Premier Kathy Dunderdale struck a defiant tone Friday night in her keynote speech to her political supporters at the PC Party annual general meeting in Gander.
Dunderdale pilloried her political opposition, and painted the PC Party as the major force behind the province’s economic prosperity.
“We should never cease to remind ourselves that our strength as a province is not an accident. It did not just happen,” she told party members. “It is not some other party’s legacy.We made this happen.”
She took time to talk about the benefits of a recent settlement with Exxon Mobil, which will see the government receive a $150 million payment in exchange for Hebron fabrication work going outside the province.
Dunderdale also spent a significant chunk of her time reiterating the benefits of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric development.
“First and foremost, it will address our immediate need for power on the island and the looming energy deficit,” Dunderdale said. “Our people, our homes, our businesses continue to need more power, and that’s a good thing. We’re growing. We have to plan now to meet that challenge and Muskrat Falls is the best way to do that.”
On Muskrat Falls especially, she painted the Liberal opposition as “opposing for the sake of opposing” and not providing any meaningful contribution to public debate.
“When we say we need the power to grow, they say we need to start managing decline,” she said. “While we are talking of ramping up to seize the opportunities that are at our door, they are talking of ratcheting back. Where we have confidence, they have fear. While we are building, they are warning that the sky is falling, and instead of planning for a brighter future, they are willing to sit in the dark.”
The speech was well-received by party loyalists, who interrupted Dunderdale with 32 applause breaks and gave her three standing ovations.
She argued that the province’s energy projects -- oil and gas, hydroelectricity, wind and other sources -- are about to make Newfoundland and Labrador a major player.
“What we are demonstrating is that Newfoundland and Labrador is ready to play in the big leagues, ready to partner with the best in the world, shoulder to shoulder as equals, ready to shape our own destiny and chart our own course,” she said.
On that point, Dunderdale talked at length about the history of the province, and argued that the perseverance of previous generations is the legacy of modern Newfoundland and Labrador.
“Our parents hung on, and our grandparents hung on, and our great grandparents hung on,” she said. “They could only dream of what we have, and we’re here because of all of them, their hard work, their vision, their commitment. We have it easier than they ever dreamed of because they worked so hard.”
But while Dunderdale’s speech was combative, her political comrades tried to paint a different picture of her.
Giving her an intro, Finance Minister Tom Marshall said that most people in the province don’t really know the real Kathy Dunderdale.
“Many thousands of people see her regularly on the evening news. They see her addressing the issues of the day; they see her participating in an endless string of public events and working to advance the best interests of the people of this wonderful province,” Marshall said. “But how well do people really get to know another human being based on the brief images and the sound bites that make up the evening news. I believe you never really get to know someone until you work with them or interact with them on a personal basis.”
He talked about her history as a social worker on the Burin Peninsula, and her roots as the daughter of a poor fisherman.
Marshall said he’s also seen her character working with her in cabinet for the past nine years.
“I was in the rare position to see the stuff that she was really made of, and I can then make a solid judgement about her character and her ability,” he said. “And invariably those who have had an opportunity to work with her closely have all come to the same conclusion, that Kathy Dunderdale is absolutely remarkable.”
In remarks immediately following Dunderdale’s speech, Health Minister Susan Sullivan made similar comments about Dunderdale’s true character not coming across in quick video clips on the news.
The PC Party convention runs until Sunday in Gander.
This year, they are celebrating their 60th annual general meeting.