St. Stephen – Former New Brunswick Southwest MP Greg Thompson is coming out of political retirement to run for the Progressive Conservatives against incumbent Saint Croix MLA John Ames in the September provincial elections.
First elected in 1988, Thompson was re-elected in six of the following federal elections only losing in 1993 to the late Harold Culbert. He spent almost 22 years in politics serving as Minister of Veteran Affairs and regional minister for New Brunswick under Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
He made the decision to retire in 2011, to spend more time with his family, and was succeeded by PC John Williamson. The seat was then won by Liberal Karen Ludwig in the last federal election.
Thompson said he has opted to run provincially because he is dissatisfied with Premier Brian Gallant’s Liberal government, who he says are putting the province in a perilous position in terms of finance.
“There is a complete lack of leadership in Fredericton, and moving the province forward. I spent almost two decades in federal politics, and I believe I have something to offer. When I go to Fredericton, my voice is going to be heard.
“The thing I want to emphasize is that I built my career on standing up and speaking out for the ordinary men and women who go to work every day and pay their taxes.
“I am not afraid to take the big corporations to task. You have to be strong enough to take them on when they deserve to be held accountable. I have not changed. I am willing to stand up and be heard, and that is the theme I am going to be running on.”
Elections, said Thompson, are about issues, and this one will focus on the track record of the Gallant government, which has put New Brunswick at the bottom of the heap in Canada.
“We are dead last in terms of economic growth and employment. The economy is in horrible shape, and a lot of that is because of the callous disregard of the taxpayers, and where the money is going.
“Our bond ratings have been reduced from stable to negative, and the accumulated debt is over $14 billion in New Brunswick, which is costing taxpayers $2 million a day in interest payments. The province is borrowing money to buy their groceries. We are at the bottom of every economic scale.”
Young people are leaving the province in record numbers because there are no opportunities for them here, said Thompson, and the health care system is in complete disarray.
“Young people are leaving the province, and this is the first time in history we have more deaths than births – so with this declining population base it is a real problem for the government.
“Fewer people are working and paying taxes, and that just adds to the complexity of the government trying to balance the books. Instead of encouraging business to come in, they are taxing them out of existence.”
During the last election, he said Gallant promised to create 10,000 new jobs by 2018, but the province is losing jobs as well as driving business away because every tax and fee has been raised since he became premier.
He said New Brunswick has one of the highest tax rates in the country, and the province cannot attract new business by taxing people to death.
Thompson said Ames didn’t fight for the retention of the court in St. Stephen and, had it not been for the citizens’ committee, Charlotte County Hospital might have been sacrificed by the Liberals. He said you have to stand up for the people you represent.
Thompson also said people have consistently asked him to run, and he’s always said no – but has never lost interest in the province or the country because politics is in his DNA.
He would not have run against the former riding MLA, PC Curtis Malloch, had he been offering again but Malloch decided not to because of family and business reasons.
“He is giving me his full support and, without his support I probably would not be running.”
Asked about his age – he was 62 when he retired from federal politics – he joked that Gordie Howe was still playing hockey when he was Thompson’s age.
No date has been set yet for the PC nomination convention for the riding.