“Is this a good time to be a Liberal or what?” Liberal Leader Dwight Ball exclaimed.
Nobody could remember a Liberal fundraiser like it in recent memory — 500 seats sold in the Delta Hotel ballroom at $500 a plate.
The business community showed up in big numbers, with companies such as CIBC, Vale, Oceanex and Pennecon buying tables.
Ball said it was the biggest fundraiser the Liberals have held in the province’s history.
Liberal fundraiser John Allan said the money from Monday night’s event is good for the party — not just the roughly $250,000 in tickets for the event, but also an auction that saw items such as dinner for 10 at Raymonds, which sold for $3,000.
But Allan said it’s also about the business community in St. John’s coming out to hear what Ball has to say, and being willing to support the party.
Ball’s speech was mostly attacks on the Tory record, peppered with assurances that the Liberals will do better.
He called the Tory record bleak, and took aim at incoming PC party leader Frank Coleman.
“No one else wanted the job,” Ball said, adding that every other member of the PC party effectively said, “We want to be led.”
He talked about high unemployment, high diabetes rates and high government debt.
He said despite record oil revenues, the PC party hasn’t made the province any better. He rattled off economic indicators which show that the province is lagging behind other parts of Canada.
“The oil has made this government lazy,” Ball said. “We’re the worst, the last and the lowest. And Frank Coleman wants to keep it going.”
Towards the end of the speech, Ball pivoted, and started talking about his vision.
“We can be the best, we can be the first and we can be the highest,” he said. “We need to think of the future as now, and put in motion an aggressive plan so 10 years from now, no one will be making a speech about another legacy of lost opportunity. No one will be asking what happened to a promise of a better future.
“The Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador has a plan, and on my word, so help me, we will stick to it.”
From there, Ball got down to some specifics.
He promised to reduce the province’s debt and diversify the economy. He said major health-care reform will be a big part of that.
“Our plan will introduce a comprehensive, multi-pronged approach that will start us on the road to better health care for our people, beginning with a youth wellness program,” he said. “In the meantime, we need to introduce short- and long-term strategies, smarter ways to make our health-care delivery better for everyone.”
He promised to reverse the Tories’ cut to the family violence intervention court.
He also talked about youth employment, education and changes to the way the government manages natural resources in Labrador. He said mental health needs to be a bigger part of the health-care system.
After the speech was over, talking to reporters, Ball acknowledged it was the skeleton of a campaign speech for an election that’s still more than a year away.
The sheer number of people in the room — with companies and individuals paying to be there — says people are willing to listen to him.