Danny says goodbye

Dave Bartlett
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Williams leaves politics on an emotional high note — and on his own terms

As the elevator in the lobby of Confederation Building opened just after 11:30 Thursday morning a capacity crowd stood and cheered.

The applause lasted for almost two minutes before Premier Danny Williams asked the crowd to take their seats so he could announce, after seven years, he was resigning from politics.

“In every person’s life, there comes a time when the tough decisions have to be faced head on no matter how difficult they may be,” said Williams. “(Filmmaker) Orson Welles once said that ‘if you want a happy ending you need to know when to end your story.’ And so I’ve ... called you here today to announce the end of my story as the ninth premier of Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Flanked by his caucus, many sporting long faces or wiping away tears, Williams announced deputy premier Kathy Dunderdale would  take over as premier once his resignation takes effect Dec. 3.

“With the completion of the Lower Churchill deal, it is time for new leadership and new ideas within the PC Party of Newfoundland and Lab-rador,” Williams said.

He said walking away as premier of “this bloody awesome province” didn’t come easily.

“How does one walk away from the best job on Earth?” Williams asked rhetorically.

He praised the province for everything from its rugged beauty to its vibrant arts community.

Williams said he will miss the strategizing and the camaraderie of politics, and he thanked his constituents in Humber West, his staff, cabinet and caucus.

“Without their hard work, their efforts and their undying love for this place, we could never, ever have achieved what we have in just seven short years in government,” said the premier.

Williams is no doubt aggressive and addressed that quality in his farewell speech.

“I laugh when critics and some reporters say that I’m nothing more than a fighter. Someone always looking for a racket, never happy unless I’ve taken someone on,” said Williams. “Well folks I’m here to tell you today that those people are right.”

He said there has been no battle too big or small that he wouldn’t fight on the province’s behalf “even if it meant taking on my idol, Paul McCartney, on international TV.”

Williams and McCartney had a spirited bout on CNN’s “Larry King Live” over the seal hunt a few years back.

The premier also reminded the crowd of some of the battles won such as a more equitable Atlantic Accord from Ottawa, a better deal from the big oil companies on the Hebron development and last week’s announcement a term sheet had been signed with Nova Scotia to develop the Lower Churchill while avoiding using a transmission route through Quebec.

Williams said the agreements for equity stakes in the province’s oil field, the Accord and the Lower Churchill alone will bring an estimated $70 billion to the province and thousands upon thousands of jobs.

The province also achieved have status under Williams.

“I am most proud of our renewed pride as a people,” he added.

Though he said there are still challenges ahead for the province, and always would be, Williams said he’s leaving the province in good shape to take on those challenges.

The premier also suggested people haven’t heard the last of him.

“I promise you, even after I’m gone from the premier’s chair, I will always fight for our province,” he said.

Talking to reporters after his speech, Williams said his health was good, but he’s not getting any younger.

“The Churchill has always been a major goal for me,” he gave as his reason for taking his bow now. “Getting the Lower Churchill done, and getting an alternative to Quebec is very, very important,”

Williams downplayed a run at federal politics and suggested he’s looking forward to getting back to business in the private sector.

“In every person’s life, there comes a time when the tough decisions have to be faced head on no matter how difficult they may be.” Premier Danny Williams

He joked he was anxious to get control of his own money again as it’s been sitting in a blind trust since he entered politics.

“So I don’t have a handle on my own (personal) finances at all. I wouldn’t mind getting back in charge of that and finding out if I’ve got anything left,” he said to a round of laughs.

Williams also said he wasn’t worried about the possibility of the Lower Churchill deal falling apart in his absence.

During his speech, Williams managed to keep his emotions in check until near the end when he said he couldn’t look at his mother, who was sitting in the front row, or he was “going to lose it.”

Throughout, Williams peppered his speech with lines from the “Ode to Newfoundland” and it was while reciting part of the closing verse when Williams’ voice finally broke.

“The rays of sun have crowned our pine clad hills. I will miss you and I love you all. God guard thee Newfoundland and Labrador,” Williams concluded with a tear in his eye and an audible lump in his throat.

dbartlett@thetelegram.com

Organizations: PC Party of Newfoundland and Lab, Churchill

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Humber West, Atlantic Accord Ottawa Hebron Nova Scotia Quebec

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Recent comments

  • Sheldon
    November 26, 2010 - 23:28

    I have never been more proud to be a newfie. Ive been away for 13 years and am very grateful for everything Danny has done for NF. Good luck and god bless!!!!!

  • Bill Bahan
    November 26, 2010 - 23:11

    For ten years in the seventies and eighties I traveled to Nfld, and Labrador several times a year and was terribly disturbed to know that Nfld. had been "shafted" by Quebec. A fifty-year contract of 1.5 cents a KWH (I believe that was the figure) was totally ridiculous any way you look at it. The deal still irks me. Those in power should have considered the history money values in Canada for the previous fifty years. They would have KNOWN a binding deal for that long was selling out the future. Thanks, Danny, for finding a way to release Newfoundlanders from that prison. Bill in Victoria.

  • Seriously Come ON
    November 26, 2010 - 12:22

    Hey Stop the racket, did you have something to do with the Premier stepping away? I don't think so!! Anyways, I guess I will have to wait until the next Premier starts to see what you change your name to. After seeing your useless rants over the past while I am convinced that no matter who is running the ship you will always have a problem with them. Sure there have been some bad things happen over the past 7 years but the good outweighs the bad by a long shot. At least he didn't buy a bunch of useless greenhouses to grow cucumbers!! I don't even know why I responded to you stop the racket as you are nothing more than a troll on this site but I guess I got drawn in. Either way Mr. Williams, thanks for the great things you achieved in your tenure as Premier and all the best for your future endeavors.

  • Tom
    November 26, 2010 - 09:10

    May Your Long Jib Draw Danny!! It's Time To Rest After A Great Job Well Done!!!

  • Stan
    November 26, 2010 - 07:29

    Long may you wave, Danny Williams. Long may you wave.

    • Maureen Reddigan
      November 26, 2010 - 10:07

      Thank you, Danny Williams. Thank you for working so hard for no pay for us. You will be dearly missed.

    • Paul
      November 26, 2010 - 10:17

      Thank you for your dedication and passion Danny. To your committment to the province. I live in Ottawa now but I am proud to say I am a Newfoundlander and I am proud to say that you were our Premier. You have done a terrific job and have earned a break. God Bless you.

  • Stop The Racket STOP DANNY WILLIAMS
    November 26, 2010 - 07:18

    MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

    • Graham
      November 26, 2010 - 10:53

      But he was the best we've had so far.