21 March 2007

Williams discovers his inner basenji with Harper

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams is backing away from a confrontation with the federal government over Equalization.

Sure he's called it a betrayal and, sure, Williams has encouraged people not to vote Conservative in the next election.

But...

According to vocm.com, Williams will now turn his attention to dealing with serious issues in the province. Apparently he feels his few words over the past 24 hours is enough. vocm.com reports that Williams believes the province will survive without Ottawa.

Maybe that's just for now.

Maybe it's permanent.

Some time ago, Bond Papers noted the very different rhetoric Williams used with Harper compared to what the fiesty Premier used to unleash on Liberals.

Compare that to his description of the evil Liberals from a speech in Halifax in 2001:
The more that I see, the more nauseous and angry that I get. The way that our people and our region have been treated by one arrogant federal Liberal government after another is disgusting. The legacy that the late Prime Minister Trudeau and Jean Chrétien will leave in Atlantic Canada is one of dependence on Mother Ottawa, which has been orchestrated for political motives for the sole purpose of maintaining power.
Of course, Danny Williams has been noticeably less fiesty since his self-imposed media blackout a little while ago. One of Williams' repeated messages this past week has been that that he doesn't want to be perceived as fighting just for the sake of fighting.

That's a pretty big change for a guy who not long before promised to take on anyone, anywhere, anytime, if he felt it was in the best interest of Newfoundland and Labrador. Big oil, little blogger. Didn't matter.

Maybe Williams is taking advice from John Crosbie. Maybe he's realizing that he needs to stop spitting in the eye of anyone he takes a dislike to. It doesn't lead to healthy, productive professional relationships.

Maybe - most likely(?) - Williams has a poll that shows his constant combat turns people off. They are weary of it and instead of rallying behind him, people and walking away figuratively if not literally.

Maybe he understands that the reality of the position he is taking is one of fighting for greater dependence on federal handouts rather than promoting genuine self-sufficiency. There's no measure of irony that the guy who accused Liberals of promoting dependence on Mother Ottawa has focused his political energy these past three years on increasing dependence on Mopther Ottawa's handouts. Maybe he's figured that out.

Listening to Williams on Open Line - surprisingly ending his noticeable absence from the talk shows lately - he's also switching his messages about the province to positive ones. He's dropping the tales of always doing bad deals to speaking of the great things that have been and will be done in the province. Sure he's carrying on with the same misleading comments on Equalization and offshore revenues, but there is something noticeably softer in his remarks, overall.

That's a big change.

Of course, there might not be a real change at all, just like his New Approach turned out to be policies lifted from Roger Grimes or Brian Peckford as appropriate.

Maybe Danny Williams just has too much on his plate with the departure of some of his most senior and able ministers to find the energy for a jihad right now. He's still able to take verbal pokes at Harper and Loyola Hearn, but there just doesn't seem to be any energy in Williams' remarks. Running the entire provincial government from the 8th floor is a demanding job.

Yes, it will be interesting to see what happens in the next few months.

That will all depend on whether Williams is just saving his energy for another time, whether he's genuinely changing his approach or if, as it might appear, Williams has discovered his inner basenji.

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