31 October 2006

St. John's can take the hit

Danny Williams has been able to keep some of his problems as little more than pictures on a television screen. Problems in Harbour Breton and Stephenville, exacerbated by his own posturing and a failure to deliver on his promises, couldn't get media attention outside of the regions where the problems occurred.

Monday's job fair was different. The spectacle of 9000 people turning out in the capital city for the chance at a job in Alberta cannot be ignored. To the contrary, it has set tongues wagging across the northeast Avalon.

Simon Lono, at Offal News, has put this into perspective rather well.

The difference between this situation and Stephenville, for example, is more than the fact it is in town.

Unlike their cousins from the south and west coast of the island, these latest economic refugees are people looking for work in the oil industry. They are, in many cases people who were lined up to work on Hebron.

They are heading for Alberta, not because of Chinese competition or a shortage of resource or any of a host of other factors that could be blamed for problems in other industries.

No. These people are packing up the F-150 and heading west because of Danny Williams ' apparent belief that, in the words of Offal News, "we are better off awaiting a better offer in government royalties and equity."

Williams - perhaps channeling Marie Antoinette, instead of the usual e.e. cummings - put it another way: "St. John's can take the hit."

Maybe it can.

But that's not really the point.

Williams is under increasing pressure to produce something of substance and at every turn he seems to be genuinely incapable of delivering on anything. The latest on the list is the energy plan. The oft-used excuse for inaction - "we won't decide until we release the energy plan" - will now not arrive until 2007, the better part of two years behind schedule.

All of this will inevitably fuel the growing Quiet Revulsion.

On top of that political problem, Williams has an abysmal reputation with Ottawa. Danny Williams relationship with Stephen Harper is arguably worse than the relationship between any former premier and the corresponding prime minister. Clyde Wells and Brian Mulroney? They could sit and chat civilly if for no other reason than their disagreement - while deep-seated - was based on something other than one inviting the other to a meal and then publicly kicking him in the goolies just because it suited his personal political agenda.

Williams' problems do not stop there. He has also alienated a great many of his fellow first ministers. Jean Charest is merely the latest. Danny is surely off the Charest's Christmas card list Danny's intemperate and decidedly ignorant characterization of Quebec politics as volatile and unstable. Williams only compounded his initial insult by apologizing not for the remarks but that people felt offended at being told they were a threat to the country. By Williams own version, he could not apologize for simply stating fact.

No, the real question is not whether St. John's can take the economic hit from Williams' actions over Hebron.

With his self-induced economic and political problems and the growing Quiet Revulsion, the question remains whether Danny Williams will be able to withstand the political hit he is likely to take. Maybe not in Wednesday's by-election or even next year's general election.

but one day.


Something says St. John's can indeed take the hit.

But something also says the thin-skinned premier cannot.