'Very happy' about what, Danny?

ANDREW
ANDREW WAUGH
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It may be the time to abandon the ‘King’ nickname. If Danny Williams isn’t held to task for the verbal diarrhea he unleashed last Wednesday afternoon, he should cease to be ‘King Danny’ and forever be known as ‘The Deity Formerly Known As King Danny.’

Why the change?

C’mon, it’s obvious.

Nowhere else in this country, this continent, this planet, could a politician pull off such a blunder-prone, monumentally flawed move like the expropriation of Abitibi-Bowater’s Grand Falls operation and still be in office without serious credibility issues hanging over their head (well, OK, maybe a dictactor would be fine too).

But last Wednesday Williams was pleased to report that he’s ‘very, very happy’ that Ottawa will have to fork out $130 million to pay for his gigantic mistake. In case you missed it, the feds will pay that princely wad of cash to Abitibi Bowater to compensate for what amounts to little more than Williams’ desire to score political points by poking a stick into a departing company’s eye.

But wait – besides accidentally expropriating the mill too, it wasn’t a mistake, was it Mr. Premier? According to you, it was ‘probably one of the actions that I’m the most proud of’ since you came into office.

Pardon my French, but what the hell? What is there to be proud of here?

Ottawa – which, for the record books, was always going to be on the hook for any payment (the constitution covers that part of free trade agreements) – looked through the Abitibi versus Newfoundland and Labrador case and decided that paying out $130 million was probably a cheaper option than fighting. What does that say about whether or not the province’s expropriation was legally sound?

Where does Mr. Williams think Ottawa gets its money – the magical money tree? All the premier has done is guarantee everyone in the country will help pay for his outrageously stupid move.

And just as an added bonus, the taxpayers of Newfoundland and Labrador will get the double-whammy: long after Mr. Williams has left politics behind, the men and women of this province will still be paying more taxes to clean up the poisoned site that their dearly departed premier accidentally expropriated.

Let’s turn things over to Kevin Gaudet of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation for a moment, who had a few things to say in the wake of Williams’ ‘very, very happy’ comments.

“Danny Williams has managed to put taxpayers in Toronto, Weyburn, Vancouver, Kamloops, Halifax on the hook for his big ego,” he said. “Because he doesn’t do his work in advance, now we’re on the hook. Maybe there would have been better ways to avoid this type of liability issue earlier if he paid more attention.”

What did Williams think about that argument?

Simple: he defaulted to his tried-and-true method of chest-beating about how Newfoundland and Labrador has made contributions to Canada that somehow outweigh what everyone else has done. Again, what the hell? Couldn’t just about every province make that same claim?

Here’s Gaudet again: “Every province and territory can make its argument about its unique contributions to the country. Danny Williams’ ego is writing cheques that Canadian taxpayers are footing the bill for.”

The real point to this whole sorry saga is this: Williams is trying to turn his own colossal blunder (perhaps his biggest since coming into office) into a victory, hoping that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador will swallow his nationalistic, won’t-stand-up-to-any-kind-of-logical-scrutiny 'logic' once again.

If the people take the bait on this one, Williams must  go down in the history books as the premier-turned-God who could magically transform scandals into victories and make all his self-created problems disappear by angrily uttering one of two magic words: “Ottawa” or “Quebec.”

 

Guest editorial by Andrew Waugh, former editor of the Labradorian, who writes from Dartmouth, NS.

Geographic location: Ottawa, Newfoundland and Labrador, Grand Falls Abitibi Toronto Vancouver Kamloops Canada Quebec Dartmouth

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  • Frank Blackwood
    September 03, 2010 - 16:34

    I think one gets a better understanding as to what is happening around our province when living on the other side of the mountain, especially in a political sense. I always felt that Newfoundlanders were scared to death of Danny Williams and what he might do to them is they didn't cast their votes for him. The Premier has always been seen as ghostly figure for people who have not challenged his ideas and political philosophy for fear of losing the very little they have. The Premier barks loud when someone tries to steal his bone and seems to quickly burry it ,and Newfoundlanders are no better off for his loud actions. He bites very hard when there is a spark of election fever in the air and drags his oponents and people into the mud very quickly. I think ,we need a change of leadership in Newfoundland and Labrador so Newfoundlanders can have a better voice. We see that here in Ontario, why don't Newfoundlanders do something about it? It is too late when Danny's friends are wealthy and perhaps move away from the province like some of our former premiers leaveing our people in a real mess, more than ever before.

  • Myles
    August 31, 2010 - 14:39

    Mr Waugh, your name reminds me of what you're doing in this excuse for an analysis of the issue, wah, wah wah. Whine all you like but the facts remain: Yes, the mill expropriation was a silly mistake but it was one all the parties Liberal, NDP and PC can take some blame for since none of them apparently read the details of the expropriation documents drawn up by staff at the Confederation Building. So let's tar them all with the same brush and put that one aside. As for the expropriation of the leases, those water, land and timber rights were first issued to the original founding company of the mill operation and updated over time as required (when new resources were involved or new partners came onboard.). Originally it was put in place 50 years before Confederation and long before NAFTA was ever thought of. The intent of the leases (yes, leases, Abitibi never actually owned any of those resources) the leases were intended to provide Abitibi with the resources they needed to run milling operations. You seem to believe it was OK for them to stop their operations but keep control of the resources and in doing so deny them to any other industry and to the people who own them. When abitibi decided it did not want to pay for the environmental damage it caused the province said it would pay a fair value for the only thing Abitibi ever owned, the buildings and equipment, not the resources. Enter a big cash grab by Abitibi (asking $500 million) and knowing full well what the owned was worth nowhere near that amount. Ottawa, (read S. Harper and his ministers) decided that to appease a Quebec based company (yes, head offices are in Quebec) and to turn up the heat on Williams, the best bet was to settle the challenge. Settling is not an admission of guilt and in fact I believe if they had fought the case they might even have won it. That of course would not serve the political purposes of the government of the day in Ottawa. Maybe you should spend more time in NL and less in Dartmouth NS. It might give you more insight into what's really going on before you put your foot in your mouth.