Nova Scotia

Danny Williams 'unequivocally positive' about Muskrat Falls

Former Newfoundland premier Danny Williams says he's 'unequivocally positive' in the mega energy project despite doubts from Nalcor's CEO.

Hydro project 'will reap benefits for many generations,' Danny Williams tells Halifax business crowd

Former Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams spoke Thursday evening at the Halifax Chamber of Commerce. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Former Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams is calling for Atlantic Canada to get a move on with the Muskrat Falls energy project.

"I remain unequivocally positive about the Muskrat Falls project and the benefits for both of our regions," Williams said during a speech in Halifax Thursday evening.

"It's a project that, when completed, will reap benefits for many generations to come — and unlike oil, water flows forever."

One of his last deals as premier was the mega hydro power deal to develop the Lower Churchill Project.

Fast forward to 2016, and the status of the project is in limbo.

Last week, new Nalcor CEO Stan Marshall said he was unsure if it would be worth completing the project.

'Change our path'

Williams, now away from politics for more than five years, was the keynote speaker at Halifax Chamber of Commerce's annual spring dinner.

Williams spoke at length about what motivated him to enter government. 

"After years of watching in frustration as opportunities for growth were missed, lost or mismanaged, I had enough," Williams said.

"From the fishery to the Upper Churchill, I was determined to change our path in the history books."

​'Difficult and hard choices'

The recent budget tabled in St. John's painted a grim picture of the province's finances. It was laced with cuts, fees and taxes.

The situation is so bad, half of the provinces libraries are now being closed.

"Our most recent budget was probably one of the most toughest budgets you can imagine," Williams said.

"I appreciate that the government had to make some very difficult and hard choices."

But he ended his speech on a positive note.

He said the economy is, and always will be, cyclical and while it's currently in a valley, it will return to the top of the mountain in due time.

Career full of controversy

The former businessman and lawyer stormed into power when he led his Progressive Conservatives to a majority government in 2003, holding power until 2010. 

He's made the news many times for good humour and terse commentary.

And just last fall, CBC Newfoundland revealed his blind trust acquired land from the provincial housing corporation during his tenure as premier. 

'Arsehole from Newfoundland'

In a spat with Prime Minister Paul Martin over the Atlantic Accord, Williams ordered Canadian flags removed from provincial buildings.

His dislike for federal leaders hit a high note in his dealings with Prime Minister Stephen Harper when Williams rolled out his ABC campaign (Anything But Conservative).

"During our battles with the federal government with Paul Martin and Stephen Harper, I reputedly had a not-so-flattering nickname in the Prime Minister's Office," Williams said. 

"I was the asshole from Newfoundland, but if they really understood our Atlantic Canadian culture and identity, I would have been the arsehole from Newfoundland."

To the crowd, he was all about looking forward. He encouraged leaders in the room to work with the federal Liberal government to create a strategic plan for the Atlantic region. 

Arrest at Garth Brooks

The trip to Halifax was a return to the city where he received his law degree at Dalhousie University. 

"My first arrest actually came in Halifax — my only arrest, I might add," Williams said jokingly.

"I was detained when halfway through a Garth Brooks concert. I tried to bring some beer back into the concert when the auditorium doors were already closed."

Williams spread his message of innovation and positivity by leaving the crowd in stitches:

He even weighed in on Republican candidate Donald Trump: 

Despite the giggles, he left the crowd with pearls of wisdom:


Paul Palmeter is an award-winning video journalist born and raised in the Annapolis Valley. He has covered news and sports stories across Nova Scotia for 30 years.