An unprecedented disaster of an interview for the Liberal leading in New Brunswick

CBC New Brunswick Harry Forestell, left, takes no prisoners in the “re-do” interview with New Brunswick Liberal Leader Brian Gallant.

With just five full days of campaigning to go until New Brunswickers vote on Monday, Liberal Leader Brian Gallant will be struggling to recover from the worst media interview a politician ever gave in mid-campaign since Stéphane Dion got confused in the 2008 federal election.

But while Gallant’s mix-up, like Dion’s, involved a re-do, Gallant cannot blame his media interlocutor for a confusing, ill-worded question.

In the re-do, in fact, he did the exact opposite of making things right. He was forced to admit, time and again, his own errors and, in doing so, dissembled at least twice.

It started last week, when reporters travelling on the campaign trail, including Sun News Network’s Paige MacPherson, began pressing Gallant for what seemed to be confusing or contradictory details in his plan to raise new revenues by taxing the rich. CBC Reporter Bob Jones and others reported that, despite Liberal claims to the contrary, Gallant’s plans would lead to the highest tax jurisdiction in the country. The Liberals pushed back and argued that reporters were wrong.

On Friday, morning CBC New Brunswick offered to give Gallant 10 minutes in a one-on-one interview with the anchor of its dinner-hour news show, Harry Forestell,  to explain his policies. Gallant did the interview from CBC’s Moncton studios.

During the interview, Forestell challenged Gallant again and again on his tax policy (and on other confusing aspects of Gallant’s platform) but Gallant, in a tone that, at times seemed both slightly indignant and condescending, told Forestell he was wrong and kept repeating his talking points.

Again, that was Friday morning. By mid-day, the Liberal war room realized that the talking points they’d insisted on were, in fact, wrong. And all that Gallant had told Forestell was wrong.

In the first interview, done while Gallant was Moncton, Gallant is almost indignant and condescending in explaining to Forrestell how Forestell and other reporters were wrong about Gallant’s tax plans. Turns out, Gallant was wrong.

So now, the producers of CBC New Brunswick’s dinner-hour news show faced an odd conunudrum. Should they air an eight-hour old interview in their dinner-hour newscast that both they and the interview subject knew contained many errors? Should they kill the interview and just do a news story on Gallant’s errors? In this case, CBC chose a different route. They asked Gallant if he wanted to come in and try again. Gallant said yes and so , five hours after the first interview, Gallant, now at CBC’s main studio in Fredericton, sat down with Forestell again.

Watch the first interview here in which Gallant gets its wrong.
Watch the re-do interview here in which Gallant tries to put toothpaste back in the tube

This time, though, it was Forestell who could barely contain his indignance. Gallant, who the polls show, has an excellent chance of being the province’s next premier, had failed to master a key part of his party’s platform. And though he tried to say he took responsibility for the error, the first thing he did in the re-do interview with Forrestell was blame some poor party worker who had “been up till 4 a.m.” for giving him faulty information.

It was that second interview that aired in its entirety on CBC’s dinner hour newscast on Friday night, preceded by this introduction:

The Liberal party is scrambling today to clarify its election tax policy. The plan proposed by leader Brian Gallant would create a new tax rate for the richest New Brunswickers that some experts say would be the highest in Canada.  Earlier today Mr. Gallant told CBC News the new rate would affect only about 200 people in this province.  It turns out that was wrong.

The first exchange went like this:

FORESTELL: Why is there so much confusion in your campaign about such an important platform plank?

GALLANT: Well, Harry, let me thank you for letting me come on and clarify. I take full responsiblity. I should have double-checked the numbers that I received. In fairness, there was a staffer working till about 4 .m. giving us the numbers…

So Gallant takes “full responsibility” but then “in fairness” — to himself one assumes? — he immediately unloads that “full responsibility” on some poor staffer. Two questions later:

FORESTELL: Earlier today, five hours ago, you said your team had gone over the numbers, they had done the math and the numbers were correct. That was five hours ago when you said there were only 200 people affected by this [tax change Gallant is proposing]. Now we’re learning there are 600 people affected by it. Why were your numbers wrong?

GALLANT: Again, I take full responsiblity. A staffer was working until about 4 .m. to provide us with this. It’s obviously a campaign and things move very quickly ….

Incredible. Once again, Gallant takes “full responsibility” by immediately blaming that political staffer who worked until 4 a.m. But the whopper — not the first one Gallant has told in this campaign — comes at the end of that statement. He tries to suggest this tax policy comes in the midst of a whirlwind campaign. Nope. It was announced by the Liberals two weeks before the campaign even started, on August 14. Click the link to check here and look at the date. So the Liberals had plenty of time to prepare and review this policy. And Gallant has had more than a month to “double check the numbers.”

FORESTELL: Here’s the concern. You’re talking about a staff member being up until 4 in the morning. It sounds like you’re making policy up on the fly.

GALLANT: Not at all. It’s just compiling what we already knew. I’ve been briefed weeks ago on this and I should have remembered the proper numbers.

Ah. So, three questions in, Gallant now tells a different story. His error was not attributable to a whirlwind campaign where things “move very quickly”. It’s a leader who, briefed by his staff weeks ago, could not recall key details of his tax plan.

FORESTELL: If you couldn’t get that figure right, why should voters trust any of your tax policy?

GALLANT: Because we’ve been very clear and very transparent with our platform …


Forestell, who I knew when he and I both were business reporters based in downtown Toronto — I was with CTV he was with CBC —  is, I would say, roughly contemporary to me and I’m 50. Gallant is 32. When you watch the interview — and do click on the links above — this next segment has very much the body language of, say, a school principal catching a cocky young student smoking the washroom.

FORESTELL: One of the opposition criticisms of your leadership is your lack of experience. This appears to be an illustration of the very thing you’ve been criticized for.

GALLANT: Well, that’s a bit of a stretch. People do slip up on numbers once in a while. I’ve been doing this job for about two years now. It’s not very often that this happened.  In fact, I can’t recall another time that this has happened.

That interview was followed up with a news story from reporter Bob Jones which told viewers all about the cock-up Gallant made in the first interview. Clips from both were aired and viewers could compare. Jones package was preceded by this introduction by the anchor:

A major mid-campaign blunder by Liberal leader Brian Gallant. With just 10 days to go before voting day, Gallant admits he stumbled…. And got his numbers wrong over his party’s campaign policy to tax New Brunswick’s richest 1 percent.  Robert Jones now on the mistake and what it could cost the party.

There have only been three public domain opinion polls published during this campaign. Gallant’s Liberals had a healthy lead in each one. Will this interview have voters re-thinking their options?


42 thoughts on “An unprecedented disaster of an interview for the Liberal leading in New Brunswick”

  1. A leader is like a goaltender in hockey ,he has his team out in front of him.There mistakes and their successes are talked about.

    The leader the goaltender,his or her mistakes are put up on the score board and are the difference in winning and loosing.

    Few games are shut outs but the one who makes the most mistakes always looses.and youth and inexperience are most often the contributing factors.

  2. Why would we consider this to be any different than any other politician who has ever run for or was successfully elected into the NB premiere’s chair? They all make mistakes. Why would we blow this one up larger than life? Because there is an election about to happen? How does Gallant making a big mistake make Alward look any better? How does it make anyone look any better? Answer is it doesn’t make anyone look good. Its time politicians run a campaign on what they stand for as representatives of their voters and not try to get elected or reelected by not looking as bad as the other guy(s) gal(s). School yard politics never gets us anything worth celebrating.

    1. I’m not sure if you are aware of what is happening with the Federal Liberals, but their leader sounds to be equally as competent in making mistakes. But are they mistakes? Is it incompetence? Is it lack of experience? To further that debate, have a look at Ontario’s Liberal party and their track record for out right and visibly lying on policy to the point where they have admitted it.

      I think this article does warrant concern and should be considered.

  3. Right Jimmy. If a member of the media actually asks a Liberal tough questions he/she must be a Conservative as opposed to DOING THEIR JOB.

    1. It’s not the tough questions, it is Forestell cutting him off every time he compares his party plan to the other party plans or deficits that each party has declared. Nothing wrong with questions if you let the person answer without being so overtly biased and rude. It looked like a Fox News interview.

      1. Because he already interviewed him and questioned him up and down on the issue and he was SURE of all of his numbers….and challenged HARRY in the first interview….and Harry is peeved!!

  4. Nice try, David. This tax affects so few voters in NB that most won’t care. We have no other choice here in NB. David Alward has been a complete disaster and he has to go.

    1. Well, that’s a great response. Tax the ones that give jobs, have businesses, take care of our health, defend us in Court and see how things turn out.

  5. It’s difficult trying to make a confused policy sound reasonable. Contrast Gallant performance with the Dominic Cardy’s consistent message. No better time for New Brunswick to make a change. And electing Cardy Premier would send a strong message to New Democrats across the country on what they need to do to improve the party.

  6. As someone who has no sympathy for liberals or high taxes, I don’t think Gallant came across badly. The reporter came across as hectoring to the point of beating a dead horse. As was said, everybody can slip up, particularly a politician in a campaign trying to keep a plethora of facts and figures in his head straight. There’s no way the CBC can make this out as comparable to the Stephan Dion implosion, much as they would like to try.

  7. Why are there only 2 parties being talked about here? Is everyone so blind as to believe there’s only DUMB and DUMBER?
    Why are you all so afraid to vote GREEN or NDP?

  8. Forestall,

    We don’t need another conservative stooge reporter in the senate. That was an unprofessional performance at best. Not a big Gallant supporter, but anything is better than the total failure we have in power now. I can’t afford to vote conservative, as a self employed person I will be whacked with $4k extra cost next year for a drug plan that my family doesn’t need. Another broken promise.

  9. Hi Folks,

    Trust the CBC to allow a do-over. Campaigning on behalf of lieberals every where in this country. Time to defund them or have the left pay out of their own pockets for this Piece of Crap.

  10. Why no one talks about Tolls is beyond me.

    Why all NB’s elections come down to 1 topic is beyond me.

    Why no one does research that if Gallant gets elected we will have 4 different Premiers in 4 straight elections and if you study politics you understand that if that happens where you are from, your economy keeps doing down the tanks. It takes a newly formed government at least 12-18 months to understand the goings on in the Legislature. This will put us even more behind. I do not like much of Alward’s ideas or platforms, but I am only looking at this for the good of the province….especially after this interview.

    But I have a sad Feeling NB will vote for another “quick fix” which has been done the previous 3 elections and 4 years form now we will be talking about something else cause Gallant has put the province even further behind again….or he will just get shale gas anyway and after people start making money, many won’t care about our well water.

  11. Well it just figures now doesn’t it? This bozo thinks that he will be the next premier of NB? Please Lord no .. I hope not.

    This fool hasn’t even bothered visiting with those whom he NEEDS to vote for HIM to get HIM elected in Shediac Bay Dieppe. I still haven’t figured out why all of a sudden some idjit from Kent County gets to represent the eastern half of Dieppe. We have nothing in common when it comes to our priorities outside of the typical province wide issues – employment in Shediac is not the same as the issues in Dieppe – as well as other riding specific issues.

    If he doesn’t come to my door – he can kiss any chance of a vote for him right out the door. As it is .. it is a very marginal chance at that.

    Mind you, the PC candidate hasn’t bothered to leave Shediac either but at least with the PC candidate we know what we are getting and I would much rather have Alward as the dummy we know than Gallant as the dummy we don’t know.

    So far he is doing a great job at proving that he is dumb and dumber. With policy stances such as his and the unforgivable statement that it was a staffer being up to 4am — jayzusss boy .. every employer knows that ultimately they are responsible – doesn’t matter what happened – and it is really irrelevant what caused the problem – you made the mistake and you were not informed enough to be aware of the mistake in the first place.

    And you wanna be premier???

  12. Alward hasn’t been a complete disaster at all, Marg. He’s been fairly mediocre, but far superior to his Liberal predecessor and he’s shifted the province’s finances in the right direction even if the debt has grown a bit due to Mr. Graham’s reckless spending in his four years.

    Gallant wants to spend us out of debt by throwing money into roads. We tried that, it had modest success at getting us through the recession, but it is time to MOVE ON and CURB spending in this province before we have to declare bankruptcy. I want my kids to be able to live here in the future. Alward and Cardy both have reasonable plans that may get us back on track. Gallant wants to speed up our decline. I want to try to avoid a worse-case scenario, thank-you.

    1. When my local PC MLA, a cabinet minister, came to my door I asked a lot of hard questions. What is your govt. doing to encourage investment and industry in NB? The answer I got was–Well the New Payroll Centre is being built. So I say Yeah, but that`s Federal. What is YOUR Govt. doing? So he says he wants to see the former mill office here become NB govt. offices. Jeesh! Once again I ask what are they doing for industry. ALL their eggs are in the fracking, pipeline basket and with the royalty rates they have set they are practically giving away the gas.

      Alward is an embarrassment, not a leader. He can`t get out a sentence without ending it “as we go forward.” We are NOT moving forward, and it`s time for a change.

      He has greatly increased our income taxes, decreased pensions, and still the deficit is out of control. We need investment and he isn`t doing enough on that file.

  13. This really isn’t the disaster it’s being made out to be; the story isn’t getting any traction anywhere as far as I can tell. And it will likely be completely ignored by the voters who will continue to vote as their grandfathers did. Until NBers step into the modern age, they will bounce back and forth between the PCs and the Liberals and wonder why their political Masters remain so arrogant and corrupt.

  14. The next government will do one of two things with respect to the deficit and debt: act on eliminating the deficit right away, or study the matter for the next few years and add another $2 billion to the overall debt. If the PC’s are re-elected, they will act on the deficit to eliminate it and begin reducing the debt becsue they have already done the studies. If any other party forms government, they will need a few years to get their feet under them to understand, through new studies, all the ramification before acting – thereby adding to the overall debt. On this basis alone we should re-elect the PC’s.

  15. How BRUTAL an interview was that to watch, Brian Gallant is a total FAIL!!!! All he kept doing was going back to PC this, PC that, he clearly didn’t understand the thrust of the interview was to assess HIS party’s policy, not anyone elses. It was HORRIFIC in terms of his ability to field questions, be clear on policy, have his facts straight, etc etc. I would think as Harry said, if they get that wrong, how much else are they off the mark on. Oh, and i would bet money that even if a moratorium is held, they will end up doing the exact same thing unless the work force drain ceases. Not sure I am gonna rave the red banner on election day for darn sure.

    1. John: At least a huge amount of people understand the message and will vote accordingly – and it won’t be the red machine.

  16. Just watched the two interviews with Brian Gallant. He appears to be a mental midget and a financial lightweight. Heaven help us if the Liberals get to form government.

  17. I look forward to Forrestell’s interview with Cardy/Alward. Appeared very determined to high-jack Gallant. Which I’m fine with. Hope he gives the others the same treatment.

  18. The only candidate interviewed that had it all together for the people of this Province was People Alliance leader, Kris Austin. Being a new party they don’t have enough members running to form a government, but they surely do have answers to the problems we face, and unlike the other candidates, Kris spoke not from one side of his mouth, but from his heart. He meant what he said! Elect as many of the People Alliance candidates as we can, and they will hold accountable the newly formed government for the Province of New Brunswick. We need this kind of “about-face” change, or we as a Province will end up in bankruptcy. The old parties need to be brought to an abrupt halt with all their lies and failed promises. Stop them now, or pay the fiddler later, and believe it will be costly for all of us.

    1. I like Kris and a lot of PANB’s policies, lots of common sense that could go a long ways in NB. To bad they didn’t have many other candidates.

  19. I just wish Forestell had held all the “Leaders” feet to the fire like he did with Gallant during the televised debate… Such an uninspiring campaign.

  20. People are not Gods nor carry onboard computer chips in their brains….slam dunking every politician on every little tid bit and causing drama, because citizens of NB are pissed due to the economic situation we’re in won’t cure the problems…kill the greed and lets all work together to bring New Brunswick on track and stop trying to get served on a silver platter…suck it up !

    1. On MAJOR platform issues – the optimistic leader should absolutely have his numbers correct. No exceptions or excuses.
      This is a colossal gaffe on Gallant’s part.

  21. Everyone knows over the past decades that because of the Liberals & the PC’s, they are the reason why NB is in the shapes its in. NO jobs, FORCED Bilingualism(Which the Liberals will be going ahead with if they get into power), the PC’s only platform is Shale Gas. Brian Gallant was just caught in his own lies , “TWICE” and yet he try to blame his staffers. Kris Austin is the only one who actually puts things plain and simple for people for a positive change and has NO PARTY LINE TO TOW unlike the Liberals & PC’s who chave been doing it over the many years they have been in power. When will people across this province give their heads a shake & WAKE UP and realize that with the RED & BLUE in charge again,, there isn’t going to be a change ,, things will only get worse. Mark my words that “IF” they get into power again, there will be the same complaints & gruntings going on all over again and they will have no one to blame but themselves but for voting in the egotistical, power hungry politicians our forefathers voted in, in the past.

    Go Kris Austin & Go Peoples Alliance Party!!!

  22. I have seen other politician make mistakes and clearly in the wrong but this man admits is error he is a human not a robot we all make errors he learning but I give my hat to admit he was wrong how many of other in same position and don’t admit they are wrong at least gallant this can’t come back to him that he lied he admitted it in is campaing win or lose he was honest of is mistake as other politician these lies fallow them all way through there lives example duffy case and others thet did not admit they did it at first and can a worm opened up and booooommmmmm it exploded gallant will not explode it was put on carpet from begening

  23. Brian Gallant is way over his head and has shown clearly that he has no idea on how to run the province. His ideas of raising the GST, taxing the rich and creating jobs based on infrastructure and roads (which are jobs paid by the government) will put the province farther and farther into debt, cause the unemployment rate to soar and create a much bigger struggle for the working poor and the poor to even try to survive. The burden of taxing the rich will be passed on to the employees which will result in many layoffs. Raising minimum wage again is also not an option right now as many many companies are struggling as it is. This too will also create more and more layoffs causing the unemployment rate to surge putting more and more people on welfare and therefore put the province further and further in debt. Tapping our natural resources will create an abundance of wealth for the province, jobs for the people of New Brunswick and will enable us to greatly bring down the ebt and eventually get back in to the black.

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