Danny would have done something

Bob Wakeham
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Even the handful of people in this province daring to suggest during the reign of Emperor Danny Williams that he was  far from perfect, that his thin skin could not abide the slightest of opposition, that he could actually be caught wearing no clothes, had to admit the premier was no wimp. 

The odd pundit (myself included) had difficulty swallowing whole the gospel according to St. Daniel, and found disturbing his penchant for equating legitimate critiques to the work of blasphemous traitors to the near-spiritual Newfoundland cause.

But I, for one, never questioned the size of his gonads in dealing with Stephen Harper, big oil, and any other mainland interests attempting to turn the calendar back to the days when it seemed disgustingly easy to exploit Newfoundland.  

And, at the risk of emulating the shtick of Donald Doofus Cheery, whose self-adulation manifests itself in endless replays of past comments he feels reflect his genius, I mentioned in this space a couple of months back that Kathy Dunderdale would be well advised to mirror her predecessor when dealing with those federal politicians and bureaucrats who seem to take great delight in thumbing their noses at this province (the anti-confederation warning, “Come near at your peril, Canadian wolf,” should remain forever a mantra for those elected to watch over the affairs of Newfoundland).

Bad performance

Now, the newly crowned premier has had her first real test against her pal Stephen Harper and has emerged looking wishy-washy (at best) or a subservient suck (at worst), characterizations her supporters may view as unkind and which I make with some reluctance (after all, we’d all like to give her a honest shot at strutting her stuff).

But it’s the only conclusion to draw after observing the embarrassing fashion in which Dunderdale handled that shocking decision by Harper and company (including one Peter Penashue) to transfer marine communications responsibilities from St. John’s to Halifax.

No one with an ounce of sense expects (nor wants) Dunderdale to be Danny the Second; she should carve out her own leadership identity, and let the chips fall where they may.

But a taste of the Williams truculence would have served her and the province well here.

This was a decision that begged for a reaction of outrage, not the tepid response that she was upset and had sent her minister of fisheries to Ottawa to complain. 

And when asked whether her alignment with Harper during the recent election had compromised her ability to pick up for Newfoundland, the irony was heavy in the air when the premier implied that the “lines of communication” between her and the prime minister were wide open because the acrimonious relationship that had existed between Ottawa and Newfoundland was a thing of the past.

You could hear a collective shuffling of the feet in the province as people wondered why those so-called lines of communication had not included at least a heads-up about the movement of the marine personnel to Halifax, to say nothing of even a token request for feedback. 

What should Dunderdale have done?

Well, for starters, she should have launched into an immediate and vociferous condemnation of Harper, charging, as others have, that he was putting at risk thousands of Newfoundlanders operating in the fishing and oil industries.

And there was certainly no need for her to sound like an apologist for the feds, offering up the excuse that perhaps they didn’t have all the necessary information they required.      

Duh! A Grade 8 student could have supplied the Ottawa bean-counters and their political bosses with everything they had to know. 

This was all about pure arrogance, a move a majority government not facing accountability for several years could make with impunity (get used to it), especially when those who should be standing on guard are blissfully asleep, content like the “Newfies” of old with a pat on the head and a few goodies delivered every couple of months by Fabian Manning.

Dunderdale’s lifeless response had the flavour of the cap-in-hand mentality, so prevalent in the decades following Confederation, but given a heavy kick in the arse during the cultural renaissance of the ’70s, and booted further into the sea by the likes of Peckford and Wells and Williams.

Just to cover my tracks here: even if, by some miracle, there’s a change of heart in Ottawa (made after this Weekend offering has been submitted to Mr. Editor), it still won’t alter the fact that this was not a time for diplomacy.

A decision with the most serious of ramifications had been made without a minute of consultation with Newfoundland, a disquieting approach that begged for a loud and angry answer, right from the gut.    

Danny Williams had flaws in his modus operandi, unacknowledged by his adoring public, exemplified in his demand inside the Newfoundland borders for unconditional love.

But he wouldn’t have tolerated this kind of garbage from Stephen Harper.

That was to his credit.

Bob Wakeham has spent more than 30 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at bwakeham@nl.rogers.com.

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Ottawa, Halifax

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page



Recent comments

  • David
    June 21, 2011 - 08:11

    Well, I guess there are only 2 possible trains of thought at this point...either remember Danny Williams as a hero for his juvenile, destructive antics and celebrate his dictatorial rule, or regret that we wildly cheered on a pathological egomaniac as he put an already politically weak and vulnerable province in the crosshairs of the feds for years to come. Canadians in other provinces enjoyed the show and egged Danny on too.....but they didn't have to live with any of the fallout after the show's over.

  • reg
    June 19, 2011 - 22:31

    Get used to it, majority government is back with a vengence! Danny Williams had a lot of respect from other parts of Canada for the way he fought for his province and your polls in your province at the time show his popularity at home. But even he knows its a tough go dealing with a federal pc majority that doesn't have to answer to the voters for four years. Here we have Ottawa overseeing the provinces down east fighting over tidbits and handouts, I'm sure its just the way they like it. No better time for four Atlantic premiers to stick together and represent over two million people than one go it alone with less than half a million behind them.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    June 19, 2011 - 15:28

    Thank you FACTUAL AND TRUTHFUL. Your kind words are very much appreciated. I agree fully that NL's SAR Centre shoud not be moved to Halifax. In fact if the evolution of technology is at all a factors, it should support the continued 'decentraliztion' of the SAR co-ordination role. Plus there are little or now savings, as I understand that existing "support" positions in Halifax will be upgraded to conver off the increased SAR Controller workload. That will mean increased fedreral payroll going inot Halifax. On Muskrat Falls, there are too many uncertainties and unanswered questions. Best regards, Maurice

  • Bill
    June 19, 2011 - 12:05

    W MCLEAN...my point is that it is too bad we do not have more Federal MP's with influence in Ottawa. Funny how your opinion of Danny has changed over the past few months. I supported Danny for years and know what he has done for our province...you were always at odds with this for the past few years. Maybe you should ask a few of your own MP's what they can do about this latest decision. Its a damn if you do and damn if you don't situation for the Provincial government. While I am positive that the Premier is having talks with the Feds over the latest cuts, i guess taking down flags and storming out of meetings would be fine with you now. But when Danny was there doing it, the thought from you was that the guy was theatrical and was always looking for a fight. Which way do you want it?? For me i want what is best for the province!! People just have to decide the best way to accomplish this!

    • W McLean
      June 20, 2011 - 22:54

      My opinion of Danny hasn't changed at all, Bill. What makes you think it has?

  • Harvey
    June 19, 2011 - 08:48

    What in the hell did Williams do to have you, Bob Wakeham and all others, forever crapping over him . Are 80 % NLers all wrong for supporting him for what he did for the province? So many "red liberals"supported him!!!

  • Brad
    June 19, 2011 - 08:41

    Since when did we have to sell our soul to have a proper rescue center in the province? Must be the same type of PCs that make safe roads and drinkable water dependant on how you vote. Join the 21st century - the sooner the better.

  • Maurice Adams you are so factual and truthful.
    June 19, 2011 - 07:00

    Maurice Adams you are so right on the details of this project that it is looking worst than the Upper Churchill Hydroelectric deal as each day passes. When are Newfoundlanders and Labradorians going to wake up and have their voices heard in unison on this bad project? The only ones who will gain from this are Nova Scotia, the project builders and the ordinary people who have the jobs to build the project. We know Nova Scotia is Ottawa's favourite pet and Ottawa will do anything to shaft the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and it will put its signature on anything that will shaft us. (Why doesn't Ottawa wake up to the fact that we are more than aware of what is going on that has kept a rich resource base province with an excellent location, like ours, down and out economically for the past 62 years, while it has been under its wings There is something drastically the matter there if we mind to investigate it.) Over the past 2 weeks, we are facing another slight by Ottawa where it is taking the Marine Rescue Sub Center from here and putting it in Halifax. This center exists primarily because of the dangerous and busy shipping waters off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. There are more than 29,000 kilometres of coastline in the province of NL and 900,000 square kilometres of Ocean. Why ,when Nova Scotia has so many of the Federal Centers there that add greatly to its economy, which were handed out by Ottawa, didn't Ottawa decide to place the Marine Center in Newfoundland and Labrador where it rightfully belongs? Wake up Premier Dunderdale or you will suffer a great defeat in the upcoming election in October. Premier you are being blinded somehow by someone or some entity, as to destruction of Newfoundland and Labrador by Ottawa. Who is going to take the reigns and stop this disease we have been dealing with for the past 62 years perpetrated on us by the Ottawa Government and our provincial politicians, both Federal and Provincial, who are afraid to speak up because it might hit their own personal bottom line or stand in the way of them getting a political patronage appointment? Premier Dunderdale please stand up and stop the bleeding caused by corruption of one kind or another over the past 62 years. Mr. Adams I think you would be a great candidate to run for Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador. You are not afraid to tell it like it is and you do your research before you put the facts on the line. Go for it Sir, it will be a refreshing change for our people and it will give us a lot of security if you are elected!

    • W McLean
      June 19, 2011 - 16:03

      Hi, Agnes.

    • Archie
      July 14, 2011 - 21:21

      Don't include Cape Breton when you talk Nova Scotia .. we have always got the shitty end of the stick, it has been happening for a few centuries. We were separate from Halifax many many decades back, but when it was discovered that we had great fishing and lots of coal we were forced to become a part of Nova Scotia and our land raped, they came and built the Steel Plant, people across Canada think Cape Breton got too much, too much money put into steel, coal mining, but it was those who founded Halifax and other parts of Canada that came and took our lands, to benefit them more than us. They left and left us with a mess when Coal and Steel were King no more. yes it gave jobs and food for the table, but has killed many not from working in these jobs but because of pollution that has cause cancer and other diseases.

  • W McLean
    June 18, 2011 - 14:25

    "the cap-in-hand mentality, so prevalent in the decades following Confederation, but given a heavy kick in the arse during the cultural renaissance of the ’70s, and booted further into the sea by the likes of Peckford and Wells and Williams." With due respect, that's a crock. Danny Williams, more than perhaps any Premier in history, including Smallwood, was devoted to the goal of getting more money out of Ottawa. Whether on fiscal federalism - remember, his stated goal was for the province to ALWAYS collect equalization, i.e., never become a "have" province - federal "presence", road money, funding for broadband (at least in Labrador), funding for airports (at least in Labrador), the rehabilitation of Colonial Building, and of course the "we'll go it alone (with a loan guarantee)" hydro project, Danny Williams ambition was always to get more money out of Uncle Ottawa. Always. For everything.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    June 18, 2011 - 12:29

    Yes, no doubt Kathy is fighting ---- fighting to make sure that Newfoundlanders will be paying dearly so that Peter McKay's fellow Nova Scotians (who will be the recipients of increased federal payroll dollars coming into their province as a result of the SAR move from St. John's to Halifax) will also receive from Newfoundland cheap Muskrat Falls energy. We are back to not only saying and doing nothing when Ottawa thumbs its nose and insults and puts the lives of Newfoundlanders at risk, but we ourselves go further than that --- we offer them up Labrador resources at less than cost --- paid for lock, stock and barrel by Newfoundland and Labrador consumers. In addition, we put ourselves at the whim of emerging high borrowing rates, the risk of defaulting on our debt obligations, and the risk of losing control of our own resources and the power generation and transmission facilities (which is already structured so that it gives Emera 100% ownership of the underwater transmission link to Nova Scotia and a 1/3 ownership of the underwater transmission link from Labrador to Newfoundland --- leaving Newfoundland and Labrador with only a minority ownership in the totality of the two underwater transmission lines combined). Our political leaders seem to have retreated to days gone by ---- when we were our own worst enemy. I think the people expect better --- and will demand better. Maurice E. Adams, Paradise

    • bill
      June 18, 2011 - 15:37

      Maurice...you are not that stupid to think that the Premier of the province would want this move to be made?? Do you honestly think that the provincial government wants Peter McKay & the Nova Scotians to get the distress dispatch center from us? The Feds didnt take the service, the people of the province spoke in May when they said they did not want Harper to do any favours for us. I wish people really understood how things worked!! Instead of complaining about things after the fact, it would have been far better if we had took things into our own hands before the decision was made!! Its people like you that make comments like this, that put us in the position we are in. Too many of us expect things to be passed to us on a silver platter...we think we just deserve it!! Well at times you have to suck it up and do whats best for the Province. Remember we only have 7 seats, better to be looking outside from the inside rather than the other way around. Too bad you don't understand how things work!! We have a majority Conservative Government in the country...too bad we didnt take advantage of that in May. Now we resort to blaming the present Premier for siding with him. Well if more were like her we might be better off. Thats my story and I am sticking to it!!!

    • W McLean
      June 18, 2011 - 16:34

      Bill, people with your attitude kept Joey Smallwood in power for too long. I wish thinking had changed since the 1960s, but it's obvious that, at least for people like you, it hasn't.

  • Really, Now
    June 18, 2011 - 12:06

    Sam, how do you know for a fact that she is "fighting behind the scenes"?

  • sam
    June 18, 2011 - 08:21

    Funny Bob...when Danny was Premier you were crapping on him. I guess the real issue here are the Federal representatives the province elected in May. Most are there as names only, they are so far back in the HOC they can't even see what is going on, let alone help in any way!! Peter Penashue is there but if i were him i would be using my pluck to help the people of Labrador. In my opinion Kathy Dunderdale read correctly what was going on in the country, too bad the voters in the province didn't do the same thing. What can Gerry Byrne & Judy Foote do now except get on openline and down everything the government does? I agree when Danny was there we all hitched onto his train, i was one of the lead people on that train. It seemed appropriate at the time, and to help the matter was the fact that there was a minority government in Ottawa. However,any smart political follower could see that Harper was very close to a majority in the past Federal election. If we had been smarter and elected a few more MP's on the government side, I think we would be better off with getting the things we want for this province. While i may not agree with everything the Provincial government does, I do not agree that the blame should be on Kathy Dunderdale's shoulders. Is she ranting and roaring like the former Premier? Probably not but I am sure she is fighting behind the scenes. Again we should all look in the mirror...that's who is to blame for the decisions being made by the Feds!!