POLITICS
04/30/2014 10:07 EDT | Updated 06/30/2014 05:59 EDT

Outspoken doctor returns to New Brunswick Progressive Conservative caucus

FREDERICTON - A former heart surgeon who was cast out from New Brunswick's Progressive Conservative caucus for accusing it of not listening to doctors says it feels good to return to the party fold.

"It felt like I was where I belonged," Dr. Jim Parrott said Wednesday as he left a caucus meeting surrounded by other Tory members.

It was the first time Parrott was allowed to attend the weekly meeting since being booted from caucus in September 2012 after he said the government was not listening to doctors about health care issues.

At the time, Parrott said not only was the government not listening, but they had not sought his input on health issues during their first two years in power.

Parrott, who is known for his trademark cowboy hat and boots, has been sitting as an Independent in the legislature for about the last 18 months.

Premier David Alward said Parrott has apologized but he doesn't expect Parrott to be any less outspoken in the future.

"Doc is Doc right?" Alward said, adding that it is fine to have differing opinions within the caucus room.

"But at the end of the day we have those discussions and debates in caucus and then we work together ultimately on where we land and we move forward together, " Alward said.

"I have full confidence that Doc understands that and the importance of it."

Parrott said he understands the need to work as a team but will still express his opinions.

"I don't think I'll be any less outspoken but I certainly will do it in a different way," he said. "I'll do it more as a team, but you'll hear from me."

Parrott has been the member for Fundy-River Valley but because of electoral boundary changes, he will be seeking the nomination for the riding of Charlotte-the-Isles for the Sept. 22 provincial election.

Liberal Rick Doucet has been the member there since 2003. Alward said he expects Parrott to offer a strong challenge.

"Quite frankly, Rick Doucet better be shaking in his boots because the Stetson and the cowboy boots that are coming are going to hold him to task," Alward said.

Doucet said he was surprised Wednesday to hear that Parrott was back in the Tory caucus but added that he has no plans to change his campaign just because Parrot wants to run in his riding.