New Brunswick Tories evoke the memory of Stéphane Dion as election nears

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

Political junkies invariably remember the Stéphane Dion media flop during the 2008 federal election. 

During a mid-campaign television interview with CTV News, the then-Liberal leader had to ask for two ‘re-dos’ because he just couldn’t understand a seemingly simple question. It was cringe-worthy TV  the interview made the well-educated Dion look weak and it stymied any momentum the Liberals may have had. 

Well, the New Brunswick Tories are wondering aloud if Liberal leader Brian Gallant had his Stephane Dion moment just days ahead of the September 22nd provincial election. 

That critique emanates from two interviews Gallant had with CBC News on September 12th. 

In the first Q & A, the 32-year old Liberal leader repeatedly said that his plan to raise taxes for the richest New Brunswickers would mean that just 200 people, making over $500,000, would end up paying a higher level of taxes than those in the province of Quebec

CBC gave Gallant a re-do interview —  five hours later  where he corrected himself claiming that his tax increase would actually affect about 600 people making over $370,000.

"I take full responsibility. A staffer was working til about 4.am to provide us with this [information]," he said.

"Obviously in a campaign things move very quickly but I should have double checked."

The CBC host didn’t let Gallant off the hook, suggesting that the gaffe makes it seem like the Liberals were making up policy “on the fly.” 

Indeed, this made the Liberal leader look weak. 

The first interview can be seen here

The second interview is here

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As for the PCs, they put out a statement, on Tuesday, asking why CBC allowed Gallant to do a re-do:

[Conservative candidate Ted] Flemming is questioning exactly when and why the decision was made to allow Gallant to do one interview in Moncton and another in Fredericton five hours later.

“Was his campaign team worried that Brian Gallant would become the next Stéphane Dion after he flubbed his interview, or was there something else at play? Taxes are an important issue in this campaign and we have to ask some serious questions about what has taken place here.”

The PC message  evoking the image of Dion  ties into what critics of Gallant have been saying all along: that the young leader is inexperienced and not ready to be premier.

It’s a strategy that we’ll likely see in the federal election against Justin Trudeau.  

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Whether these interviews will help the Tories, however, remains to be seen  they need a lot of people to change their minds before Monday’s election. 

The latest poll numbers suggest that Gallant’s Liberals are poised for an easy victory. According to threehundredeight.com, the Liberals have an 11 point lead over the incumbent Tories and are projected to win 32 out 49 seats. 

(Photo courtesy of the Canadian Press)

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