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(Fernando Morales/Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail)
(Fernando Morales/Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail)

Letter from N.B.

Will David Alward wind up with blood donors on his hands? Add to ...

It’s an oddly quixotic campaign.

The government in New Brunswick, faced with the loss of a Canadian Blood Services facility, is pulling out all the stops to protect the local supply.

Premier David Alward went so far as to write directly to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, asking him to intervene in the independent agency. And the cash-strapped province is thinking about spending tens of millions to establish a replacement blood system.

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This week – after Mr. Harper noted the federal government could not interfere with the agency’s operations – provincial Health Minister Madeleine Dubé said that they were considering their options.

The blood agency plans to move its Saint John facility to Dartmouth, N.S., but has pledged to retain donor collection sites in New Brunswick. There will also be a holding unit in Saint John with enough blood to meet day-to-day hospital needs.

New Brunswick could simply accept this decision and see the blood agency leave in 2013. They could choose to set up their own system or they could form a partnership with another agency, such as Héma-Québec. The latter options come with higher operational costs and setup prices ranging from $23-million to $40-million, a hard sell in a province struggling with crushing debts.

Ms. Dubé, who said this week they were still gathering information, has framed the government’s response as a “fight for New Brunswickers.”

One observer said the zeal with which they are pursuing this issue could reflect the recent history of political upheaval. Public anger over the proposed sale of NB Power helped topple the government led by Liberal premier Shawn Graham. And Mr. Alward’s Progressive Conservative government has faced a sustained attack on its embrace of shale gas development, which would require the controversial practice of hydro-fracking.

“What’s interesting about New Brunswick politics is what gets the public upset is when they feel the government is failing to deal with things that matter to them on a personal level,” said Don Desserud, a long-time political scientist in New Brunswick who recently became dean of arts at the University of Prince Edward Island.

“I wonder if they see the blood services as [an issue]where people will say ‘you’re putting us in jeopardy’.”

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