St. George – Progressive Conservative leader Blaine Higgs says the party’s platform in the upcoming provincial election will be to put New Brunswick on a path for the future, and represent the people of the province as a whole.
Speaking to a crowd of about 150 people at a dinner for Fundy-The Isles-Saint John West PC Association held at Magaguadavic Place Saturday night he said, thanks to the Liberals, this past week he learned a lot about himself. He was referring to advertisements which chronicle his 33 year career with Irving Oil.
“So it’s disappointing when I learned that experience is being criticized as something we shouldn’t have in government. We should have people in government that really never had a job in their life and then you go from there.
“Well, we’ve done a lot of that. In fact, only eight per cent of the time in the history of New Brunswick have we ever had anyone there remotely associated to business – remotely associated to getting results for the decisions you make; to be held accountable for what you believe in, what you agree to, what you promise to do and then being measured on that performance.”
That, said Higgs, is a way of life for him and he gets really upset if he can’t get results. Referring to the government’s minimum wage increase he said he didn’t think they should be putting this forward at a time when it’s appropriate for them because they are looking to score political points.
“It’s not related to an election. It’s not related to a platform promise. It’s related to the conditions that warrant an improvement for every member of society that falls in that category and it’s planned and it’s there as part of an ongoing opportunity.”
Higgs referred to how New Brunswickers don’t always hear “the rest of the story.” He said recently the government reported it had hired 55 new doctors but what wasn’t mentioned was that 44 have left the province.
The unemployment rate was reported as going down from 10.1 to eight per cent, he said, but what wasn’t told was this is purely as a result of people leaving the workforce or the province and had nothing to do with new employment.
“Can’t we just tell the truth? Can’t we just be square with people and say we have an opportunity to get better and how are we going to make that happen?
“Every government invents something to talk about in the media. Every government invents something to sell at a campaign and who pays for it? Every one of us pays for it. Elections usually cost anywhere between $400 to $500 million of new spending.”
In the 2014 election, he said, the government promised to spend $1.8 billion of new spending over six years and currently the spending level is about $900 million a year and taxes have increased by $734 million.
“So what has gotten better? Have you seen anything better? Are you getting better health care? Are we seeing better results in education?”
There has been record spending in education and health but Higgs questioned where were the results noting there are still 21,000 people in the province who don’t have doctors.
“So when do we actually get results for the money being spent?… I’m a numbers guy because I like to see our tax dollars work for us. I like to see money invested that gets real returns whether that be in terms of education or health or poverty reduction.”
He said the government is fixated on cutting ribbons on bricks and mortar or paving a new road and its number one plan for economic development is weed.
“This government has spent $6 million to set up two companies to grow weed but invested $80 million in the two-year production over the next two years for weed…. They say we don’t want to run out.
“This is weed we’re talking about. This isn’t food and water so we’ve invested $80 million to ensure these companies can’t fail. I mean weed has been around a long time and companies haven’t failed.”
Referring to the Energy East pipeline, Higgs said this was the biggest project that was on the horizon for the province. He said all the ducks were lined up and the project was moving forward but politics killed it.
“Atcon is the gift that keeps on giving if you’re a Conservative,” he said to laughter and referred to the Attorney General’s report in which she said she interviewed the ministers at that time who said it looked promising.
“The outlook had nowhere to go and every financial report said the company could not survive.”
He said the public has seen such abuse and waste of taxpayers’ dollars that they are asking why bother.
“I am telling you right now – I am bothering and my colleagues are bothering with me… because I want people to live the same New Brunswick dream that I lived as a young child….Is it too late for your kids to return to New Brunswick? I don’t believe that.
“I believe we have to demonstrate better behaviour and we have to demonstrate it across party lines because, for me, it’s not about being Liberal or Conservative or NDP or Green or People’s Alliance, it’s about talking about the issues that make sense to you every day and saying what do we need to fix about New Brunswick.”
The goal, said Higgs, is to put New Brunswick back on the map in every sector and for the youth to stay in the province.
“To many, it seems like a game. It’s not a game for me. It’s a passion about putting our province on a path for the future…. and our platform has got to represent New Brunswick as a whole.”