New Brunswick’s former Premier, Liberal leader Brian Gallant has informed his caucus of his intention to step down from the Party’s top job.
He will make the formal announcement later this morning but will remain at the helm until the Party selects a new leader.
Therein lies the fly in the ointment.
Should the precarious PC minority cobbled together by Blaine Higgs fall, the Liberals could find themselves going into another Election campaign with Gallant as the face of the Party.
That would be a huge mistake
The recent election saw the Liberal Party almost wiped off the map in southern ridings and Gallant’s leadership style was largely the reason.
It would be foolhardy for them to assume all is forgiven and follow their severely damaged Leader to the polls when the wounds from his reign of (t)error are still open and not likely to heal soon.
Gallant’s penchant for destroying his rivals by any means revealed itself early when his supporters savaged his opponent for the Liberal leadership by painting him as anti-Acadian.
Mike Murphy, a former Party President and Cabinet Minister, attended francophone schools and is fluently bilingual but an errant email allowed Gallant supporters to paint him as an enemy of Acadie.
In a missive to supporter and Liberal MLA Chris Collins, Murphy mentioned Gallant was drumming up support using “the Acadian thing”.
Collins’ response was not very complimentary to Gallant and one of Gallant’s biggest backers, Liberal MLA Victor Boudreau (now retired).
His comments were meant for the private discussion between he and Murphy but Collins accidentally hit the “reply all” button instead of “reply” and his words were widespread.
Gallant supporters were quick to jump.
The media was immediately notified and Liberal MLA Bill Fraser wrote a “letter of outrage”.
(Fraser was defeated in the last election and is now selling cars for a living.)
The damage was done.
Murphy was draped with the anti-Acadian mantle and Collins was mocked as a fool.
Gallant won the Leadership by a landslide and rebuffed Murphy’s offer to make it unanimous by running under Gallant’s leadership in the election to come.
An effort to find someone to run against the popular Collins in a pre-election nomination race failed miserably, and Collins went on to take Moncton Centre for the Liberals by a huge margin in the ensuing election.
Brian Gallant was riding high.
The Opposition Leader was tremendously popular and polls suggested the next election would produce a huge Liberal majority.
But Gallant’s inexperience quickly became evident.
A series of serious campaign gaffes, including not being able to explain his own taxation proposals in a television interview and then asking for a do-over, had the Big Red Machine sputtering badly after roaring off the starting line.
When the smoke cleared the Liberal Party had gone from Juggernaut to just squeaking through with a small majority.
What should have been a harbinger for the Liberal brain trust was ignored.
Everyone bent the knee to the new boss and those who dared disagree paid the price.
The Liberal Party offices were scrubbed clean of long time, experienced Party loyalists whose only misdeed was supporting Gallant’s leadership opponent.
They were replaced by Gallant sycophants.
For the next four years the Liberal Government accomplished little while dividing the Province along linguistic lines.
But Gallant’s determination to rule with an iron fist became legendary.
When Canadian hero, Dr. Elish Cleary, returned from treating African victims of the Ebola Virus she was fired from her job as Chief Medical Officer without cause while she was conducting a study into the pros and cons of “fracking” (a controversial method of extracting natural gas that the new Government had placed a moratorium on).
The firing raised eyebrows as the moratorium was supposed to allow for time to study the process and Cleary won a huge monetary settlement.
The Government later made the fracking moratorium permanent and no Cleary study was ever seen.
The next victim was the CEO of the francophone health care system.
Rino Volpe took the Government to court and won after he was given the boot by the aforementioned Victor Boudreau who was Minister of Health at the time.
The taxpayer was on the hook again.
Then came what’s known as “the property tax scandal”.
When thousands of New Brunswickers began questioning very large increases in their property taxes they learned that Service New Brunswick employees had charged them for renovations that never happened!
In fact, SNB made them up!
To cover up serious problems with a new collection system that wasn’t supposed to be implemented until it was perfected.
SNB claimed the Premier ordered them to “fast track” the system but Gallant said that wasn’t true.
The back and forth went on for weeks, and an investigation was conducted but couldn’t determine who was lying.
From Murphy to Collins to Cleary to Volpe to SNB, the bodies under the bus were beginning to build up and voters were starting to notice.
Then came the Liberals’ ill-advised 2018 Election campaign.
For months, day after day, starting long before the writ was dropped, radio, television, and newspaper ads besmirched the reputation and accomplishments of PC Leader, Blaine Higgs.
They pounded home the words, “Blaine Higgs, he’s not for you!”
But, while the ads were smearing Gallant’s main opponent, voters started to notice there was something missing.
Governments normally spend some campaign time telling us about their successes.
But, like their entire four years in power, their campaign was bereft of anything to brag about.
Instead it concentrated on trying to crush the reputation of the Leader of the Opposition.
The result is now history.
But will Brian Gallant try to force another election before the Liberals select a new leader?
After trying to cling to power since his defeat at the polls, I submit that’s a very real possibility.
A last ditch attempt at trying to keep his job.
The Party would be decimated if it went back to the polls with Gallant as leader.
NB Liberals should select an interim Leader until Gallant’s replacement is found.
Brian Gallant: He’s not for you