24 April 2007

Danny and John get along well

From the Tuesday National Post, this article on the strong, positive relationship between Premier Danny Williams and Husky Energy's John Lau.
At Husky's annual meeting last week, for example, the Hong Kong-born accountant gushed that the premier has been "very helpful" to Husky and that his company, in return, is eager to "work with the government and share the upside."
The relationship between the Premier and the oil man stands out in light of other stories that there is tension between the Premier and the industry.
When asked about the secret of his relationship with Mr. Williams, Mr. Lau said Husky and the province are so transparent with each other it's resulted in a level of trust that is unusual "between a corporation and the government."

"We understand what the government wants, and the government understands what we want. We have no hidden agenda," Mr. Lau said, giving credit to his team in the province, led by East Coast vice-president Ruud Zoon.

Husky would not be averse to having the government as an equity partner as long as it doesn't affect its bottom line, Mr. Lau added.
The real clue to what makes this relationship work actually comes later in the piece. it has to do with the individual styles of the two men.
Some argue it's also a matter of style. Despite their vastly different backgrounds, the two leaders have kindred spirits: both see themselves as outsiders who don't get enough recognition, are highly successful, built organizations in their own image, are hands-own and hard to work for.
Fundamentally, though, Husky Energy is following a pretty standard approach to any relationship: the company is trying to find common ground, bearing in mind that whatever it might consider, including an equity position for the province, is governed by the corporate bottom line.

There are strong signals that Danny Williams is looking to change the perception of his policies if not the substance of the way he approaches relationships. In the confrontation with the federal government over Equalization, Williams has repeatedly stated he is not seeking confrontation for the sake of having a racket. He said much the same thing over the weekend following a meeting with federal Liberal leader Stephane Dion.

Ultimately, that's both factually accurate - he isn't really fighting for the sake of fighting - and a sign that Williams understands what is needed to foster mutually beneficial relationships. As Michael Harris said of Brian Peckford a quarter century ago, "dogma is no substitute for dialogue, and compromise no synonym for weakness."