30 October 2007

Danny's long slow good-bye

Did anyone else notice the relaxed, jovial Danny Williams on election night?


How about the post-election vacation?


Well, did anyone notice that he came back to St. John's - where he lives - to celebrate his second majority government rather than celebrate in Corner Brook which is in his district?


Well, those are clues that Danny Williams was serious when he said last year that he wouldn't be hanging around for a third election.

The world has changed a lot since last Christmas. Williams worked diligently and managed to get the oil companies back to the negotiating table so he could make concessions and get a Hebron deal. 

The energy plan is done. Well, sort of done, since both the oil regime and the gas royalty regime are still in draft form.

And then there's the Lower Churchill.  The crowning achievement of Williams' tenure secured, as it likely will be, with government loan guarantees backed up by the offshore oil deals, pretty much as Bond Papers has maintained. those are the things Williams will be focusing on in the next three years and that's basically what he said to reporters in a scrum after the cabinet swearing in ceremony.

The big clue of his departure, though, has been Williams' claim that he is loosening the grip on the cabinet he re-appointed, with minor changes, on Tuesday morning.

"As we mature as a government, I want to see an increased role for the ministers," Williams said after the cabinet swearing-in ceremony.

"I've been criticized on the one hand for being a one-man show. On the other hand, if you don't show up for something ... I get criticized for that, so we've got to strike that happy medium."

No one likely missed the curiosity of a guy claiming he doesn't run a one man show while at the same time saying that he wants to see an "increased role" for cabinet ministers. Not showing up for something is a reference to criticism Williams took last week for being away on vacation while about 100 workers in his own district were laid off at the local paper mill. Williams gave in to the criticism and interrupted his most recent vacation for a short meeting with union officials. 

That's hardly the thing one would expect from a guy who is planning to run again in the same district in four years time, especially when the laid-off paper workers watched Williams go to the mat for their brethren in a neighbouring town only two years ago.

Aside: Incidentally, is it possible that the Kruger announcement was delayed after an intervention by the provincial?  Word on High Street is that people at the mill heard rumours of the machine shut-down three weeks before it was made public. They were likely clued in by an announcement on October 2 - a week before polling day - and the shut-down of the same machine at Corner Brook in July. in hindsight, it looks like the July announcement was actually the closure.  Look at the wording.  There's no suggestion it was going to be for a mere two weeks yet that's what it turned out to be.

In any event, old habits are hard for the Premier to break though, as his other comments reveal.  His penchant for using "I" still comes through loud and clear, as does the reference to people he supposedly doesn't watch. McGuinty announced his cabinet on Tuesday and up to the sudden announce from the provincial government's propaganda service Tuesday morning, there was absolutely no sign Danny Williams was ready to announce his cabinet.

"I don't guide myself, or our government doesn't guide ourselves, by what Premier McGuinty does or Prime Minister Harper does or anyone else in the country does," he said.

"We're running our own show down here and we do it as we see fit, and I think we're doing a great job."

The pattern Williams is following here is pretty much the one he used in 2003, although the overall circumstances don't warrant the delay in opening the legislature. in 2003, a cabinet was hastily sworn in out of constitutional necessity but it took until February before the names of the new departments were announced. This is an administration that takes its sweet time to do anything and there's no sign that will change in Williams' last years.

The serial government will carry on and, as noted here in January, speculation will mount as to which of the current crop of minister's will start angling for the Premier's job.

All the signs are there.  You just have to look for them.

And in the meantime, Danny Williams will depart from office in the same way he has occupied the office:  doing everything in his own time.