Nfld. & Labrador

'People are growing desperate' Paul Davis tells PC party

In his outgoing speech to the PC Party, Paul Davis focused on criticizing the new Liberal government, instead of his own legacy.

Leader focuses on Liberals rather than his own legacy in goodbye speech to the PC party

Outgoing PC Leader Paul Davis used his speech to the party's annual general meeting to attack what the Liberals have done since taking power. (Peter Cowan/CBC)

In his outgoing speech to the PC Party, Paul Davis focused on criticizing the new Liberal government, instead of his own legacy of the just over a year he spent as premier, and almost another year as opposition leader.

"I really believe that the Liberals really have no idea what to do next, they have no idea what to do next," Davis told the packed ballroom in Gander Saturday night.

"They've driven our economy off the rails, they certainly know how to do that."

Davis announced shortly before the convention he'd step down as leader, and with a leadership race expected in 2017, it was his chance to leave a parting message to the party.

In his speech, Davis mentioned the projected decrease in jobs in the province, outlined in the spring budget, blaming it on the current Liberals, even though the Labour Market Outlook unveiled by his government in its last few months in office showed shrinking number of skilled jobs because of the end of major mega-projects like Hebron and Muskrat Falls.

He also blamed the Liberals for recent downgrades by credit rating agencies.

PC Leader Paul Davis blames current financial and economic problems in the province on Liberal inaction. (Peter Cowan/CBC)

He told reporters after the speech he doesn't have regret leaving a $2.2 billion deficit for 2015-16, which included his last eight months in power, instead focusing blame on the Liberals.

"We can always look back with hindsight and 20/20 vision, but when government took over in December one of the first things it did was cancel the HST increase which was about 100 million dollars in itself that was lost," he said.

In a speech earlier in the day to the party he said he believes that premier Dwight Ball won't last until the 2019 election, set by the fixed date election law, telling the party it needs to be ready for an earlier election.

'People are growing desperate'

"What Newfoundlanders and Labradorians need right now is too important for us to drop the ball, no pun intended," Davis told the packed banquet hall.

"Maybe it is pun intended, it is, it is," he joked to laughs from the audience.

He said the mistakes made by the governing Liberals present an opportunity.

"Tonight people are growing desperate. They're desperate for a direction, they're desperate for hope, and they're desperate for change," he said.

"People by the thousands are second guessing the decision they made late in 2015 when they cast their vote."

The party is expected to change its constitution before the leadership race to change the way a leader is chosen. Many inside the party, including Davis are hoping a one member, one vote system will encourage more people to come back to the party.


Peter Cowan

CBC News

Peter Cowan is a St. John's-based reporter with CBC News.