Leader’s Report to Provincial Council
June 10, 2017
Since we last met in February a lot has changed.
Let me start by congratulating our new federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer for his win, and for all the candidates and volunteers who contributed their ideas and energy from coast to coast.
Andrew is with us in supporting the Energy East pipeline. The federal Liberals have approved two pipelines but, when it comes to Atlantic Canada, they keep changing the rules.
Andrew shares our concern about Trudeau’s carbon tax. Climate change is a real problem. A carbon tax is not the solution. I look forward to working with Andrew to tackle problems like climate change with new ideas, new technologies, and the power of free markets.
I want to congratulate Jamie Baillie and the Nova Scotia PCs for building on their base, despite CRA polls showing the Liberals over 20 points in the lead just a couple of months ago – does that sound familiar?
I don’t want to pick on pollsters but in the last couple of years, we have seen election after election where the results changed at the last minute.
Here at home, the Gallant Liberals are sliding in the polls. The numbers are moving in our direction. But we can’t be complacent.
We hear the public’s anger on issue after issue, and we are the people’s voice in the Legislature.
I lead a strong Tory team who stood up, day after day, and pointed out the deceit, the distraction, and the deflections that make the Gallant Liberals so dangerous.
The Liberals have a culture of concealment. On issue after issue, Brian Gallant faces a choice, the choice faced by every Premier. To choose to acknowledge a problem, to take responsibility, to use his power to fix those problems.
Instead, on issue after issue, Brian Gallant takes problems and turns them into scandals.
When it was reported that Parlee Beach was polluted – had been for years – first, the Premier claimed there was no problem. When the evidence became overwhelming he blamed previous governments. Then he blamed the federal government. Then he blamed civil servants. Then he created a committee to study the problem. He dodged and weaved.
Same with the property tax scandal. Instead of coming out, way back in April, and saying “I was trying to make the system work better. I pushed too hard. I learn from my mistakes” Premier Gallant tried to say there was no problem, then he blamed past governments, then he blamed the civil service, then he created an inquiry to study the problem.
Meanwhile, the evidence mounted that this was a problem that went all the way to the Premier’s office. How did the Premier handle this evidence? He evaded. He dodged.
That’s when the Auditor General stepped in and said: enough is enough. The Premier has asked Justice Robertson to write a report on the property tax scandal but didn’t give him the power to find out who ordered the scandal. The Premier ordered that the report is delivered to his office, where Brian Gallant could decide what he made public and what he kept secret.
Your PC team in the Legislature didn’t buy the Liberals’ excuses. We did the hard work to uncover the facts. We know the Liberals rigged the property tax system. We know the Premier’s Office leaned on civil servants, then threw those civil servants under the bus.
This is a real scandal: thousands of New Brunswickers are being robbed by the Gallant government. What else do you call it when a government demands taxes from citizens that they should not have to pay?
What did the Liberals do, when they got caught? They did everything they could to distract us. They went crazy with announcements. They announced a new holiday. They gave ten million dollars to the TD bank, buying jobs with your tax dollars. They roamed the province, making announcements that had nothing to do with what our province needs.
The Liberals show us every day they aren’t interested in the future of New Brunswick: they’re only interested in the future of the Liberal party.
We see that selfishness in decisions like the court case telling us we can’t carry beer across provincial lines. The Liberals are using your money to pay for that case. They claim they’re protecting New Brunswick jobs. Then they turn around and say it makes sense for our power poles to be built in Quebec, and for our road salt to be imported from Nova Scotia. They say New Brunswick jobs aren’t important.
The Liberals are only interested in one thing: The Liberal party.
And you’re paying for it. Last summer the Liberals hiked the GST. They spent that money. They just introduced a new electronics recycling fee – you can bet they’ll spend that money. And now they’re imposing Justin Trudeau and Dominic Leblanc’s carbon tax, despite the fact New Brunswick has already, today, fully met its carbon emission targets under the Paris Accord.
Our young people can see through this: that’s why they’re leaving. Frank McKenna calls for immigration but we know that won’t fix our problems: we don’t need more people, we need a reason for them to stay. We need opportunity.
I have laid out some good reasons not to re-elect Brian Gallant and his Liberal government. That’s not enough. Over the next several months we will start presenting many good reasons to elect a new, Progressive Conservative, government.
We will not be campaigning on three hundred promises. We won’t try to buy votes. We will offer good government and we will be clear about what that means.
I met with folks from one of the trade unions about the privatization of food and cleaning services at our hospitals. I think they expected me to be some sort of fire-breathing dragon. They were surprised when I said, look, I agree with you.
I told them I didn’t get into politics to destroy our public services – I got into politics to make our public services better. I told the union activists that I would fight to defend their jobs, but that I expected them to fight to make our hospitals cleaner and the food better. Not bigger government: better government.
When the evidence shows that government should get out of the way, that’s what we will do. When the evidence shows that government should provide a service, we will make sure the public gets the best possible service.
Across our province, north, south, in English and French communities, families want the same thing: decent jobs, good schools, health care that gives them the care they need, roads to get them to work on time. Opportunities to do better. For far too long governments have put off making hard decisions.
I can’t do that. I won’t do that. Neither can you. That’s why you’re here with me today.
We are here today not just to talk, not just to put up our hands when it’s expected. We are here to prepare this party for an election that could come in just a few weeks.
We have to confront the challenges facing our party, just as we confront the challenges facing our province. We have to get our finances in order.
As we get ready to debate our budget, our structures, and our plans today I’m going to ask you to ask yourself one question: Am I helping get my party get ready to fight and win this election?
If all of us can answer yes to that question I have no doubt we will succeed. And we will change New Brunswick. We will be able to say that we did what was needed when it mattered. That is why I’m here. I know it’s why you’re here. Let’s get to work.