People crowd west coast for final opportunity to see leader
© Geraldine Brophy/The Western Star
Premier Danny Williams speaks to a crowd of people gathered at the Pepsi Centre Monday in Corner Brook for his farewell meet and greet.
Danny Williams took the time to shake hands, hug and exchange pleasantries with hundreds of people who gathered in Corner Brook to say thank you and goodbye to the premier Monday.
The charismatic and down-to-business leader of Newfoundland and Labrador last week announced his resignation from politics, effective Friday.
The member for Humber West came to Corner Brook, a place he referred to as his political home — the place where he was given his opportunity to become premier. Before he received the support of the people of this province, he said he had to earn the confidence of a district — something he did in Corner Brook.
“June 19, 2001, when we had that election, you launched me,” he said. “You launched my career as the leader of the party. If I hadn’t won that battle, I was in big trouble.
“I placed my confidence in your hands. You had faith in me and you have not let me down since. I will be forever, ever indebted to the people of this great city and the people of Humber West for supporting me at that time.”
Williams said the area has gone through a transformation in the years since, from a place he referred to as dormant to a community energized and poised to continue in greatness. During the past week, Williams has received the credit for that from his political colleagues to community leaders, but Monday, he said it was a team effort.
He also took some time from the celebration to turn political. Although he called Tory times good times, he said it is important not to let his resignation lead to a loss of support for the Conservatives.
“Don’t make the mistake of changing that the next time around,” he said. “This government needs to continue on.”
While he said he put much time and consideration into his decision to walk away at this time, it hasn’t made the last number of days any easier for him.
“I should be at the stage now, three or four days later, where I am starting to feel really, really happy about the fact this burden, this obligation, this liability is off my shoulders,” he said. “Nothing is further from the truth. I am feeling worse by the day.”
“I think he was the best thing that ever happened to us, and we will miss him for a long time.” Trudy Crocker
That comment caused the boisterous crowd — who applauded his entrance, gave ovations at nearly every strong statement, and chanted his name — to shout for him to stay.
The evening included emotional speeches from Linda Roche, the premier’s executive assistant, and heartfelt words from one of Williams’ right-hand men, Tom Marshall.
The crowd was filled with Corner Brook councillors, community leaders, Conservative party association members and constituents. While there wasn’t a lot of hoopla generated prior to the gathering, some individuals travelled from various parts of the west coast to see the premier one last time while he is the province’s leader.
Williams accepted each person’s hand or arms, and listened thoughtfully as people shared stories of past meetings or historic occasions in his short time as premier. Most times he shared his own thoughts back, smiled and laughed with each person.
After a brief conversation and a hug with Williams, Trudy Crocker, who travelled from the Northern Peninsula for the chance to see the premier in person, said every kilometre she drove was worth it. She said she would have been content to sit in the crowd, listen to his speech, and drive home again. The opportunity for a few seconds of one-on-one time, she said she will forever cherish.
“I can’t believe he did that for us,” she said. “I had the chance to say thank you and to wish him all the best, I never thought I would get to do that.
“I think he was the best thing that ever happened to us, and we will miss him for a long time.”
The Western Star