Businessman Bill Barry is hunting for votes in his quest to become leader of the PC party, but there’s at least one person who won’t be supporting him: former premier Danny Williams.
Speaking to reporters Monday, Williams said he’s not sure who he’ll support in the Tory leadership campaign, but he definitely doesn’t want to see Barry win.
“He doesn’t stand for anything that I support,” Williams said. “Bill Barry would definitely not have my support. Absolutely not.”
Part of what set Williams off seems to be Barry’s campaign style. At his campaign launch, he implied that the current Tory MHAs were clueless, and heavily criticized the current government.
Barry also said that he believes the Tory leadership is the quickest way to get himself into the premier’s office.
“First of all, he comes out and he indicates that this is the shortest route to the premier’s office — not necessarily a Conservative, maybe be a Liberal, not really sure, but this is the fast track to the premier’s office,” Williams said.
“Then he comes out in the same breath, basically, and insults every single member of the caucus — the people he’s going to have to work with.”
But beyond that, Williams took exception to the idea that Barry might privatize Nalcor Energy — the Crown energy corporation that Williams built into a juggernaut during his seven years in power.
“He sent out a note or an email or something to members of the caucus — the same people he insulted — and has indicated to them that he’s interested in privatizing energy — Nalcor, Hydro — he has an interest in privatizing health care, and he has an interest in privatizing education,” Williams said.
When The Telegram got Barry on the phone, he said that the letter said nothing like that at all.
“I wasn’t making a comment about privatizing health care, or privatizing education or privatizing Nalcor,” he said. “(He) never let the truth interfere with a good story.”
Barry sent The Telegram a copy of the letter he sent to Tory caucus members.
In it, he argues that the Nalcor monopoly on energy should be ended.
“I also believe we must provide for private equity investment in the energy sector and not create an energy monopoly,” he wrote. “We rightly insist on competition in the private sector, but at the same time not allow the private sector to compete with Nalcor.”
Barry said that Williams’ criticism just isn’t fair, and he said his conservative bona fides are at least as solid.
“I’ve been a conservative — certainly a fiscal conservative — my entire life,” Barry said. “I mean, I’m not the guy who ran the ABC campaign in Newfoundland. That was premier Williams, not myself. So maybe he’s not a conservative. Maybe he’s a Liberal.”
If Williams isn’t voting for Barry, that doesn’t leave many options; right now, Barry is the only declared candidate in the race.
The party will be holding a delegated leadership convention in St. John’s on the first weekend in July, and as an ex officio member of the party, Williams will get a vote.
Between now and then, he hinted that he might endorse somebody at some point, but for the moment, all he’s saying is that he really doesn’t like Barry.
“I obviously have issues with his policies and the way he handles himself. I’ll state that,” Williams said. “I guess if you have a favourite or preference or see someone who stands out beyond the crowd, it wouldn’t be beyond me at some point to say that, but for the time being, I’ll keep my powder dry.”
This email was sent to PC Party caucus members by leadership candidate Bill Barry. He gave it to The Telegram upon request. It has not been edited, but his cellphone number has been removed.
I am writing you to provide some perspective on why I have chosen to offer myself as a candidate for the leadership of our Party. I hope to speak to each MHA individually in the very near future, to listen to you, and to open myself to your questions. Certainly, there should be a vigorous debate and I expect it will be just that as we all bring great strengths. I am sure we share a common purpose to make Newfoundland and Labrador a better place for ourselves and future generations.
I am extremely passionate about Newfoundland and Labrador and sometimes my exuberance carries me far, and maybe even to be dismissive of certain accomplishments of our Party and our government. When, however, we are so low in the polls and a year away from an election, change is a must in order to energize the voters to elect a conservative government after being in power for ten years. We must renew ourselves.
At the same time, I believe we must live within our means rather than creating debt burden for future generations. I am concerned that our Province is too reliant on oil revenues to cover off the escalating cost of services provided. While I strongly support green energy, I think our population needs to be told more about the economic impacts of Muskrat Falls, which will double our debt burden. Just yesterday, I read an article in the Telegram by Gilbert Bennett of Nalcor. I fail to see how this defense, as an example, can convince anyone to his viewpoint. I believe we need greater candor and I believe that the obligation to sell this project rests with our elected representatives.
I believe we should fill the void by the oil production deficit through a more aggressive oil exploration program and the development of our large natural gas inventory. I also believe we must provide for private equity investment in the energy sector and not create an energy monopoly. We rightly insist on competition in the private sector, but at the same time not allow the private sector to compete with Nalcor.
I am just touching upon a few issues but look forward to good discussion with you. I believe the private sector, with reasonable controls and regulations, is more productive than the public sector in most areas of our economy. There are many examples to draw upon, even in the delivery of health and education services which demonstrate that parallel public and private systems stimulate greater productivity.
I am learning quickly that politics can be a humbling experience. I think it is an honorable profession and I want to be open and frank with the electorate. Our people want reasonable services with as little taxation as possible. That is what I would endeavor to deliver.
I look forward to future discussion with you. My motto, which I have lived by for 61 years, is “There is no ‘I’ in Team”. I am available 24/7 on my cell xxx-xxxx, if anyone wishes to chat. Hope to meet you all soon.