09 November 2005

Getting sun to rise in morning biggest accomplishment

Ok. That's obviously a joke.

But if this story is correct, Premier Danny Williams' biggest accomplishment - by his own estimation - is something he really had nothing to do with. Apparently, the Premier told a party fundraising dinner in St. John's last night that the province's improved fiscal is his greatest accomplishment to date.

It's times like this that one wishes the Progressive Conservative Party website was more than just a collection of links to the government news release site.

Here's what actually happened:

Biggest thing - The price of oil went through the roof and as a result the provincial government is doing quite nicely, thank you very much, from oil royalties.

Danny Williams did not cause any increase in world oil prices.

The royalties collected by the provincial government are a direct result of two things:

1. The Real Atlantic Accord, signed in 1985 by Brian Mulroney and Brian Peckford; and,

2. A series of royalty agreements signed by previous governments.

Put it together and you get a $300 million cash surplus this year and we haven't even seen the end of it. Next year's surplus will be bigger. Much bigger.

All this government did was not spend like a drunken sailor after a year and a half at sea. While in local politics that might be worthy of a medal, in most sensible places it gets a polite round of applause.

Beyond that, the Voisey's Bay deal will cut in this year and add some more cash to the pile.

Beyond that, someone will surely point to the January offshore deal with Ottawa. But, as we have not grown too weary of saying, that deal is just a transfer payment from Ottawa worth exactly $2.0 billion dollars.


It is waaaaaaaaay less than the Premier was looking for and it is waaaaaay less than some people have tried to pretend.

I am optimistic, though. I still think Danny Williams is capable of and will do some impressive things; the kind of things that would warrant the judgment of some people that he is the greatest Premier in the province's history. That was actually said to me on Water Street the other day by someone who isn't a member of the Williams family or even a Tory supporter for that matter.

Personally, though, I'll wait until there is some record of accomplishment by which to measure this Prem against all the others going back to 1855.