Danny Williams: The War with Ottawa
I first met Bill Rowe when I was nine. It happened on Sept. 1, 1966, while I was living in Hampden, White Bay. I was in the basement playing; my father was in the yard, working.
Hearing a car door slam, I looked out. I saw a swanky car outside the fence. The driver got out, entered our yard and introduced himself to Dad as “Bill Rowe, the MHA for this district.”
Eventually, he even focused his attention on me and asked me my name. I felt special. Before leaving, he pulled a $10 bill from his pocket and gave it to my father. “Here’s a small gift for you, Pastor Janes,” he said. Dad felt special.
The reason I know the exact date of Rowe’s visit is that, after Dad died, I was given the personal ledger he had maintained from the 1940s to the 1970s. When I came to Sept. 1, 1966, there it was: a $10 gift from MHA Bill Rowe.
Last week, I met Rowe again. This time, it was while reading his most recent book, Danny Williams: The war with Ottawa. The inside story by a hired gun.
In 2004, Premier Williams handpicked Rowe to represent Newfoundland and Labrador in Ottawa. Rowe served eight months during what became known as the Atlantic Accord crisis. It was a defining moment in Williams’ political career. Canadians from sea to sea came to either love or hate the man. His antics, for good or ill, spread his reputation far and near. Who will ever forget what Rowe calls the “ flag flap”?
The crisis was an intense, enduring feud between Williams and the mean machine known as Parliament Hill in Ottawa. This book is Rowe’s attempt to recreate the crisis for the reading public. Along the way, he highlights the drama, analyzes the ruthlessness of
The reader is immediately drawn into Rowe’s version of the Atlantic Accord shenanigans. It is captivating. He spares no punches. All the main
players come in for intense scrutiny.
politics and shows an all-toohuman side of the participants. He hides little.
Take, for example, the day Rowe paid a courtesy visit to John Efford, then federal minister of natural resources. Efford “ was standoffish and unfriendly (when he shook hands with me, I suddenly realized what Bill Clinton must feel like during a hug from Hillary). When I said I’d come … to explain to him in person the purpose of my new job, he sat there sternfaced and frosty. He never once looked at me, and his body language verged on the hostile.”
This is one of Rowe’s tamer paragraphs about Efford. Because this is Rowe’s book, he is free to write as he pleases.
After reading it, though, I was reminded of what William Casselman wrote in Macleans magazine in 1979 about Peter Ustinov’s TV documentary on Leningrad, “ This is the Leningrad of Peter Ustinov. Not mine, not yours perhaps, but his alone — quirky, flawed, riveting.”
Likewise, Danny Williams: The war with Ottawa is the Ottawa of Bill Rowe. Not mine, not yours perhaps, but his alone — quirky, flawed, riveting.
The reader is immediately drawn into Rowe’s version of the Atlantic Accord shenanigans. It is captivating. He spares no punches. All the main players come in for intense scrutiny.
The author was present in Ottawa during the crisis. During that time, he maintained a personal journal, in which he reflected, often in great and painful detail, on both important and humourous events as they happened. He also recorded his impressions of the colourful personalities involved on both sides of the battle lines. He augmented his journal with memories, e-mails, conversations and media clips to produce a subjective account of the crisis.
If Rowe is to be believed, Ottawa is not a nice place to live. However, it is the nation’s capital and seat of government and, as such, is where provincial-federal decisions are hammered out.
Rowe, believing Newfoundlanders and Labradorians deserve to know what actually happened during the Atlantic Accord crisis, regales the reader with a chatty and informal story. At times, it sounds a lot like a “ kiss and tell” diatribe.
If you want to read about what was almost a fistfight over the Accord and what Williams maintained was then prime minister Paul Martin’s broken election promise, you’ve come to the right place. If you want to enter into the rumour mill Rowe says is operating in every conceivable place in Ottawa, including restrooms, pick up a copy of this book.
If you want to view the cogs in the bureaucratic wheel, especially how glacially slowly they grind, this book will give you a photograph of the process.
Though Rowe’s book is a rousing yarn, as befitting a personal memoir, it is not the objective account academics will call for when an official version of the Atlantic Accord is written. Until then, this book will have to fill the need.