Williams' support and success widely recognized

Accolades pour in from all walks of life for premier

Steve Bartlett sbartlett@thetelegram.com
Published on November 26, 2010

Teresita Williams was arguably the proudest person at the Confederation Building following the premier’s announcement he was leaving politics.

Danny Williams’ mother beamed as she expressed the pride she feels over his many accomplishments as premier.

“I’m very thrilled for him,” she said, adding, “He deserves a good rest.”

Support for Williams, his premiership and even his decision to leave was easy to find Thursday.

It came from his friends, colleagues, business people, the labour movement, municipal leaders and, it seemed, anyone who could talk.

Don Johnson is such a close friend he was appointed chairman of the Williams Family Foundation, the charity to which the premier donated his salary.

He said it was a shame to see Williams leave office, but he said he understood the decision. Johnson was also happy his pal would have more time just to say hello.

“From my point of view, you get a friend back,” Johnson said. “You don’t understand that when a friend gets elected premier, you lose them. The people love the public Danny Williams. Boy, I can’t imagine how much they’d love him if they knew the private one.”

Bob Simmonds is a St. John’s lawyer who was appointed chairman of the Memorial University's Board of Regents by the Williams government.

He was surprised by the premier’s announcement.

“I’m very sad to see him go, but he has done a tremendous job for Newfoundland,” he said.

Simmonds figured Williams would be remembered as one of the province’s most successful premiers and for his unwavering desire to do the best.

“And he did do the very, very best for Newfoundland.”

Good luck to the person that tries to match him, Simmonds quipped.

Municipal politicians recognized Williams' achievements as well.

St. John's Mayor Dennis O'Keefe thanked the premier for what he has done for the province, particularly the City of St. John’s.

“In negotiating deals on behalf of the province, the premier has always ensured that the best interests of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians were kept first and foremost in any agreement and we will all continue to reap the benefits of those agreements for years to come,” he said in a release.

Ed Martin helped the province and premier reach some of those agreements.

He's president and CEO of Nalcor, the provincial energy corporation created by the Williams administration.

He used the term “bittersweet” to describe the premier's decision.

“For the province, obviously, we’d like to keep him forever, but from a personal perspective with what he’s accomplished, I think I’d have to hand it to him, he’s probably making the right decision here,” he said.

Martin said the premier was tremendous to deal with, describing him as “principled, tough, fair, hard working and just a great team player.”

But Williams' efforts in business weren't limited to mega deals.

Bradley George of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said the premier and his ministers have maintained a strong relationship with smaller firms.

“His government has done many good things for small business,” he said.

George expects the positive climate will continue as he feels the premier has left the province in good hands and good fiscal shape.

Wayne Lucas is regional vice-president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, he acknowledged the tough times in the early years of Williams' tenure, such as a 28-day strike in 2004, but he noted also the positive developments in the latter part, as the province's financial fortunes changed.

“We negotiated the best collective agreement for public sector workers anywhere in the past 25 years,”  the labour leader said of a 2008 pact that was signed by other unions.

Lucas said he has a great respect for Williams and noted he was looking forward to hammering out the next collective agreement with him.

“I’ll remember him as a fighter, as a scrapper. But also for that little bit of humour,” he said.

Robert Johnston, chief of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, lauded Williams' support of policing in the province.

He said Newfoundland and Labrador is changing and, through investments in his force, the Constabulary has built its capacity to deal with the issues that will surface over the next 10 to 15 years.

“(We've) moved to a proactive police service,” he added, “we are now able to better combat organized crime and a lot of that is because of the resources we’ve received from the provincial government.”

Members of the arts community also expressed its appreciation of Williams' backing.

Allan Hawco, star of the “Republic of Doyle” TV series, said the premier has always been forward thinking about cultural identity and the necessity of the arts community.

“It's kind of a sad day,” he said.

“He’s done so much and I think we’re going to miss his leadership.”

Paul Pope of Pope Productions agreed.

“He’s been a big champion of the arts,” he said. “That’s why I’m here. So thank you, Premier Williams.”

He added the arts community will miss him, but he also anticipates the government support will continue.

“When something's working, it’ll continue to work,” Pope said.

Opinions about Williams' announcement and his time as premier weren't limited to his friends, colleagues or movers and shakers of various industries.

Everyone The Telegram asked had something to say.

Retired St. John's resident Curtis Reid figures Williams walked out a winner who'll be well remembered.

“They’ll put a monument up with a waterfalls by him,” he joked.


Twitter: @bartlett_steve