The Kingmaker

Pam Frampton
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“If God created us in his own image, we have more than reciprocated.”
— Voltaire

Hands up: who believed Danny Williams, when he said as he stepped down as premier in 2010, that he wouldn’t become one of those past-premiers who has to keep wading into the affairs of the province?

Businessman and former premier Danny Williams. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

“I think there’s a point in time when politicians should move on. ...,” he said in 2007, taking a swipe at Brian Peckford.

“Hopefully, I can live up to what I’ve said, and when I get out of politics, then I’ll shut up and go away.”

He may have meant it at the time, but I knew he couldn’t hold out forever. And now that Kathy Dunderdale, his handpicked successor, is no longer running things, I guess he figures there’s no longer any reason to restrain himself.

Williams was back in fine form this week, dismissing Conference Board of Canada analysis as “bullshit” (who cares about pesky facts and demographic trends, eh?) and saying basically that he wouldn’t endorse Bill Barry for the Progressive Conservative party leadership supposing the choice was Bill Barry or a pair of wool socks.

Clearly, he has forgotten what “shut up and go away” entails.

Frankly, I’ve always found it interesting to hear former politicians comment on current events or take the measure of their would-be successors. Got an opinion? Let’s hear it. Open, honest and transparent — that’s the way we like things.

The trick is not to be too unduly influenced by someone else’s opinions — to keep an open mind, weigh all potential candidates on their merits and policies and then decide which way you’re inclined to lean.

Well, that’s sage advice as long as you’re not talking about Danny Williams, because when it comes to Danny Williams, there are plenty of people in this province — of various political stripes — who put a great deal of stock in what he has to say.

In fact, while Danny Williams might think his greatest political legacy is the revisited Atlantic Accord or Muskrat Falls or leading the province in prosperous times or engendering a new spirit of pride and independence, I would warrant the biggest influence he has had is something different altogether. And that is, as a down-to-earth savvy businessman so wildly successful he didn’t even need to draw a salary, and who was always willing to take on Big Bad Ottawa, for some people he raised the bar so high on the premiership that he can still turn the political tide here just by opening his mouth.

And he knows it.

So, when Danny Williams says Bill Barry “doesn’t stand for anything that I support,” you can be guaranteed he knows how much clout that statement carries and how much damage it could do to Barry’s candidacy. (Though I think it would be foolhardy to write Bill Barry off just yet.)

Yes, love him or hate him, Williams is politically astute. And it’s hard not to even grudgingly admire someone who got people pumped about this province after years of rough times, for all his thin skin and penchant for jingoistic hyberbole.

Danny Williams may have been thwarted in his attempt to cherry-pick a president for Memorial University, but I bet he’d have a hell of a lot of sway if he was to endorse a candidate for the PC leadership.

He might even be able to buoy a party that’s trailing badly in the polls to the point that it could become a force to be reckoned with again. Because Williams’ influence crosses party lines.  

And chalk it up to political immaturity or the desire for a messiah or blind idolatry or whatever you want, but people listen when he speaks.  Heck, he’s one of those wildly popular people who can get by on one name, like Elton and Beyoncé.

It will be fascinating to watch as other Tory leadership hopefuls step forward. My prediction is that the eventual chosen one will not come from within the caucus, but from without, free of the baggage the others are dragging behind them.

And if the right candidate should catch Danny’s eye and receive that much-coveted sanction, they could conceivably find themselves vaulting competitors from inside the party — and perhaps rivals from other parties, too, all the way to the eighth floor of Confederation Building.

All hail the new leader.

And Danny will ride off again on his majestic white steed, green feather in his cap, twinkle in his eye, humming a rollicking Irish ditty.

Never to be heard from in political spheres again.

Not bloody likely.

Pam Frampton is a columnist and The Telegram’s associate managing editor. Email

Twitter: pam_frampton

Organizations: Conference Board of Canada, Tory, Confederation Building

Geographic location: Muskrat Falls, Ottawa

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Recent comments

  • Anna
    February 16, 2014 - 15:57

    I agree with Gekko, real journalists would find out how this land was obtained and how easily the City employees rolled over for him and approved the water rights. Craig Westcott had an excellent article in The Business Post about how it was purchased when Brian Tobin was in power but we've never seen anyting about this in The Telegram. Frankly, I would rather see in depth articles than seeing the front page to highlight some woman and the man she can not be with. Haven't you written about that several times before? The Telegram is becoming more like those brief local newspapers that are being published on weekly/monthly basis. I would like to read about real news and not all the social events that are happening about town. Russell/Pam please give this some serious thought.

  • JD
    February 16, 2014 - 13:17

    Is that a Cadillac truck in the background? Shouldn't he be driving a Porsche truck by now? LOL.

  • Paul
    February 16, 2014 - 11:08

    Yes some real journalism. I am sure there must be a journalist out there that wants to do an actual investigative story. We all know who started the rezoning of the project. They hated each other for years publicly but then all of a sudden Mr. Williams started fighting tooth and nail for a lucrative job and salary for him. Let’s start by seeing who unfroze that land bank that was frozen for years and was air marked for a different use. I would be curious on when it was unfrozen, whose cabinet unfroze it and how long after before Mr. Williams or his trust bought it. I find it ironic that a group tried a similar proposal for this area years ago which is on file but got flatly reject because the land was frozen.

  • Gekko
    February 16, 2014 - 04:46

    This article is a perfect example of why I will not buy the Telegram. This is the nonsense typical of a teenage "blogger'. Give me some real journalism, find out why Williams was allowed to develop "Dannyland", who approved it, and when.

    • yo mama
      February 17, 2014 - 06:34

      This comment is typical of a teenage "drama queen", mind your own and be happy the province is expanding and moving forward.

  • John
    February 15, 2014 - 21:36

    It was obvious that Danny would not like Bill Barry given that Barry is to the right of the political spectrum and Williams is more of a red Tory. In fact, the kind of thinking Barry supposedly espouses is more in line with the Reform party mindset of the current Conservative government in Ottawa and we know how much Danny loves them. I liked Danny and thought he did a lot for the province and would be reelected in a heart beat if he ever ran again for public office. On the dark side, he definitely had a thin skin and I did not like his personal attacks on people who disagreed with them. I thought he was a good premier and definitely not the worst. Barry would be a far better choice for Coservative leader because the electorate's trust level for the incumbents considering a leadership run is about as low as a snail's belly.

  • Paul
    February 15, 2014 - 19:31

    First of all didn’t he donate his salary to charity? That means a big tax receipt for him at tax time. There is a big difference in saying he didn’t take a salary as it seems everybody portrays and receiving a big tax deductions for the salary he never took. I agree he is after doing some good and some bad for the province of NL but he is after doing a lot of good for himself when he was in power. A certain federal politician said it best once he called him “Danny do good for himself.” If we ever had any good investigative journalist with our local media I think there would be a lot of different stories. I find it hard to believe in our province that a lot of people know a lot of things about business deals that don’t seem above board but nothing ever questioned publicly or legally. No wonder he feels like a king. I bet he feels more like Teflon Dan. I know a lot of people didn’t speak up when he was Premier because they were afraid of Danny’s wrath. Ask Craig Jackson about his wrath! Mr. Williams cares greatly who the next leader of NL is only for the fact he wants to make sure it is someone he can control when he needs things done. The political stripe doesn’t matter as long as he can have them under his thumb. The people of NL got to remember it is easy to run a province or business with barrels of cash arriving daily. It’s easy to throw cash at whatever problem arises in the local media and be popular with the people because of it. It is quite a different story to run a province after someone was spending that cash as fast as it was arriving. To that matter they are still spending it on his promises made, deals signed and new influences arriving daily. Why did he leave so abruptly? If the NL people still hangs on his words we won’t get the best leader for NL but instead we will get the best leader for Mr. Williams.

    • yo mama
      February 17, 2014 - 06:37

      Hey genius, from which do you think he would have benefit more, the salary or tax break?

  • hua mulan
    February 15, 2014 - 16:17

    I think he, as a very important person and politician in this province, has a say in polity matters, as we all do, except there wouldn't be an article about you or me, if either of us were to say this about Billy Barry............... DW did tremendously well: becoming successful, as a lawyer and as a businessperson, then as a premier, and he did well for the province, then bringing in a hockey team, developing property et al; he did well for the Conservatives,... well, for awhile ...( which may be a reason why he is coming-out, again) .............................. would there be this much commentary if he had not been successful in polity things?............... Would it make a stir even a ripple if Herself were to say such about Billy?:) It may make copy but in the funnies section

  • darrell
    February 15, 2014 - 16:09

    Just go away Danny. You are making us look so bad. Take your antics somewhere else, we don't need you.

  • Pierre Neary
    February 15, 2014 - 14:18

    Either way you slice it Mr. Williams has torpedoed Mr. Barry's bid for the big chair. It's going to be hard for Barry to get past this.

    • Jay
      February 15, 2014 - 16:54

      Pierre, Williams didn't need to torpedo Bill Barry. Barry has done that to himself over a long period of time through his actions in the fishing industry.

  • Comrade
    February 15, 2014 - 11:39

    At least he isn't a radio talk show groupie like Grimes. He man is asked a question, he responds, and this 'writer' proceeds to make a mountain out of a molehill. Pam - move to CBC/NL you would fit in there.

  • Just Sayin
    February 15, 2014 - 11:39

    I checked Alderon share price yesterday, and saw it is just over 2 dollars , up from 1.40 in early Dec. I wondered how much Danny may gain.... i beleive he was given share options where in the future he can buy in at very low cost. He left government and very soon was on the board of the mining company. The mining company needed cheap power and a transmission line. Danny got the ball going on Muskrat Falls. And last week they approved a 300 million transmission line. This has given the stock a pop. Perhaps someone could dig out his share option buy in cost to see how he's doing. And perhaps some journalist should ask him about conflict of interest rules preventing such appointments to private companies for 5 years?

    • yo mama
      February 16, 2014 - 09:46

      Perhaps someone should mind their own finances and perhaps be happy the province is moving forward.

  • saelcove
    February 15, 2014 - 11:38

    Well when you have a media that hangs on to every word this little man has to say what did you expect, williams never seen a camera he did not like

  • Huck
    February 15, 2014 - 11:37

    Don't go away mad Little Man Dan; just go away already.

  • John Q Public
    February 15, 2014 - 11:33

    Only someone as egotistical as Danny Milliams would suck and blow at the same time and think we are stupid enough to believe him. By the way the "milliams" is not a typo (Millions and Williams)! The secret to his success is the millions he made from a monopoly given to him with a public license!

  • wto
    February 15, 2014 - 11:32

    When it comes to judging character, I will never forget nor forgive what was said by Danny and 3 of his so called Ministers when Tom Rideout resigned. A man that didn't need to change character with either of them. Bill Barry would certainly get my vote.

  • Richard
    February 15, 2014 - 11:10

    Given Mr. Williams' significant commercial interest(s) in ensuring the "right" person occupies the Premier's chair, how can anyone be surprised by his level of interest in the PC Leadership? (Or for that matter the leadership of either of the other two main parties, the Mayor's office, etc.)

  • david
    February 15, 2014 - 09:31

    If and when people one day recover from their addiction to Danny Williams (and that is far from a certainty), we may one day come to realize what a ruinous moment to have anointed him the second-ever Newfie savior. This province had not seen good economic times in several decades, and was completely unprepared for the immense, overnight financial changes oil would deliver. Any place would have been well served by a government dedicated to process and structure.....establishing extra checks and balances in the system, adequate controls to ensure that the coming tidal wave of money was invested optimally, and not stolen or wasted. Danny completely ignored this glaring need (odd, for such an astute "business genius" as he....) , and set off on the random course we're on today. We needed Peter Lougheed more than Alberta did......and we got Tony Robbins instead. And now he is only marginally less dangerous......calling the shots from his perch as "Premier emeritus". We need leadership, not a Grand Marshall for a parade. And IMO, Danny Williams is the last person on Earth who should have any say in that.

  • Tom
    February 15, 2014 - 09:15

    Reporters ask Williams about Barry running for the P.C. leadership and then when he gives his answer Pam Frampton tells how Danny still gets involved. Talk about double standards!!

  • Ann Ring
    February 15, 2014 - 07:52

    Danny Williams did for this province what we thought was impossible, he showed the world how awesome we really are and took on the world for us. He is our biggest best defender of all that is Newfoundland Labrador. Why wouldn't we want him involved. I say Danny we appreciate all you've done for us and all you will do in the future, from the 8th floor or elsewhere. There is no doubt you have our best interests at heart

    • saelcove
      February 15, 2014 - 11:25

      Ann ring. you need to take of your rose colored glasses

  • Happily Retired
    February 15, 2014 - 07:38

    Pam, If you really want Danny to "ride off into the sunset," why don't you just stop writing about him. I can't believe the number of headlines he's received from the Telegram, based upon one press conference to announce a real estate development. He didn't go there to talk about Bill Barry or the Conference Board of Canada. The media drove this line of discussion. It's a great example of your group complaining because you got what you asked for. If he did nothing else, he made your jobs easier for a week.

  • Crazy
    February 15, 2014 - 06:53

    I hope the people of our great province is smarter then what Danny Williams give us credit for, Please tell me one thing he did right, beside blowing wind, for some reason our people like wind blower, And Mr Williams was one of the biggest . The history book's will show this man was the worst premier we ever did have. He came home from Ottawa with a cheque for 2 billion dollars, Ottawa got that back, plus 500 hundreds million more. And if he was such a brilliant business man, why did he ask the taxpayers of the province to help to pay for travel expense of his hockey team. Now once more he back, looking for the taxpayers to pay for a third line to his mine. Give me a break the only one think he smart is Danny, And those who like wind blowing.

    • Bert
      February 15, 2014 - 13:08

      Why ask for one thing when he did so many. Let me give you one plus two extra. 1. He let the Auditor- General into the house and check the books. The Liberals and P.c.s before refused that request. 2. He demanded and got an equity share on all future off-shore oil discoveries. Something that many said would not happen and he would be driving investors away. How did that turn out? 3. He got the 2 billion dollar check . Now show me where Harper got the 2 billion 500 million back. If that ever happened the opposition would have been all over it!!!