Brian Gallant defends decisions on ferry cuts, economic growth

Premier Brian Gallant took questions today from New Brunswickers on Information Morning Saint John on topics such as job creation and economic growth.

Province working with Saint John, other municipalities over repeal of Canaport LNG tax deal, Gallant says

Premier Brian Gallant responded to questions on whether the province would invest in a Fredericton pool 1:54

Premier Brian Gallant fielded questions on Tuesday morning from New Brunswickers on Information Morning Saint John on topics ranging from health care to economic growth.

Gallant, who took questions from callers and social media for 50 minutes, was first asked about the lack of public transit in Charlotte County and what the province was going to do to help.

He said the province is working with local community leaders on a pilot project.

Premier Brian Gallant responded to questions about how his government is handling Saint John's request to repeal the Canaport LNG tax deal 1:15

Gallant also said the federal government has a program that would have to be "tweaked" and the province would match federal money to put in the infrastructure for public transit in the area.

The premier was then asked about a new swimming pool in Fredericton.

Gallant said that a request for help from the city wasn't "on the radar." He noted that recreational activities were important, but the province needs to know the city's priorities. 

"There are many asks. Unfortunately, there are always many more requests than there are funds to be able to invest in as a province. So, we certainly want to work very closely with the communities to fully understand what their number one priorities are and we always do the best we possibly can to try and move on those," he said.

Talks over Canaport LNG tax deal

Premier Brian Gallant says his government has looked at the idea of a tax on sodas as a way to combat obesity. 1:44

Gallant was also put on the spot to explain the delays in responding to Saint John's request to repeal the special tax deal for Canaport LNG.

He said the province is working with Saint John to reverse the tax deal but he is also talking to other municipalities about the potential impact the change could have on them.

Gallant noted that reversing the deal would require new provincial legislation, which could be introduced during the fall session.

The premier was also asked to explain how his government planned to keep residents in the province.

The Premier answers your questions from our Saint John studio. Listen to the first half of this morning's phone-in: 17:31

Gallant said the best way to keep people in New Brunswick as well as attract new residents is through jobs and economic opportunities.

He said the provincial government is also investing in education to create a skilled work force, including a program to offer free tuition to low-income families. 

In terms of paying down the deficit, Gallant said it is a priority and noted that the province pays more annually on debt interest payments than it does on investing in post-secondary education.

He added that budget decisions already made amounting to $600 million will the province with its plan to have a surplus in 2020.

One of those tough decisions to cut services and reduce expenditures included the Gagetown Ferry, said Gallant. 

"Having to buy a new ferry, even a refurbishment, those are monies we could put into programs that would help us advance education and health care, and of course, try to have economic growth throughout the province," he said.

Gallant was also asked about spraying herbicides, the medical marijuana industry and a possible soda tax. 

Listen to the full interview below

The Premier answers your questions from our Saint John studio. Listen to the second half of this morning's phone-in: 26:55

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.