01 December 2007

The "I"s have it: Danny Williams on senate reform

Senate reform was one of the issues discussed during a 45 minute meeting between Prime minister Stephen harper and Premier Danny Williams in St. John's on Friday. Williams told reporters after the meeting that the two leaders discussed several topics.

Note the way Williams refers to it: he speaks about his feelings, his issues and his views as opposed to positions of the government. Apparently his views expressed in this highly personalized way are synonymous with those of the government or the province as a whole.

Certainly for a perspective on the national issues, I have my own feelings and we didn't get in to it. My own feelings on federal spending limitations, the environment, environmental issues. So I'm able -- and obviously energy -- to discuss those at a national level.

When we sit around the table as a group of first ministers, then we deal at that high level. As well, that doesn't mean that Jean Charest and Quebec aren't going to talk with their issues and I'm not going to talk about my issues. If I have outstanding issues with the Government of Canada, I've certainly raised them. Those meetings are national meetings. To be quite honest with you, I don't have any problem raising to that level...

I guess where I agree with him on certain issues. I have issues on senate reform, but there are other areas where I could find agreement. When it comes to discussing his position at the commonwealth and where he is on Kyoto and where he's positioning Canada at this particular point in time in Kyoto, that may be an area where I could agree with him. I won't take my personal disagreements on behalf of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and use those to disagree with the prime minister on every national issue because that's not in the national interest.

There's an aspect of this highly personalized way of dealing with issues that crops up in the letter the Premier sent the Prime Minister earlier this year on senate reform. The letter was copied to the senate committee studying the government bills before the last sitting of parliament prorogued.

Toward the end of the letter, Williams states that any discussions on senate reform should take place among first ministers, what Williams referred to in the Friday scrum as "that high level." Executive federalism is alive and well.

The letter is presented here as a series of image files. They are as big as the space will allow, but should be legible if you click on them and enlarge the image.

williams senate reform1

williams senate reform2

williams senate reform3