Premier-designate Frank Coleman wants people to stop and think about just how great the Progressive Conservative party’s record has been for the past decade and how he’s the guy to keep it going.
© — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
Premier designate Frank Coleman spoke to the Rotary Club of St. John’s on Thursday at the Sheraton Hotel Newfoundland.
His speech Thursday was a full-throated defence of the Tory record, and a marked change of tone for Coleman.
He was speaking to the Rotary Club of St. John’s, his first public appearance in the capital city since he entered politics two months ago, and he used the forum to lash out at Liberal Leader Dwight Ball.
Last week, Ball gave a speech accusing the government of squandering oil wealth and leaving the province “the worst, the last and the lowest,” citing a range of economic indicators.
But citing different indicators, Coleman said the province is doing better than ever before, and the oil money of recent years has been used to make the province a better place.
“They would have you believe that massive investments to provide insulin pumps to children with diabetes is a waste of money,” he said.
“What about the billions invested in infrastructure, and the hundreds of millions invested in this amazing poverty reduction program?”
Coleman hasn’t been in government for any of the accomplishments he cited, but he said he believes that the PC party with him at the helm is best positioned to maintain its successes.
“I am absolutely confident that we can keep this record going. I’m not confident that our opponents can,” he said.
Coleman stepped into politics in March as one of three contenders to replace retired premier Kathy Dunderdale as leader of the PC party. After one challenger was disqualified by the party executive and the other one withdrew from the race, Coleman became leader by default.
He won’t formally become premier until after July 5, when the PC party will hold a convention to formally endorse his leadership.
When it comes to the specifics about what he wants to do as premier, Coleman said a lot of those details won’t come until after July 5.
For example, he has identified the public-sector pension plan shortfall as the top issue facing the provincial government, but he said he doesn’t have a specific plan for how to fix it yet.
“I don’t know where they are in negotiations, but I’ve said that it will be my first item,” Coleman said.
Similarly, when asked about skilled labour shortages — another issue he brings up as a priority — he said he’ll have to get up to speed once he’s premier.
“My platform will evolve over the next number of months,” he said. “Right now I am sitting here not yet the premier of the province. I need to get in there and I need to find out what’s happening. I need to get briefed.”
The other big area that he talked about as a priority is energy.
He said the government needs to encourage more offshore oil development, along with mining and other natural resource developments, as a way to “energize this economy.”
Along the same vein, he firmly stood behind the Muskrat Falls project, saying it’s a necessary project for the province’s future.
“The development of Muskrat Falls will mean stable long-term electricity prices for generations of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians,” Coleman said. “It is a constraint to this economy’s growth not to have electricity available. Muskrat takes that constraint away.”
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