party.

Paddock made a comment during a byelection debate held at the Green Bay Chamber of Commerce on Thursday when speaking about the province recruiting doctors from overseas.

“We need to recruit in areas that love this, places like Germany where they adore the outdoors, not India and Pakistan where they will come here and then go to Toronto,” Paddock said.

Byrne said he has no idea where Paddock got information to support his statement.

“Not only are (the comments) not true in evidence, but they have overtones which cannot be condoned,” Byrne said. “It is my duty and my responsibility to call out these comments and to demand an explanation but more importantly a retraction and an apology.”

Candidate says comments were ‘poorly worded’

CBC News asked Paddock for an interview. He was said to be unavailable due to him campaigning in an area with poor cellular reception.

In an emailed statement, Paddock said his comments were meant to emphasize the need for effective health-care professional recruitment and retention strategies in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“I recognize that my comments about recruiting from specific countries were poorly worded and I am sorry if this may have offended anyone. I want to be clear that all healthcare professionals, regardless of their country of origin, are welcomed, valued, and essential to our province,” he wrote.

“I am committed to promoting inclusive and respectful recruitment practices that welcome healthcare professionals from all backgrounds, ensuring that Newfoundland and Labrador remains a diverse and vibrant place for everyone.”

Immigration Minister Gerry Byrne said he expects more people to immigrate to the province from Afghanistan in time, but it’s up to the federal government to determine how many.

Immigration Minister Gerry Byrne said he expects PC Leader Tony Wakeham to consider Paddock’s place within the party. (Danny Arsenault/CBC)

Byrne said he has heard from the Friends of India Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, which expressed concern over the remarks. The group’s president declined an interview when contacted by CBC on Monday.

Premier Andrew Furey took to social media to express his thoughts while sharing the video on Facebook.

“Is this the PC policy? To only welcome people from certain countries?” he wrote. “Doctors from around the world have chosen to make Newfoundland and Labrador home, and they have contributed greatly to their communities. I have been fortunate to work with many of them.”

Dr. Todd Young — who runs the Main Street Medical Clinic in Springdale, where the byelection is taking place — also posted on Facebook, saying: “In medicine if I was to make such a comment it would be worthy of sanctioning.”

Young said Paddock’s comments “disrespect many of my physician colleagues who have moved to our province and have provided years of excellent health care.”

Byrne called on PC Leader Tony Wakeham to “do the right thing.”

PC Leader Tony Wakeham says the Kruger deal could be good for the 300 workers at the Corner Brook mill, but he’s critical of the way the provincial government handled the situation.

PC Leader Tony Wakeham told CBC News he believes Paddock’s comments weren’t meant to be derogatory. (Katie Breen/CBC)

“This individual is a representative of the PC Party of Newfoundland and Labrador. We call on Mr. Wakeham now to say if he’s welcomed within the PC Party.”

Speaking with CBC News on Monday evening, Wakeham said he’s spoken with Paddock — who reiterated to him the comments weren’t meant to be derogatory.

“Anybody who certainly knows Lin Paddock knows that he is a kind individual and an individual that’s concerned about people,” Wakeham said. “He told me that in no way were his comments meant to be derogatory or disrespectful.”

Wakeham said he still backs Paddock as a candidate in the byelection, saying voters in Baie Verte-Green Bay will be well represented if he is elected.

Wakeham added he hasn’t heard from Friends of India Association personally, but would welcome a meeting.

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