Danny Williams and Ottawa just don't mix.
Ostensibly, the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador is a Tory. But it was fellow Tory Stephen Harper he lashed out at Wednesday in some of the most caustic language ever directed at Ottawa from the hinterland. Harper, said Williams, is a "fraud" for breaking a federal election promise to remove non-renewable resource revenues in a new equalization formula. Harper disputes the $10-billion that Williams says the province will lose under the formula.
Speaking to the St. John's Board of Trade, Williams was unrestrained in his contempt for his fellow Conservative:
"A majority government would be one of the most negative political events in Canadian history. This is a federal government willing not only to break their own promises, but they go so far as to break their own laws and call an election even though they mandated fixed election dates. There is nothing Harper will not do in order to win a majority government. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a party who purportedly offered a terminally ill MP a life insurance policy to get his vote."
That last was a reference to the late B.C. independent MP Chuck Cadman. The jury, so to speak, is still out on that unsubstantiated charge. But Williams pays no heed of niceties in planting insinuations.
We'd suggest the Grits jump all over the St. John's videotape for a campaign ad, save that Williams just four years ago had a similar dispute with...the Grits. Which prompted the fiesty premier to remove the Canadian flag from all provincial government buildings in a dispute with Paul Martin over resource revenue sharing. (Below is the Maple Leaf being lowered in front of the Newfoundland and Labrador legislature in December 2004.)
With the possible exception of Tory premier Frank Moores - later a lobbyist in Ottawa - every premier of the Rock since Joey Smallwood has given the nation a clinic on righteous indignation. This production has run longer than The Mousetrap on Broadway, and long ago grew tiresome. (Nova Scotia premier Rodney MacDonald held similar grievances with Ottawa on revenue-sharing, but ultimately negotiated an amicable settlement.)
Harper is right: With only four of the province's seven seats not already in his clutches, he doesn't need a Newfoundland and Labrador sweep to attain his coveted majority. Williams, a former business tycoon, should know that when you don't have leverage, the alternative strategy of being sweetly supportive of federal Tory ambitions might better serve your purpose.