State of the Province: Premier Brian Gallant touts economy, health, education
Premier Brian Gallant highlighted government investments in education, health care and the economy in his State of the Province address in front of an audience of about 900 people on Thursday night.
After spending the day touring the province, Gallant began his speech by indicating he had considered postponing the address due to the ice storm wreaking havoc on various parts of New Brunswick.
But he chose to go ahead with the event, calling it important and rich in history.
Gallant spoke for about an hour discussing many of the highlights of his first two years in office, pointing to investments made in health care and education, areas he said are top priorities for New Brunswickers.
“As your government we’re focused on economic growth, improving education and strengthening health care,” Gallant said in his speech. “All the while ensuring that we’re going to get the fiscal situation of our province under control and make sure that we can balance our books by 2020.”
Recent partnerships with IBM were touted as key moves to ensure the province’s financial future.
Gallant also spoke of the economic benefits that could come from the legalization of recreational marijuana.
“There’s going to be a huge economic opportunity coming from the legalization of marijuana and we’ve got to make sure that we’re prepared to benefit as much as any other jurisdiction and hopefully even more.
“We can’t be asleep at the switch,” Gallant said.
Gallant’s speech was typical of a government moving towards the back end of their term, said St. Thomas University political scientist Jamie Gillies.
“There didn’t seem to be many big surprises so it was more of a greatest hits,” said Gillies. “That’s why I think it’s kind of the unofficial launch of what will become the next election cycle and that’s what happens in the third year of most provincial governments.”
Official Opposition Leader Blaine Higgs called the speech smoke and mirrors.
He said much of the economic growth Gallant praised his government for wasn’t tied to any decisions the Liberals made.
“Those factors in 2015 were directly related to the oil industry and the investments in the refinery and the exports in the refinery and the forestry sector,” Higgs explained. “And you look at capital investments up 34 per cent, all taxpayer dollars.”
Higgs was also critical of Gallant announcing that the government had earmarked $7 million for literacy programs aimed at both children and adults.
“We’re going to throw more money at all these areas, without one mention of how good we’re going to be or what our targets are,” he said. “It’s all about the hype, all about the label and not about the facts.”
The provincial budget is set to be released on Tuesday.
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