So long, premier

The Compass - - OPINION -

The shock­waves from last week’s an­nounce­ment by Premier Danny Wil­liams that he will leave of­fice at the end of this week af­ter seven event­ful years at the helm and 10 years in pol­i­tics con­tin­ues to be felt through­out this prov­ince, and across the coun­try.

It was an an­nounce­ment that caught many by sur­prise, and touched off wide­spread re­ac­tion at all lev­els, with even politi­cians of op­pos­ing stripes — Lib­eral MP Scott Simms said “ I’ll miss him” on open line ra­dio — show­er­ing Wil­liams with words of praise and grat­i­tude for his spir­ited lead­er­ship.

Wil­liams led this prov­ince dur­ing a mo­men­tous pe­riod in its his­tory and, by all ac­counts, did a phe­nom­e­nal job. He main­tained an ap­proval rat­ing that is un­heard of in any free and open so­ci­ety, at a time when the elec­torate in this prov­ince is more en­light­ened and crit­i­cal than it ever has been. This, de­spite be­ing called a bully and ac­cused of be­ing too com­bat­ive.

Yes, there were times when he went too far, and he was overly-sen­si­tive to crit­i­cism at times, but these are traits of a man who wears his heart on his sleeve and goes into ev­ery bat­tle with the full in­ten­tion of win­ning.

When he came to power af­ter the 2003 pro­vin­cial elec­tion, the prov­ince was on the brink of bank­ruptcy and the fu­ture looked bleak. As he pre­pares to leave this week, we are now a “ have” prov­ince — one of only two in the en­tire coun­try — with the where­withal to set our own course. The turn­around, in such a short time, is mind-bog­gling.

There are those who say Wil­liams’ record is just as much about luck as it is about his lead­er­ship. But there’s no ar­gu­ing he was the right premier, at the right time. His tenac­ity, pas­sion and charisma were just what this prov­ince needed as it em­barked on a new cen­tury, and his con­tri­bu­tions — from the At­lantic Ac­cord to He­bron and, most re­cently, an agree­ment to be­gin devel­op­ment of the Lower Churchill — will help ce­ment his legacy as an ex­cep­tional leader who helped re­store pride and con­fi­dence in this prov­ince, and re­versed an at­ti­tude that had many of us feel­ing ashamed to stand up and say they were are New­found­lan­ders and Labrado­ri­ans.

Even his crit­ics — and there are many — can’t ques­tion his love for this prov­ince, and his de­ter­mi­na­tion to build a solid foun­da­tion for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. It was hard not to feel like we were los­ing some­thing spe­cial as Wil­liams said his farewells last week, but it was in­evitable at some point, and Wil­liams made the right call by pass­ing over the torch while it was still burn­ing bright.

That leads into the next ob­vi­ous ques­tion: how will the po­lit­i­cal land­scape un­fold in this prov­ince over the com­ing months?

In our neck of the woods, many were im­me­di­ately spec­u­lat­ing about whether Jerome Kennedy, the MHA for Car­bon­ear-Har­bour Grace and a pow­er­ful min­is­ter in the premier’s in­ner cir­cle, will step for­ward and make a bid for the lead­er­ship of the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive Party. Char­lene John­son, the MHA for Trin­ity-Bay de Verde and the Min­is­ter of En­vi­ron­ment and Con­ser­va­tion, has also been men­tioned as a cred­i­ble suc­ces­sor to what many are call­ing this prov­ince’s great­est and most ac­com­plished premier.

It’s still very early in the game, so don’t ex­pect ei­ther of them to throw their hat into the ring any­time soon. But if bets are be­ing placed, money would have to go on Kennedy tak­ing a se­ri­ous look at the pos­si­bil­i­ties. The well-known at­tor­ney, who made his name de­fend­ing the wrong­fully con­victed, has been the premier’s point man on many of the big is­sues in this prov­ince since be­ing elected to the House of Assem­bly in 2007.

Who­ever gets the job, let’s hope the mo­men­tum this prov­ince has been rid­ing for the past seven years con­tin­ues.

Good luck, premier. Dear edi­tor,

When I read your in­ter­view Nov. 10 on CBC News about the Ge­orge River Cari­bou Herd and the lat­est 2010 cen­sus I had to com­ment on this con­ser­va­tion night­mare.

With all the technology of the 20th and 21st cen­turies, we have an­other species on the brink of ex­tinc­tion.

The over­fish­ing of our cod and capelin stocks along with the steady fall of our on­ce­upona-time great cari­bou re­source is enough to make any­one with an en­vi­ron­men­tal bone in their body cringe.

Are we go­ing to even­tu­ally have a mora­to­rium on the cari­bou also? Can it get any worse? The new count of 71,131 cari­bou in the Ge­orge River Herd is barely enough to

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