Danny Williams leaving 'best job in the world'
Published Thursday, November 25, 2010 9:52PM EST
An emotional Danny Williams announced Thursday he is leaving politics on Dec. 3 after spending seven years as the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, which he called "the best job in the world."
Speaking to CTV's Power Play on Friday afternoon, Williams said his decision was spurred by the simple fact that he has achieved many of his political aims.
"It's a bittersweet moment for me," said Williams, adding that his province is now enjoying a boost of confidence after shedding a "have-not" tag in recent years.
"We're felling good about ourselves, and Canada is feeling good about us."
Earlier in the day, Williams announced that Deputy Premier Kathy Dunderdale will take over until a new leader is elected by the party.
The popular and charismatic premier was met with thunderous applause as he walked to the microphone to make the announcement at the provincial legislature. He finally had to tell members to stop applauding so he could make his speech.
Williams has been premier since 2003, and the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland and Labrador since 2001.
At 60, Williams is in the midst of his second term as premier.
Williams said he was fully prepared to stay on for another term. But with the completion of a new deal earlier this week to develop the Lower Churchill hydroelectric project -- one of his key goals -- he said he realized it is time to move on.
The outspoken Williams recovered from heart surgery earlier this year and gradually returned to a full workload.
Williams' blustery style has embroiled him in numerous public battles -- most of which he has come out of as the victor.
He debated Sir Paul McCartney and his then-wife Heather Mills over Newfoundland's seal hunt, refused to fly the Canadian flag during a dispute with former prime minister Paul Martin about offshore oil revenues, and publicly challenged Prime Minister Stephen Harper about equalization payments.
Though Williams and Harper eventually made up, the federal Conservatives suffered collateral damage, losing all federal seats in the province in the next election.
Reflecting on those battles, Williams said that he and his government never went out looking for a fight. But if his province's interests were at risk, "I was quite prepared and quite delighted to take them on."
"I don't regret any of them, and if Stephen Harper happened to be one of those, so be it," he recalled.
When it came to the McCartney debate, Williams said that his life-long love of McCartney's music made that task more difficult.
"I grew up in the Beatles era," Williams said. "To have to take him on, on Larry King Live, was traumatic for me. That is probably the best way I can put it."
"If it had to be Paul, so be it."
Changing political tides
Williams denied that his decision was hastened by the political turmoil that has engulfed his contemporaries in Quebec and B.C.
B.C.'s Gordon Campbell recently announced his departure and Quebec Premier Jean Charest's tenure has been plagued by corruption allegations.
"I have to look at my own situation, and I've been very lucky," Williams said. "The timing worked out very, very well for me from that perspective."
Williams' also said his health had no part in the decision.
Earlier in the day, Williams spoke emotionally of his tenure.
"Today is one of those surreal days you think about from time to time out of curiosity, but you never let yourself go there fully because as you can see the reality is too overwhelming, and I have to say I do feel overwhelmed by the enormity of this today," he said.
"Orson Welles once said if you want a happy ending you need to know when to end your story and so I've called you all here today to announce the end of my story as the ninth premier of Newfoundland and Labrador."
"It is time for new leadership and new ideas within the PC party of Newfoundland and Labrador," he said.
CTV's Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife said it was Williams' tenacious and successful drive to get concessions from the oil and nickel companies that helped fill the province's once-empty coffers. That revenue in turn enabled the province to take on the $6.2-billion Lower Churchill project-- one of the largest energy projects underway in North America.
Under the plan, electricity will be generated in Labrador's Muskrat Falls on the Churchill River, then transported through Newfoundland and on to Nova Scotia and likely the eastern U.S.
Prior to his time in politics, Williams was a criminal lawyer and a cable TV mogul.
He was sometimes called "Danny Millions" after he sold his company Cable Atlantic for $232-million in 2000.
As a young man, Williams was a Rhodes scholar and earned a degree at Oxford University. He also earned a law degree at Dalhousie University.