Brian Alexander Gallant, lawyer, leader of New Brunswick Liberal Party, premier of New Brunswick (born 27 April 1982 in Shediac Bridge, New Brunswick). Gallant was elected premier of New Brunswick on 23 September 2014; at 32 years of age, he became the country’s youngest premier.
Early Years and Education
Gallant was born in the Acadian community of Shediac Bridge to Pierre Gallant (of Acadian heritage) and Marilyn Scholten (daughter of Dutch immigrants). He earned a Bachelor of Business Administration and a Bachelor of Laws at l’Université de Moncton, where he was president of the student federation. He also earned a Master of Laws at McGill University. After graduation, Gallant joined the law firm of Stewart McKelvey in Moncton; he later became a partner at Veritas Law in Dieppe, practicing corporate, commercial and immigration law.
Early Political Career
While still a student at l'Université de Moncton, Gallant ran in the 2006 provincial election as a Liberal candidate in the riding of Moncton East, but lost to Progressive Conservative Bernard Lord, who was then premier. After the Liberal Party’s defeat in the 2010 election, Gallant wrote a paper recommending changes for renewal, including openness to a “new generation of leaders.”
In 2012, Gallant became a candidate for leader of the provincial Liberal Party; despite never having won a seat in the legislature, he became party leader in October. In April 2013, Gallant won a by-election in Kent; upon becoming a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA), he also became leader of the official Opposition.
2014 Provincial Election
The Liberal Party’s platform for the 2014 election focused on the creation of over 1,700 jobs through government spending on infrastructure: Gallant proposed that the province spend $900 million over six years on paving roads, repairing bridges, and upgrading other infrastructure. The Liberal platform also included creation of 6,000 daycare spaces, which would cost the province an estimated $120 million over five years.
Gallant’s main opponent, Progressive Conservative Premier David Alward, argued that economic growth would be based on expansion of New Brunswick’s shale gas industry. However, the industry’s use of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has been controversial, and Alward’s position proved divisive in the lead-up to the election. Gallant and the Liberals, in contrast, repeated their calls for a moratorium on fracking, at least until the environmental and health risks are better understood — however, they were also criticized by political opponents, anti-fracking activists and the press for failing to clarify the length of such a moratorium and whether fracking would eventually be allowed under a Liberal government.
Abortion policy was another contentious issue during the 2014 campaign. In April 2014, Liberal members of the legislature passed two resolutions related to abortion; one called for “access to a full range of publicly funded family planning information and services” while the second called for “improve[d] access to reproductive health services that meet national standards and respect the Canada Health Act.” This Liberal initiative caused some backlash during the 2014 election campaign, as anti-abortion protestors distributed graphic postcards showing an aborted fetus beside a picture of Gallant, with the caption, “A vote for Brian Gallant and the Liberals is a vote for this.” Like federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, Gallant stated that Liberal MLAs would be expected to support access to abortion.
Most polls gave Gallant the lead during the campaign. However, only days before the election, Gallant gave two interviews on CBC News that were labelled by some an “unprecedented disaster.” During an interview with host Harry Forestell, Gallant stated that his party wanted to increase taxes for anyone earning over $500,000 per year, and that this would affect 200 people in the province. However, the policy was in fact targeted at anyone earning over $370,000 per year — around 600 people. Later that day, CBC recorded a second interview with Gallant during which he corrected his mistake, explaining that a staffer had worked until early that morning to provide the numbers. Forestell expressed surprise that the Liberals were still “crunching numbers” so late in the campaign. Gallant’s mistake provoked comments about his lack of experience, particularly by his political opponents.
Despite this gaffe, in the election on 21 September 2014, Gallant won his riding while his party won a majority government (27 seats compared to the Progressive Conservatives with 21 and the Green Party with 1). Despite problems with voting technology and a call by some Conservatives for a manual recount, Premier Alward conceded defeat the next day and offered his congratulations to Gallant, who became the country’s youngest premier.