PCs honour Williams, but drop his video
Newfoundland and Labrador's Progressive Conservatives applauded an absentee Danny Williams Friday night, although party brass did not play a video message that the former premier recorded for the event.
"Sorry I could not be there, but I do want to thank you for honouring me this evening," Williams said in the video that organizers decided not to screen. A copy of it was posted to YouTube.
No explanation was given as to why the video was not screened at the dinner, which had originally been arranged as a tribute to Williams, who retired from politics in December. However, Williams abruptly decided not to attend the tribute dinner, amid an apparent rift between himself and Premier Kathy Dunderdale.
In the message, Williams said he looked forward to meeting party faithful "in the near future … in a similar-type of convention to thank you personally from the bottom of my heart for your support."
Williams also indicated he wants party members to rally behind Dunderdale as preparations continue for a general election scheduled for Oct. 11.
"This weekend is your weekend … it's about your new leader who will lead this province and let the Opposition know that we are here to stay as a government," Williams said in the message.
The party screened instead a montage of scenes featuring Williams, and key members of the party praised Williams, who took the PCs to power in 2003.
"While he's not here tonight to hear these words of tribute, I know that every one of us in this room wants to honour Danny, to honour him for his enormous contribution as we set our sights on the challenges ahead," Finance Minister Tom Marshall said.
The cause of therift between Williams and Dunderdale has not been made clear, although Williams said "little things" — Dunderdale's office not providing cellphone numbers of cabinet ministers — were going on.
Pundits, though, have been making hay of the clear shifts in direction that Dunderdale has undertaken.
On Thursday evening, she smiled and applauded Conservative Leader Stephen Harper as he promised to support the Lower Churchill hydroelectric project, as long as it meets criteria his government is setting for large-scale energy projects.
Dunderdale, who is scheduled to be formally sworn in Saturday afternoon as party leader, said Williams will not be forgotten, although she shifted Friday evening's focus by saying that the weekend convention is about the party's future.
"Whether you're from Port aux Basques or Cartwright, St. Anthony, Port de Grave or Quidi Vidi, your district is one we are targeting in 2011 and we need your help to make that happen," Dunderdale told delegates, identifying the five areas of the province currently represented by Liberal or NDP members of the house of assembly.