Last Updated October 17, 2006
Since taking office in October 2003, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams has built a reputation as a politician who is never afraid to battle Ottawa, championing the province's fight over fiscal balance and equalization.
Paul Martin found out how tough Williams could be when he was prime minister and the premier ordered Canadian flags lowered because of a dispute over offshore royalties. Stephen Harper's relationship with Williams has also been trying, as the two men sparred over royalties from the oil industry. Williams called Harper a "buddy of big oil."
When he was elected with a large Progressive Conservative majority in 2003, Williams told the public he's not in politics for the money. As Opposition leader, the millionaire lawyer donated his legislative salary to charity. And he promised during the provincial election campaign to do the same with the premier's paycheque.
Danny Williams on election night
Williams is a Rhodes Scholar and high-profile St. John's lawyer. He made millions in the sale of the region's cable-TV utility to Rogers Communications. His success in business earned him a nickname in the legislature: "Danny Millions."
Williams was still in law school when he led a group of businesspeople seeking the first cable television licence in Newfoundland and Labrador. He grew the company into one of Atlantic Canada's largest communications companies, before selling it for $282 million prior to getting into politics.
Williams was born in St. John's to a political family of longtime Progressive Conservative supporters.
He married young, settling down with his high school sweetheart, Maureen. The couple were named king and queen of roller skating in the 1960s at Memorial Stadium, which is where Williams took over the reins of the Tory party in 2001, four decades later.
Fights with Ottawa
It didn't take long for Williams to make a splash on the federal scene after becoming premier. Williams was furious that Martin made election promises in June 2004 to give Newfoundland and Labrador royalties from offshore oil developments, then backtracked at a First Ministers' meeting in Ottawa. So he stormed out of the meeting. "Our pride can't be bought…. We won't say yes to less," Williams told reporters in October 2004. "We had a commitment and [the prime minister] has broken that commitment."
In December of that year, Williams pulled down Canadian flags from provincial buildings during talks to give Newfoundland full protection against equalization clawbacks on offshore royalties. A month later, the flags went back up and a deal was made.
Harper's government hasn't found it any easier dealing with Williams, who has criticized the Conservative government for refusing to support the province's push for higher royalties from the oil industry.
And when the federal government announced it would cut money from social programs to save money, Williams said Harper doesn't reflect Newfoundland and Labrador's "red Tory" leanings.
In 2006, the province was hit by an audit scandal that revealed allegations of misuse of public money linked to representatives of all three parties.
Sparking the scandal were Auditor General John Noseworthy's investigations into spending at the house of assembly. The report found four politicians misused approximately $1 million from their constituency allowances.
In June 2006, Williams announced that Ed Byrne, a senior member of his party, would step aside as natural resources minister while the audit into financial matters at the legislature continued.
Williams is still riding high in public opinion polls heading into the next election in October 2007. Of the province's 48 seats, his Progressive Conservatives hold 35. Williams, a "townie" from the province's capital city, has tried hard to appeal to rural Newfoundland since taking over the party. He toured extensively both as Opposition leader and during the election campaign.
Williams has excelled in business as well as law. He was involved in the province's offshore resources industry through an oil-and-gas supply and services company, and has been formally recognized for his entrepreneurial success and charitable works.
Williams loves hockey and golf. He founded the St. John's Hockey League and was instrumental in bringing the St. John's Maple Leafs to the city, as well as in the building of their home arena, Mile One Stadium. He also owns three golf courses.
- Bachelor of Arts, Memorial University, St. John's, Nfld.
- Rhodes Scholar, degree of arts in law, Oxford University, England;
- Bachelor of Law, Dalhousie University, Halifax, N.S.
- became Conservative party leader April 7, 2001. Elected MHA for Humber West in 2001
- lawyer; head of Cable Atlantic, sold business to Rogers for $282 million
- wife Maureen, four children
Born: August 4, 1950
In his owns words:
"It was a flawless campaign in which we took the high road all the way."
"My team has received a mandate to seize control of our own destiny... finally."
"There is still reason for hope in Newfoundland and Labrador. You can take that hope to the bank."
"We will settle for nothing less than honest hard work, unwavering commitment and personal sacrifice."
- Newfoundland and Labrador Votes 2003
- Tory majority for Newfoundland and Labrador
- (Oct. 21, 2003)
- Newfoundland Tory leader fighting overconfidence
- (Oct. 20, 2003)
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