Last in a three-part series
In the federal election of Nov. 27, 2000, Norman Doyle not only won his seat, but increased his margin of victory substantially in St. John’s East.
© — Canadian Press file photo
Danny Williams, shown in this 2009 photo, kept then prime minister Paul Martin’s feet to the fire, as Norman Doyle relates in his political memoir, “According to Doyle.”
However, the party, led by Joe Clark, won just 12 seats, making it obvious that the Progressive Conservatives had to consider merging with the Reform party — that is, if a satisfactory arrangement could be reached.
In his autobiography, “According to Doyle: Recollections,” Norman recounts that he was chair of the small PC caucus at that time, but he and Clark — the latter having announced his intention to step down — and most of their colleagues decided that Peter MacKay would be the best one to lead the party at this stage.
At the PC national convention held in Toronto on May 31, 2000, MacKay was elected leader.
Norman describes the activities that led to the union of the two parties — Progressive Conservative and Reform — with Newfoundland MP Loyola Hearn as the caucus representative on the PC committee investigating the possibility of a merger.
Norman recounts the facts leading to the birth of the new Conservative Party of Canada in December 2003, up to Stephen Harper’s winning the right to lead the Conservatives on March 20, 2004.
Norman writes that he never met a stronger or more focused leader in his time on Parliament Hill as he watched Harper laying the foundation for his government-in-waiting.
He also describes the events of November 2003, when Jean Chrétien was replaced by Paul Martin as prime minister. An election was called in November 2004, but the Liberals came up short of a majority.
And then along comes Danny
All of the major controversies since then are well described, including the events that led to Harper forming a minority government, and the election of Danny Williams, on Nov. 6, 2003, to lead the PC party in Newfoundland.
With Williams having gotten a large majority — 70 per cent of the vote — it became a priority for Martin, now the prime minister of a minority government in Ottawa, to keep Danny happy and out of federal campaigns.
Norman goes into great detail about Williams’ struggle and success in having Martin’s minority government sweeten the Atlantic Accord with a deal worth at least an extra $10 billion to Newfoundland, removing all non-renewable resources from the calculation of equalization payments.
Norman says he and Loyola Hearn had a field day keeping the pressure on Martin and his Newfoundland representative, John Efford, in question period, and relates the subsequent confusing events in the House of Commons involving whether Martin would be defeated by a non-confidence vote or a budget vote.
Harper defends Norman and Loyola Hearn, as they resisted the intense pressure placed on them by Williams not to defeat the main budget bill, since this might terminate the $10-billion Atlantic Accord top-up deal. It was a virtual civil war, initiated by Williams, with the Newfoundland PC party doing everything it could to defeat the federal party as a result of these controversies.
Norman notes that, “Harper was cool, focused, sure of himself, comfortable in his own skin, and displayed a confidence that was almost contagious.”
On Jan. 23, 2006, Harper won 124 seats, with almost 36.3 per cent of the popular vote, while Martin’s Liberals were a reasonably close second with 103 seats and 30.2 per cent of the popular vote.
In the last chapter of his book, Norman recalls the battle with Danny in 2007.
He points out — and I agree absolutely — that “our political history has proven time and again that if there’s one sure-fire way to maintain your popularity with the electorate, it’s by coming down hard on the feds. That job occupied every waking moment for the provincial government.”
Norman Doyle’s fine political autobiography should be read widely, not only in this province, but in Canada generally.
In my view, we are lucky to have such an outstanding Newfoundlander as one of our senators, to look out for our interests, as well as the national interest.
John Crosbie welcomes your feedback by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.