Farewell, and...

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So much for slipping quietly out the door, as the CBC put it Friday, on Daniel Williams’s last day in office.

Turns out, he just can’t go without causing a ruckus. The former premier is drawing criticism for his Christmas card, which features his smiling mug shot and the words ‘LEST WE FORGET’ as a backdrop.

Williams is standing in front of the war memorial in the lobby of Confederation Building. Behind him, just out of view, is the official copy of the Book of Remembrance, for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who died in two world wars. Inside the card, the premier says “I will miss you all and will never forget you,” so the play on words is obvious.

Only problem is, he is playing with – some have said trivializing and disrespecting – the war memorial, and the memories of those who died in service to their country.

The card is signed by “Danny Williams, Q.C., Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador,” which is odd, since he is no longer premier. And the photo was taken on the day he resigned, so the premier KNEW he was no longer premier.

So, now, we have the odd spectacle of citizens receiving a Christmas card from two premiers, if Dunderdale posts a card of her own.

It would seem the premier is having a difficult time letting go.

And he is not the only one.

The province has gone into a fit of mourning, since the premier announced his resignation on November 25. This was not surprising, given the premier’s enormous popularity.

However, the praise and adulation went way over the top. I nearly lost my breakfast several times, when people, who sounded otherwise normal and articulate, called Open Line to gush about everything the premier had done for the province.

“With the premier going, it feels like we’ve lost our training wheels,” said one man. Presumably, then, we’ve learned to stand on our own. Whatever.

“The premier is like a good parent, who has brought their children to a point where they can fly on their own,” said a lady.

Spare me, please.

Then there have been the inaccuracies: caller after caller on talk radio, hundreds of comments on web sites, and numerous letters to the editor, all gushing about the transformational effect the premier allegedly had.

One citizen, writing in The Telegram, said Williams was “a modern day Moses” who appeared “to lead us to the promised land.”

“What a blessing it has been that Danny Williams was there to lead us so we could take our rightful place in history,” the person wrote.

Even journalists of national stature tripped in a thicket of their own mistakes, in the rush to celebrate Williams’s accomplishments. John Ibbitson of the Globe and Mail said Williams was the province’s 13th premier (he was ninth) and that he signed the deal that led to the Voisey’s Bay development (he didn’t).

Even highly-educated teachers have taken leave of their senses, caught up in the euphoria to the point of indulging in propaganda. My son brought home a high school assignment, from his NL Studies class, that made the following dubious claim:

“During his time as the leader of our great province Mr. Williams has brought prosperity and hope back to our island.”

This teacher needs a crash course in both history and geography. First, the province is more than an island. Second, the premier did not deliver all this prosperity – despite attempts to take credit for same, in his boastful farewell speech.

Our province has arrived at prosperity, and so-called “have not” status, as a result of the Hibernia, Terra Nova and White Rose oil projects, and the Voisey’s Bay development. We are able to realize substantial benefits from offshore oil due to the Atlantic Accord, signed by Premier Brian Peckford. (The $2 billion that Williams won with the 2007 side deal was significant, but still just a blip compared to the original Accord.)

Yes, Williams signed the Hebron agreement, which appears to be a good deal on the face of it (though we, the owners of the resource, are not allowed to actually read the fine print). He has signed decent side deals on White Rose and Hibernia extensions. However, we won’t see the fruits of those developments for some time yet.

The truth is, Williams cannot take credit for the prosperity we now enjoy. Clyde Wells signed the original Hibernia deal, with a royalty rate of 30 percent after development costs are recovered – that’s not bad for 1990, and certainly not a giveaway. After that, Brian Tobin signed the Terra Nova deal, and Roger Grimes signed the White Rose and Voisey’s Bay deals.  Each deal improved on the one that came before.

Yes, Williams did make further gains with Hebron and the extensions to other fields. But our current prosperity is due to high oil prices, and deals reached by his predecessors. To say that Williams single-handedly delivered us to the promised land is a lie.

And to revere him as some kind of god is ridiculous beyond belief. Williams made some mistakes and did some stupid things during his tenure as premier. He promised a new era of openness and transparency, then delivered the exact opposite, running a government that was secretive, paranoid and obsessive about its own popularity. We saw the closure of paper mills in Stephenville and Grand Falls-Windsor, which the premier helped expedite by saying he’d just as soon “see the back of” Abitibi’s head. We saw the removal of the air ambulance from St. Anthony, as apparent punishment for voting Liberal in a by-election. There was the bungled expropriation of a paper mill, and the multi-million dollar bill associated with that. There was the dissolution of FPI and, most importantly, the loss of its valuable marketing arm. There remains the slow bleeding of residents from rural areas, in the wake of a failing fishery. There was the ABC campaign, which looks dumber and dumber, the further it slips into history. There was the ham-fisted handling of NLMA negotiations, causing a crisis that Williams’s successor is still scrambling to fix. And Williams resigned soon after announcing terms of a Lower Churchill development agreement, one that, without his stewardship, is likely to founder and sink on the shoals of the 2011 election. 

Williams and his government frequently made political points with the fact that he didn’t collect a salary. Thousands of gullible souls fell for this one. Just do the math. Assuming a return of three percent, Williams earns $6 million per year in interest alone from his $200 million fortune. Poor Danny!

This is off the top of my head. Feel free to add to the list by commenting below.

Most upsetting to me was the ignorant way Williams comported himself. He responded to criticism, and even reasonable questions, with name-calling and vitriol. He rarely – if ever – paused to calmly explain a policy position or government decision. Instead, he insulted people personally, and even questioned the patriotism of private citizens. Apparently, a lot of people can forgive him that.

I can’t.

I am not one of the premier’s strongest supporters, but I remained respectfully quiet, allowing him to ride into the sunset. That is, until now.

Williams’s latest stunt with the Christmas card is pure bad taste. It prompted me to speak up and dispel some of the mythology that has been gathering, like a noxious cloud, since November 5.

And it has inspired me to indulge in a bit of satire.


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Recent comments

  • Jack
    December 22, 2010 - 10:05

    Well put Mr. Meeker well put indeed!

  • Fintip
    December 20, 2010 - 20:18

    I don't normally read Meeker's column. His rants suggest a decidedly twisted, obsessive personality. Like Wangersky, he seems to harbour some personal animus for Williams. It is true that people who like Williams, really like him, and people who don't like him, hate him with a passion. Mind you, if the latter had their own club (now there's an idea for you Geoff), they could hold their annual commiseration in the basement at the Telegram. I suspect that, in reality, people like Meeker and Wangersky are almost despondent at Williams’s unexpected departure. How dare he leave before they could fulfill their life's mission of having him thrown out! Oh that I should live so long. As David Letterman lamented upon the departure of George W. Bush, he would have to go back to work because the jokes would no longer write themselves. There is nothing like a good dose of bile to keep the creative juices flowing. As some other poster noted, Meeker's columns have all but withered since Williams left. He was a one trick pony. And Wangersky has had to content himself with obscure observations on the local flora and fauna. Both must be pleading with Santa for a new Grinch, or an Ogre, or even a Troll for Christmas so they can start knocking the stuffing out of it by New Year's. If not, then the ink well for their poison quills will dry up and either or both will be of no further use to the Telegram. That prospect was, in truth, what drew me to Meeker's rather stale column. For a second upon glancing at the bold 'FAREWELL..' headline, I thought maybe Meeker was going, leaving us in peace, putting out his 'Pit-bull For Hire' shingle. But alas, there is no Santa Claus.

  • diane
    December 19, 2010 - 09:32

    Sounds like Meeker is spending too much time with Craig Westcott!! Maybe he is looking for a spot in the Liberal office...haha. Hey Geoff i hear they are trying to replace Yvonne as leader...maybe you could get an interview. Time to write another blog!!

  • Jonny Groves
    December 17, 2010 - 10:05

    No action on this "Media Blog" since Danny left? Looks like you are all about the Danny bashing after all.

  • N Hickey
    December 15, 2010 - 20:35

    Spot on, Meeker!!!

  • Gerald Saunders
    December 11, 2010 - 10:20

    As Mrs. Meeker would say when watching a parade, "Everyone is out of step except my Johnny." In this case Johnny is Geoff!

    • W McLean
      December 11, 2010 - 22:42

      You might want to watch that parade more closely, Gerald. Take a look at the rest of Saturday's opinion and letters page.

  • Mark Ennis
    December 10, 2010 - 08:23

    Totally agree with all that is written here! Nice to read a thought provoking article, rather than those idol worshipping ones from The Newfoundland Herald. Great job Geoff.

  • get over it
    December 10, 2010 - 07:57

    OMG...is this the only news in the province...the former Premiers christmas card. Personally i see nothing wrong with it, seems like Meeker just can't let go of Danny leaving!! I guess he feels a little like Mark Critch...going to have to find someone new to crap on. Geoff...i have not seen a blog on the state of the Liberal Party. The poor showing in the recent bi election, plus the Liberal executive getting together on the weekend to get rid of Yvonne. Nothing like kicking someone when they are really down. So Geoff get back to some of the present issues in the province instead of dwelling on Danny and what he did or didn't do. And as for Danny not taking a salary...how can you condemn someone for making money on his own investments?

  • Scott Free
    December 09, 2010 - 13:53

    I, like many others commenting on here and elsewhere, were encouraged by our parents, teachers, and community leaders, all of our lives, to ask questions in an effort to become better informed and more knowledgeable of our surroundings and about issues that impact on each of us. However, for the past number of years, prior to his resignation, former Premier Williams loathed being questioned on any matter of public concern or decision of his. His vile, offensive and sometimes violent rant and rage seethed from his mouth with venom at the very thought of anyone merely question his almightyness, much less offer an opposing view, or even think it. If someone questioned him about any issue he took it as a personal attack, then attacked the person asking. If you had an opposing view, you were somehow a traitor to NL; and to his sheep cult following, you were a Danny-hater; simply for questioning or having an opinion or vision not shared by Danny. He excommunicated cabinet ministers, banished elected members, excused board volunteers, intereferred with democracy, and singlehandedly severed all ties and goodwill with provincial, regional and federal counterparts. On top of that, he operated with a secret agenda, was accountable to no-one and left a litany of boondoggles that will take generations to repair. And, his dictatorial behavior rubbed off on some of his cabinets ministers as evidenced by tactics employed lately by Kennedy and King, among others. For any of the good he did, and yes, while he negotiated better oil industry deals in NL's favour and squeezed more out of the Feds, I fear he may have caused much more irrepairable damage than good in untold loss of potential opportunities and partnerships within our country and globally. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

  • Marie Samson
    December 09, 2010 - 11:03

    Excellent writing!! I couldn't agree more with Geoff. Keep on asking the questions and probing the issues.

    • Tom
      December 10, 2010 - 07:46

      Finally some sanity! I have been making arguments such as Geoff made for some time now but they mostly fall on deaf ears. Yes it seems you can indeed fool most of the people most of the time (unfortunately). Danny didn't make me proud to be a Newfoundlander. I was already proud long before OUR Danny. But Geoff's courage in the face of likely derision did indeed make me proud. If we are to progress as a province we don't need any more bullies but we do need people who are willing to stand up and be counted. Would like to shake your hand Geoff!

  • Martin J
    December 09, 2010 - 09:02

    Superior blog, Mr. Meeker. Finally someone with intellectual opinion is speaking. And let me tell you, there are more people thinking along the same lines as you. He was no hero or idol. The crass, crude, disrespectful Christmas card he sent out sums it all up. He is "above" the rest, or so he thinks. Goodbye, Mr. Williams and hello democracy!!!

  • Eileen
    December 08, 2010 - 15:03

    “He promised a new era of openness and transparency, then delivered the exact opposite, running a government that was secretive, paranoid and obsessive about its own popularity.” I agree Geoff, I’ve been biting my tongue while people gush when saying good-bye to Danny. Enough already. I will be very glad when we don’t have to hear his name anymore. But I think it will be a long time before we can undo the damage he has done to our democratic right to know what’s going on within government.

  • Shannon Reardon
    December 08, 2010 - 10:57

    "Avoid psychiatrists because I don't think you'd like what you'd hear." - Eddy There probably wouldn't be any left anyway, thanks to you know who! THAT is his legacy, he left office with a crisis unresolved, one he created and exacerbated, and instead signed a flimsy "terms sheet" as his "legacy" and his way to leave the sinking ship. He could never deal with the nitty gritty work of government, the unsexy stuff, as he was always far more consumed with the glamour and celebrity he created for himself. Re: the blog item, Geoff nails it. All the praise was seriously turning my guts. People in this place love heroes, especially pugilists who "fight for us". Nothing could have been further from the truth. Williams fought for himself and his own legacy and time will tell on it all. Talk about premature praise, and obscene deification. And this utterly crass card: the totally disrespectful, self-glorifying picture and signing it as "Premier Danny Williams" when he is no longer?? Ugh. Good riddance is right. Popularity and what is right and just are NOT one in the same, and clearly money does not equate to class.

  • Scott Free
    December 08, 2010 - 08:55

    Excellent blog Mr. Meeker and thank you for exposing and reminding us all of the many failures by Danny that the blind faithful still cannot accept as factual. Danny's ego has been detrimental to us and we will feel the effects for years to come, most significantly the negative fallout of the ABC campaign. There is no will or desire by the Feds to promote NL; why should they? And, this affront to Legionaires everywhere is just another example of Danny's bloated ego as he begs us to remember him; I will, for a long time with complete and utter distain.

  • NotADannyFan
    December 07, 2010 - 20:53

    Way go go Geoff. Tell it like it is because as the saying goes the truth shall set you free. Maybe someday when they are retired someone in the PC caucus will come out and tell the truth of what it was like to work with this man.

  • W McLean
    December 07, 2010 - 13:48

    J.T., why is the FORMER Premier sending a Premier's Christmas card?

    • J.T.
      December 07, 2010 - 14:57

      Wally, I honestly do not know why Williams is sending out a Christmas card. If you really want to know the answer to that, why not ask him yourself. My purpose for posting here today is to put forth my opinion on this conspiracy theory. Perhaps you guys should concern yourselves with issues pertaining to the liberal party of NL.... ie. recent loss of the by-election (3rd place in a 3 place race), rumour of knives out for Ms. Jones, you know, the mundane stuff.

    • Eddy
      December 07, 2010 - 22:12

      hahahahahahaha. "why is the FORMER premier sending a Premier's Christmas card?". bahahaha. This is what you get online to complain about. Get a life. You people are obsessed with this man. Avoid psychiatrists because I don't think you'd like what you'd hear.

    • Willi Makit
      December 15, 2010 - 12:41

      No worries about avoiding psychiatrists Eddy, there's about a two year wait list. W McLean, good question, why are tax dollars being used to send self-promoting ''Christmas'' cards from former politicians? Government tells us times are tight and we can't afford to pay competitive wages for physicians, yet they blow money on a stunt like this while queuing up a multi-billion vanity project that will double our electricity rates. ''Lest we forget'' and good riddance indeed.

  • J Tucker
    December 07, 2010 - 13:26

    We get it, Geoff. You don't like Williams. However, this is bordering on obsession. It's starting to get to the point where you may as well change the name of the blog to Meeker on Williams. It's a shame, because this blog used to be interesting.

  • Harry Tucker
    December 07, 2010 - 12:37

    Excellent article, Geoff. Many times when people are blinded by charisma and bravado, they are unable to make an accurate assessment of a leader until years down the road, when an unbiased assessment can be made. When it comes to his followers, I look at them as I do any people who approach me wide-eyed, whether they are selling me their new religion, their new "think and it will happen" mantra, or anything else. When I ask them to calm down and tell me factually why they believe "xyz" is the great thing ever, if the facts don't flow (or are inaccurate), then I walk away. And most times, it is dificult to get people to back up opinion with fact ... which leaves their opinion as just that .. an opinion. You can always find those who can't back up opinion with fact. They are the ones who get instantly angry and resort to personal attacks. But then again, these people are following the example of the person making them wide-eyed in the first place.

  • J.T.
    December 07, 2010 - 12:20

    Well now, it seems that this blogger simply could not help himself and took a parting shot at Williams. This Christmas card nonsense is another attempt by the opposition to take a pot shot at the FORMER Premier. I seriously doubt Williams meant for this photo to be sending subliminal messages to Lorraine and the others. Yes, perhaps another photo should have been used for the card, but to make the connection between the wording behind Williams and some message which insults the war dead is one more example of the silliness some people stoop to. I think the proponents of this silly conspiracy theory need to find something else to do in order to fill they're collective days....seriously. So Geoff, Lorraine and all the other members of the 'mutual disdain for Danny club', have a very Merry Christmas, and get a life because Danny ain't Premier any more.

  • Beaner
    December 07, 2010 - 10:57

    *Slow clap* Well said.