Williams talks tough

Steve Bartlett
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'(Quebec)' wants it all, and that just doesn't go down well with me,' premier says

Premier Danny Williams addressed the St. John's Board of Trade at its annual

If Danny Williams’ language was any stronger, the audience might have been asked to excuse his French.

The premier wouldn’t want them to excuse Quebec, though.

In a speech to a St. John’s Board of Trade luncheon Wednesday, he called Quebec’s approach to the Lower Churchill hydro development obstructionist, abhorrent and intolerable.

“When it comes to Hydro-Quebec, we’re taking no prisoners, believe me,” he said.

The Lower Churchill is a megawatt megaproject that’s a “major priority” for Newfoundland and Labrador.

While Williams said his province is proceeding wisely, he blasted Quebec for blocking the transmission of 3,000 megawatts from the Labrador river.

It wasn’t his first offensive against that province for its position, but it was arguably his strongest.

The premier pointed to Quebec’s letter protesting an application for federal funds to run a transmission line across the Cabot Strait to Nova Scotia.

He said the correspondence, sign­ed by Quebec Premier Jean Charest, argued such funding would amount to an unfair subsidy and place Hydro-Quebec at a disadvantage.

Williams called that “unabashed hypocrisy.”

Quebec, he noted, made $2.3 billion off Upper Churchill power in 2008 and has seen its share of the federal equalization program soar to 60 per cent in recent years.

That’s only the tip of the iceberg of the money Quebec receives from Canada, he said.

“Somebody contact my heart doctor. I’m starting to get really pissed off here,” said Williams, who underwent cardiac surgery earlier this year.

Quoting a Montreal Gazette editorial that called the attempts to scuttle the Lower Churchill project “unseemly, unwise and even shameful,” the premier continued his attack by saying Canadians are realizing Quebec’s obstructionist approach.

“The rest of the country, and even Quebec itself, is finally admitting that it has been getting away with highway robbery in Canada for decades.”

Quebec’s actions, he continued, are “abhorrent” and “intolerable” in a country where provinces are equals.

He said Quebec’s approach is further proof of its anti-Canada attitude, adding he thought it was the Bloc Quebecois who believed in elevating that province’s status and undermining the federation.

Quebec’s actions are damaging its reputation as well as the rest of the country’s, he said.

Williams also pointed out Quebec boasts that it’s a leader in free trade and green energy. If it is, and if it wants to co-operate in the federation, he said, “then it needs to get out of the way of the progress of its neighbours.”

The premier touted the Lower Churchill as the best green energy project in North America.

He said it would help Canada meet green targets and be a major boost to Newfoundland and Labrador, with almost 30 million person years of employment during construction and numerous opportunities for business.

“The rest of the country, and even Quebec itself, is finally admitting that it has been getting away with highway robbery in Canada for decades.” Premier Danny Williams

“There simply is no down side in this incredible development.”

Reporters later asked Williams if this was the beginning of a political war with Charest.

“Take no prisoners is probably as strong a statement as I can make,” the premier replied.

He said he doesn’t think there is anything wrong with him pointing out Charest’s attempts to undermine the project, especially when Quebec media are acknowledging it.

Williams said he has difficulty accepting that Quebec “shafted us once” on the Upper Churchill and appear to be trying to do it again.

“Why don’t they just step aside and say, ‘OK fine, we’ve done that, but now you get on with your Lower Churchill. We will help you. We will accommodate you. We will still charge for transmission … but we will facilitate that second project.’ But no, they want it all, and that just doesn’t go down well with me.”

Williams said the application to fund the Cabot Strait-Nova Scotia transmission line is ongoing, with senior officials continuing to meet.

He said he hasn’t recently spoken to Charest or Prime Minister Stephen Harper on the issue.


Organizations: Hydro-Quebec, Board of Trade, Montreal Gazette Bloc Quebecois

Geographic location: Quebec, Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador Cabot North America.He

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Recent comments

  • Geoff Meeker
    September 09, 2010 - 15:23

    So anonymous "Paul" thinks I am an ''anti-Williams fanatic''. That's not the case at all. When he was elected, I was one of Williams's biggest fans. I paid attention to what he was doing, listened carefully to everything he said, and my opinion gradually changed. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that he is the worst premier since Joey Smallwood. People point to the premier's massive popularity, as if that means something. But the fact is, Smallwood, Peckford and Tobin were highly popular too, until public opinion went through the floor. Me? I'm just ahead of the curve.

    • Alexandre Baillargeon
      September 10, 2010 - 11:11

      Good old Québec bashing policy from Newfoundland Prime Minister. Its not a new thing, remember Wells... First of all, Labrador was our territory that we've been forced to give away, i just want to point that very important fact. That Prime Minister is also doing everything in his power to discredit Québec everywhere he goes, and even if we have a liberal government, witch by the way is a federalist political party, its still almost impossible for Québec to do business on a equal basis outside of Québec, like in New Brunswick... So when i hear another Québec hater saying that Québec his bad, that we are not bending our back anymore and he is complaining about that, its just very insulting from him. I know very well that a lot of Newfounland people are very good friend with folks from Québec, so i can do the difference between your Prime Minister and the people of Newfoundland. But please dont insult us anymore Mister Williams or i can asure you that when the Parti Québécois, the real force of change in Québec, his gonna take the power we wont forget you attitude and you gonna pay the political price for it. Enough is enough. Youre still wondering why we want to form our own country? What does Québec want? Equality and respect, as simple as that.

  • William
    September 09, 2010 - 14:18

    Indeed 30 million person years! Will keep us all going for a few years. I just wish in all this, someone (i.e. Danny) would at least acknowledge that Quebec alone didn't create the entire problem. There were other signatures on the initial accord besides those of the Quebec side. It's obvious that the current approach of bashing Quebec is not working. As galling as it might be, perhaps it's time for a more tactful approach. Just saying...

  • Paul
    September 09, 2010 - 12:10

    It's interesting to see how the Geoff Meekers of the world and these other anti Williams fanatics explain how the rest of us "mindless followers" got it all wrong..How do you explain the Montreal Gazette I wonder...I guess they also lack the intellect you guys have to figure it out. How you can make these comments in light of the relationship Quebec has had within this Confederation is simply amazing Perhaps you folks should run for office down here and see how many votes you would get . Perhaps though you would have better luck in La Belle Province!

  • Observant
    September 09, 2010 - 11:40

    ABC, Danny boy ... ABC Looks like Danny has no friends or allies in Ottawa or even the RoC ... wonder why? Btw, Danny .... If Quebec ever separates, you can bet they will annex Labrador ... and nobody is gonna care.

  • Chantal
    September 09, 2010 - 08:40

    This isn't a leader. This is a 10-year-old having a tantrum. Only his mindless followers will be impressed.

  • EuroGuy
    September 09, 2010 - 08:14

    "almost 30 million person years of employment" Wow, that's like over 59 years of employment for the entire population of the province! Maybe a bad quote, maybe the premier mis-spoke, but isn't some sense of numbers required if you are reporting on business matters? And it's not like the Telegram Editor hasn't made a stink before about the use of "employment hours" instead of "employment years" , just read the July 15 editorial: http://www.thetelegram.com/Opinion/Editorial/2010-07-15/article-1595932/A-deal-with-us/1 (and isn't the job of an editor to read through the articles in the paper and correct them if there are errors?)

  • Geoff Meeker
    September 09, 2010 - 07:44

    I am amazed that he continues to get away with this. Quebec did not block this province's access to transmit power across its grid, as the premier says. Nalcor applied to do so, Quebec said there was not sufficient capacity on its existing grid, and that expensive upgrades would be necessary. Newfoundland appealed. In the Regie de l'nergie hearing that followed, Quebec offered up engineering studies to demonstrate its case. However, Nalcor did not present any evidence of its own, or challenge Hydro Quebec's defence. In effect, we threw the game. This, from the great legal minds that brought you the Abitibi expropriation. Yet, the premier is permitted by media to continue repeating this myth. If a news outlet asked a lawyer to review and explain the Regie decision, the truth would be exposed. Why hasn't that happened?