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Brian Gallant under fire for Liberal infrastructure plan

Liberal Leader Brian Gallant is defending his party’s $900-million infrastructure plan against attacks by the Progressive Conservatives and NDP.

NDP, Tories attack Liberals for $900M stimulus plan to build roads and bridges

Liberal Leader Brian Gallant campaigned in New Maryland on Wednesday, where he raised his party's $900-million infrastructure plan. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

Liberal Leader Brian Gallant is defending his party’s $900-million infrastructure plan against attacks by the Progressive Conservatives and NDP.

The infrastructure fund has been a staple in Gallant’s stump speech when he travels around the province.

In New Maryland on Wednesday night, Gallant once again raised the proposal to a group of supporters.

“We've announced that we will invest $900 million over the next six years in our infrastructure and roads,” he said.

Gallant has said the economy needs a jolt and the stimulus package would get people working again.

NDP Leader Dominic Cardy said the predicted impact of 1,700 jobs isn't worth the cost to taxpayers.

"We're talking about a program that is supposed to create the same number of jobs Atcon was supposed to create at 12 times the cost,” Cardy said.

Progressive Conservative Leader David Alward called the Liberal plan reckless and predicted it would require tax increases in order to pay for it.

Gallant said his party intends to go in a different direction when it comes to economic development than the Tories.

"I'm certainly not going to take any lessons from developing the economy and creating jobs from David Alward and the Conservatives,” he said.

The Liberals are also facing warnings from public policy experts about moving forward with a stimulus package.

Richard Saillant, a professor at the University of Moncton, said Gallant has to be careful with any commitment to spend a significant amount of money in this economic climate.

Saillant has warned of a looming fiscal cliff and said the economy is improving so it is not the time for such massive spending.

"The timetables for infrastructure should be based on the real needs of New Brunswickers, not the needs of politicians,” he said.

In an op-ed for CBC News, Saillant said earlier this week that many analyses have observed New Brunswick has enough infrastructure and doesn’t need to add any more.

“Importing solutions that may work for countries or provinces with a fast-growing population will only add to the public debt while contributing very little to New Brunswick’s long-term economic growth,” Saillant wrote.

“It will also translate into greater maintenance bills at a time when the province is already facing major challenges in this area.”

However, the Liberals point to recent comments by David Dodge, the former Bank of Canada governor, to reinforce their plan.

He said low interest rates make this a good time for governments to borrow money to stimulate the economy.

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