Opposition Leader Dwight Ball used a sold-out fundraiser in a St. John's ballroom Monday night to lay out some of the themes the Liberals will likely pursue in the upcoming general election.
Ball, speaking at a $500-a-plate dinner at the Delta Hotel, accused the governing Progressive Conservatives of wasting every opportunity to make the most of billions of dollars of oil revenues that have flowed since they were elected 11 years ago.
Ball drew special attention to how Newfoundland and Labrador stopped receiving equalization payments in November 2008, and questioned to what extent the province is reaping the benefits of being a "have" province.
"And boom, just like that, here we are — the years have flown, and we’re left to wonder, what happened? What happened to that future, to the future that never seems to come?" Ball said.
"This government had a chance to deliver that future. They failed. They had the opportunity. They lost it," he said. "That will be their legacy, a legacy of lost opportunities."
The Liberals have been leading in public opinion polls since late last summer, a remarkable reversal of fortune for a party that had trouble filling a full slate of candidates in the 2011 election.
Monday night's fundraiser, which was expected to clear about $200,000, is aimed at paying down the party's debts.
But Ball also used the opportunity to attack premier-to-be Frank Coleman, the Corner Brook businessman who is poised to take over the PC leadership in early July.
Ball noted that voters have yet to learn much about Coleman, a political neophyte who has been acclaimed in the Tory leadership race.
"I believe people have the right to know you personally. They expect us to be personally open and accountable, and I can tell you this much, I fear no question," Ball said.
Ball, who said a Liberal government would focus on what he called "a smarter economy" that emphasizes debt reduction and a "multi-pronged approach" to reforming the health-care system, also took a swipe at the controversy over Coleman's involvement in Humber Valley Paving.
"I guess to be fair there’s probably one thing we can say with some certainty. Whatever Mr. Coleman decides to do will be well paved with good intentions," Ball joked.
The Opposition has been questioning how the government cancelled a contract involving Coleman's former company just days after Coleman sold his stake in order to run for the PC leadership.
Ball also attacked the Tory record on several fronts, for allowing debt to increase over the last three years while continuing to post poor showings in indicators of health, unemployment and small business growth.
"So after 11 years of Tory government and $18.9 billion in oil royalties, in far too many critically important sectors, we’re the worst, the last, the lowest," Ball said.
"And Frank Coleman wants to keep it going."
To help illustrate the themes that Dwight Ball emphasized in his address on Monday night, we created the following word cloud based on his speech. The larger the word, the more frequently Ball said it.