07 April 2007

Is the goal a 1948 do-over referendum?

The National Post this Easter weekend contains a little profile of Premier Danny Williams.

There are a few factual errors, but nothing that undermines the core point of the piece. Overall, there is a summary of the current state of the erstwhile nation of Dannyland. The picture isn't good. There's no way to make it good and it is the branding of this province as Dannyland that ultimately undermines whatever the triffid logo thing could possibly do.
A look at Newfoundland's history through a local lens explains why Mr. Williams' attacks on big business and Ottawa play so well around the kitchen tables of Gander and Corner Brook. Dragged into Confederation by the narrowest margin, the formerly independent colony has been rewarded with collapsed cod stocks, a hydro deal that virtually donates electricity to Quebec (which resells it to Americans for a tidy profit), two generations of talented young people decamping for work in Alberta and elsewhere, and the largest per capita debt and highest unemployment in Canada.
Cynics outside the province might suggest Newfoundlanders had something to do with bad economic planning, but locally, says Mr. [John] Crosbie, the feeling is "we're always being outsmarted and done in by mainlanders."
Since this piece was written by a mainlander, he can be forgiven for assuming every single person on what the Post calls The Rock - a word destined to join the other "n" word on the list of banned ethnic slurs - buys into the nationalist mythology on which the latest caudillo thrives.

Rick Mercer, no longer living here, can also be forgiven for mistaking the appearance of near-unanimity back home as a sign that there is, in fact, near unanimous agreement with the Premier's goals even if there is a quibble about tactics. If we define the goal as motherhood and blueberry duff, then that would be true.

But it isn't the goal and so there are growing questions that run deeper than the correctness of the Premier's rant-du-jour. What exactly is this "fair share" Williams keeps talking about? What would a better deal on oil or Confederation look like so we can help spot it when it shows up? Williams himself apparently has no idea and so Newfoundlanders and Labradorians increasingly wonder what he is up to.

Is he planning to create the climate in which the fall election will turn into a referendum on Confederation? Is the first townie premier to run the place since well before the townies put 'er up on the rocks in 1934 going to take give the nationalist townies a do-over on the 1948 referendum? Only his man in the Blue Line cab likely knows for sure.

Since we are on the subject of wider goals, Offal News returns to that issue today. The cause is confirmation from the oil industry that there are no talks going on with the provincial government regarding Hebron. It isn't like Simon Lono has said that before, and been right. it is that Williams has suggsted there were talks going on - yet again - and yet again, the facts are something else.

Once you are done there, take a glance at nottawa. Mark Watton notes - riffing on the Post piece - that Williams makes much of the idea that he is on a self-less mission of good, that he doesn't need the job of Premier because he is independently wealthy.

nottawa points out that anywhere else in the a country a federal politician who tried the same sanctimonious, self-serving line on the press gallery, they would - to use a local phrase - have his guts for garters. He's absolutely correct.

What the Post doesn't say, though, likely because of their interview subjects, is that the demagogues of post-Confederation Newfoundland all wound up chased from office in some measure of public disrepute. At the risk of blasphemy, the same people who threw palm fronds to line the path of their newest saviour were among the first to line his via dolorosa and jeer.

Smallwood.

Peckford.

Tobin.

It is a short list, distinguished by nothing else if only by the volume of spittle ejected by anyone mentioning their name these days.

Danny Williams knows it.

That's one of the reasons why he reputedly detests the comparisons to people like Smallwood.

That's why - only three years into his mandate, Williams has already announced he'll be packing it in soon. That's why he is hunting for some sort of legacy, some sort of brand, other than the one he has already claimed for himself.

It's too late of course.

On this Easter weekend, and in the religion of Newfoundland politics, we need only wonder who will be playing the role of Barabas in the latest version of the pageant.

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