Danny the Dominator may have buckled the knees of some formidable foes during the last seven years, oil company executives, prime ministers and the like, but Thursday morning, he managed to accomplish what I always thought a politician could never do: the soon-to-be-former Premier Danny Williams (an odd-sounding handle already) brought a rabbit hunting trek in the Flatrock woods to a screeching halt.
Who cares about a foolish old hunting trip, says you, the multitude of disciples of St. Daniel, given the sheer monumental significance of your enlightened one’s ann-ouncement?
Well, I do. I did. Even with a rabbit still twitching and squealing from the load of shot I had put in his ear around 9:30 a.m., a cellphone could be heard, a breathless informant gave us the scoop, and the news prompted one of my fellow hunters to reign in his two beagles, realizing, as he did, that opportunity was knocking with a few extra dollars for a retired, freelance cameraman, a “shooter” of another sort.
And I ashamedly grabbed my own beagle, mercenary that I am, as well, and headed home to my computer, knowing Danny Boy’s emotional farewell would render the Saturday column I had already filed to Mr. Editor completely irrelevant. (The three beagles were noticeably livid that politics had brought their day in the killing woods to a premature end, and swore, in dog language that was unambiguous, and which I have learned to understand, that they would never vote Tory again; the third hunter in our party, a retired firefighter, simply swore).
Not withstanding the emotional trauma I felt at having to conclude the search for Peter Rabbit and his cousins, and the barks of “shame, shame” delivered by our dog parliament — Tandy, Zena and Tamsey — towards us and the politician who had ruined their morning, it’s obvious the entire province was glued to radios and televisions everywhere when the news spread that “Poppy” was heading out to pasture. (“Poppy” is how the premier is referred to by his grandchildren, a tidbit of information he recently revealed while condemning the impact media scumbags like me were having on his loved ones).
To say that the accolades flowed would be a massive understatement, and the praise was predictable, given the premier’s incredible popularity numbers since beginning his reign.
In fact, it’s a wonder there’s not a movement already afoot to have a statue of belligerent Danny erected in front of Confederation Building, perhaps similar in design to that of Rocky Balboa, the cinematic boxer whose likeness stands forever in downtown Philadelphia.
Danny (Newfoundlanders have a delightful habit of calling just about all their premiers by their first name, a touch of both irreverence and intimacy), was, of course, anything but flawless, the crises over the resignation of 14 of Newfoundland’s brightest and irreplaceable doctors a very recent example of his sometimes stubborn, bull-in-a-china-shop persona.
And his supersensitive, Smallwoodian nature in dealing locally with those who he felt were “disloyal” and “traitors” to his perception of the Newfoundland cause left many, including me, with a sense of real discomfort.
I always thought his disdain for critics flew in the face of what he himself obviously felt was a healthy and strong inclination of Newfoundlanders to bow to no one. You’d think he’d be proud of the fact that people dared to stand up for themselves, up to him, a reflection of the fact that subservience in this place, so disconcertingly prevalent for so long, has been thankfully and mercifully discarded.
But Williams’ record in the proverbial big picture, as many have said, and will continue to say, is one any politician would envy.
He was a force to be reckoned with in dealing with federal politicians, the Martins and Harpers of the world, who would have been satisfied to have had Newfoundland placed permanently under Ottawa’s thumb, and left to beg on Parliament Hill, the poor cousins of Confederation, forever and a day.
And the arrogant millionaires running the oil industry ran into a tough customer when they found themselves across the table from Danny Williams.
Telling Quebec, as well, to shove its energy corridor where the “sun don’t shine” will always be a feather in Williams’ well worn, combative cap.
Williams, most would agree, has represented the province admirably on the national scene, disarming those Canadians who still look down their noses at Newfoundlanders. He has obviously played a key role in placing Newfoundland in a “have” position, and will certainly be remembered as a powerful and effective leader.
Even the three beagles, once they had settled down, and their fur returned to its normal level, had to admit they were largely in his corner, and that he could visit their backyards, or share a fire hydrant, anytime he wished.
Bob Wakeham has spent more than 30 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.