Yesterday, I told you about the new acronym for the source of Premier Danny Williams conniptions: PNC, which stands for Pessimism, Negativity and Crap.
Today, I tell of a private citizen who indulged in a little PNC, and soon found himself on the receiving end of a phone call from the premier.
It started a few years ago, when Bernard Rumbolt of Stephenville wrote a letter to Premier Williams, expressing his concern with how the Humber Valley Resort was being developed and managed. In particular, he complained about poor salaries and benefits being paid to local employees mainly young people and how the development affected access to local waterways and trails.
It was a saucy letter, suggesting at one point that output from the government offices might make a good input for their new sewage processing plant.
The premier took exception to that, so he called me up, Rumbolt said in an interview. He wondered why I was so upset with him. I told him at the time that I didnt think he was the great leader everybody says he is. I thought he was a very vindictive and childish individual. He got pretty hot. He had a nasty tone to his voice. He had a very condescending attitude. But when he got to the point that he knew I wasnt going to back down from him, that I was going to give it to him anyway, he decided to listen, and he told me that if I could do any better I should get into politics.
I asked Rumbolt if he felt he made any headway, in communicating his point of view to the premier.
You cant talk to him when he gets upset, Rumbolt said. Hes very childish. I called Bill Rowe over the matter too. Other people called to say I was only trying to (fabricate) something, that the premier would never, ever call me. But he did. He does that.
Several months later, the premier and a handful of ministers came to Stephenville for meetings. (Rumbolt doesnt recall the exact date, but it may have been January of 2006, for meetings with the local community development committee about the closure of the Abitibi mill.)
I wasnt doing anything that day, so around lunchtime I decided to drop down to Holiday Inn to have a chat with the premier, Rumbolt said. But he wouldnt see me, so I sat in the lobby of the hotel and when he came out from the meeting, down the corridor with a few other ministers, I just stood up off the chesterfield, stepped in front of him, stuck my hand out and introduced myself. Right then, his attitude changed, and you could see the spite coming out of him. He looked at the other ministers and said, This is the gentleman who wants to run us through the sewer system. I said Lets not be childish now and get on about that again. We had our differences then, now lets have a discussion. But when I went to get into a discussion, he said, Ive got nothing to say to you, sir. And he looked at the two fellows with him and said, Come on gentleman, lets go back to our rooms.
This is the premier who thinks its perfectly fine to hurl bridge-burning comments at others, then dismiss them as harmless elbows in the corner. But he doesnt seem to react so well when the elbows are directed at him. Based on Rumbolts account, he seems to nurse a grudge.
As for the personal call from the premier, devoted defenders of Danny will likely say, The premier is a man of the people who talks directly with his subjects. We should all be grateful!
I could almost accept that, if not for the angry tone of his calls.
Then there is the intimidation factor. As journalist Greg Locke said in his column:
One of Mr. Williams common refrains is how disappointed he is in you. Its personal and condescending right from the start. Calls on your mobile from the richest, most powerful man in the province are not the same as emails at your work. Journalists dont call him at home to abuse him. Journalism is done in a free media. Thats where the discussion should take place. Anything else is intimidation and it sets a bad public tone.
There is also this very good question: With the urgent issues that are crying out for attention at any given time in this province, doesnt the premier have more important things to do than call individuals to harangue them over their opinions?
Note: I became aware of the Rumbolt incident when a reader forwarded a link to a well-written editorial commentary in The Aurora, a Labrador weekly. Headlined Premier with an attitude, the column adds its voice to the chorus of criticism Williams has received for his PNC outburst on Open Line. Rumbolt adds his comment at the bottom. Check it out