$2.6B deal sends Williams soaring in poll

New poll says lowering flags and then striking $2.6B deal earned Nfld. Premier Danny Williams' government 86% approval rate.

Pulling down the Canadian flag and bringing home the bacon from Ottawa gave Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams a huge boost in popularity, according to a new poll.

The Corporate Research Associates survey conducted between Feb. 10 and March 4 found 86 per cent of adults in the province either mostly or completely satisfied with the performance of the Williams government.

That's up from 73 per cent in November, just after Williams had started his crusade for the province to be allowed to keep all of its offshore oil royalties without giving up federal equalization payments.

In late December, Williams ordered all Canadian flags removed from provincial government sites throughout Newfoundland and Labrador as a signal of how he felt Ottawa was betraying a promise Prime Minister Paul Martin made during last June's federal election campaign.

Williams eventually brought home a deal worth a minimum of $2.6 billion over eight years.

A year earlier, when the Progressive Conservative premier was facing off with provincial labour unions, his government's approval rating was just 54 per cent.

The latest poll, conducted by interviewing 800 adults, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

In a statement, Corporate Research Associates said the results show "one of the highest recorded levels of support for any political party in the province."

The Liberal government of former premier Clyde Wells also recorded an 86 per cent approval rating in November 1993, after its second election victory.

About 72 per cent of people polled in the latest survey said Williams was their top choice for premier among the three provincial party leaders.

Liberal Leader Roger Grimes was preferred by 12 per cent of respondents, while seven per cent chose NDP Leader Jack Harris.