On the Hill – Oh, Danny Boy

Love him or hate him, you’ve got to admit that Premier Danny Williams has a certain self-confidence; the apparent conviction that his means always justify the end because he’s standing up for the little guy (in this case, Newfoundland and Labrador).

And when the Conservatives won another minority in this latest federal election, Williams was quick to promote that oppressed-but-noble image.

He’ll co-operate with Stephen Harper’s minority, he says, but only if there’s no payback. As the CBC reports, Williams hopes that Harper won’t try to ?punish Newfoundland and Labrador for not delivering any Conservative seats.?

To Williams’s credit, he’s done it again. He’s grabbed our attention with a line that takes the prize among even the most ridiculous political banter of recent weeks. Because if there’s one thing Danny knows a lot about, It’s payback.

To start with, there was that little campaign Williams concocted called ABC (Anything But Conservative). It was an upshot of his battle with Harper over a written election promise to exclude non-renewable energy revenues from the equalization formula. Harper reneged and Williams saw red.

Fair enough, but Williams took the battle beyond a dispute with an opponent. His retaliation reached out not only against every Conservative candidate in his province, but across the country. As early as January 2008 Williams indicated that he was prepared to take his ABC message to other provinces, and a month before the election he addressed all Canadians, saying ?If you believe the country deserves better, you know what to do.?

Never mind whether Conservative policies might be of benefit to voters in other provinces. Williams was mad and he wasn’t going to take it.

He went from rhetoric to retaliation in 2004 as well, when he dragged the Canadian flag into a dispute with then-Prime Minister Paul Martin. Or more accurately, dragged it down from provincial flag poles. At the time, Newfoundland and Labrador (and Nova Scotia) were pushing to keep 100 per cent of offshore energy revenues.

When the federal finance minister’s offer didn’t meet Williams’s approval, the premier’s reaction resembled that of a spoiled kid on the playground: if you won’t give me what I want, I’ll take your ball so nobody can play. Petty payback at its worst, and a particular affront to the generations of Canadians (including those from Williams’s own province) who have fought for what that flag represents.

It will be interesting to see where the dispute over those non-renewable energy revenues goes, but one thing’s for sure. Danny Williams suddenly taking the high road on payback is a little like trying to save Washington Mutual: a day late and a dollar short.