Here's what happened at the N.L. Liberals' $500-a-plate fundraiser

Premier Andrew Furey focused on the positives at the Liberal Party's $500-a-plate fundraiser on Wednesday. (Darrell Roberts/CBC - image credit)
Premier Andrew Furey focused on the positives at the Liberal Party's $500-a-plate fundraiser on Wednesday. (Darrell Roberts/CBC - image credit)
Darrell Roberts/CBC
Darrell Roberts/CBC

Premier Andrew Furey read off a long list of accomplishments during his speech at the provincial Liberals' annual fundraiser Wednesday night, to rapturous applause from attendees.

During his speech, Furey insisted that the province's circumstances have improved during his time as premier — and will continue to do so.

"Together, in two years, we've made a lifetime of change," he said.

About 450 guests paid $500 a plate to be there, according to staff. The guest list included prominent business people, lawyers and others with Liberal ties, including former premier Roger Grimes.

Furey touted health care recruitment initiatives, population growth, improved fiscal straits, major projects like Bay du Nord and more.

Some of the items he listed — like the creation of one health authority or the construction of a replacement for St. Clare's Hospital — have been announced but haven't actually happened yet.

Earlier on Wednesday, interim PC opposition leader David Brazil said the provincial government has failed to proactively recruit respiratory therapists, as more than 10 per cent of positions in Eastern Health are now vacant.

Furey pushed back against Brazil's accusation.

"I don't hear any solutions from them," he said.

He said government has a suite of solutions for health care recruitment and retention, like the creation of a nurse recruitment desk in India.

During his speech, he said the provincial government is modernizing a health-care system stuck in the 1960s.

Hydrogen, wind and Tony Blair

World Energy GH2, which is proposing a massive hydrogen project on the Port au Port Peninsula, bought a table at the event — which included the company's chairman, billionaire John Risley.

The opposition has repeatedly criticized Furey for taking a trip to Risley's luxury fishing lodge in Labrador, accusing the premier of a conflict of interest. While speaking with reporters, Furey downplayed the controversy.

"I've said my piece on that, and maintained that it's my time, my dime," he said.

Mark Quinn/CBC
Mark Quinn/CBC

Furey said he's put up an "ethical wall," and has no insight into the hydrogen proposal from World Energy GH2. He said it would be "unfortunate" if the controversy distracts from a potential wind energy industry in Newfoundland and Labrador.

"I can't influence the decision-making process, nor can I make the decision," he said.

Furey's statement comes a day after CBC News reported that three members of Stephenville's town council and the town manager flew back from a conference in Europe on Risley's private jet. Furey wouldn't comment on that trip.

Furey said wind and hydrogen energy was one of the topics he discussed with former U.K. prime minister Tony Blair when he stopped in St. John's for a short visit.

"He was quite buoyed and excited for us that we had all these things," said Furey.

He said Blair was in the province to provide him with some "very high-level advice."

"What was reassuring for me is that he felt some of the same barriers, if you will, the same stresses and strain that I'm feeling," he said.

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