At some point in 2002 — no one seems to know exactly when or where — Danny Williams said that "Any lawyer worth a grain of salt could drive a Mack truck through" the Voisey's Bay deal.
In a May 6, 2002 PC party press release, he said, "The people need to know that the government is about to sign a bad deal."
In a bout of dyspepsia — the poor man suffers from it frequently, and ought to have it seen to — he told the House of Assembly on June 19th of that year:
For the last two days I have been going around — and I feel it tonight — with a sick, nauseated feeling in my stomach, that feeling that you have when something wrong is about to happen, something terribly wrong. The reason I find I have that feeling in my stomach is that the reason I personally got involved in politics was to stop the giveaways. In my address in April of last year the main theme of the address was to stop the giveaways - enough is enough - to stop giving away the resources of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, to give these resources back to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.
I cannot vote for this resolution because a vote for this resolution, in my opinion, is a vote for a giveaway, and I believe that we can do much better than this eighteen page Statement of Principles.
He really ought to have taken some Rolaids, telling reporters the next day:
"I've got to tell you I felt worse today and that's the truth... I still have that same feeling based on the statement of principles that we have before us, that we've done something wrong here... It's a terrible document. It's the worst legal document I have ever seen. It's not even a legal document because it's not legally enforceable."Speaking of the proposed Lower Churchill development in the House on November 21, 2002, he used the V-word as a pejorative:
I do agree with the Premier on one thing: It is Voisey’s Bay two and it is, in fact, Churchill River number two as well.On December 11, he used the dreaded G-word:
Mr. Speaker, in light of the fact that the Premier has decided not to play Santa Claus for Quebec this Christmas I thought we would move from the Lower Churchill to another gift, another giveaway, Voisey’s Bay.And the next day, he filed through his vast legal knowledge and long and successful career, pronouncing:
Mr. Speaker, in my thirty years of looking at legal documents, I have never seen a force majeure clause as open-ended as this one.On September 30, 2003, during an election campaign stop in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, PC leader Danny Williams said, "the Voisey's Bay deal was over-sold, over-hyped; Premier Grimes sold out."
Last year, he was citing the Voisey's Bay deal as the reason Inco could commit the mortal sin of moving its smelter from one location in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland, to another location, a few miles away, also in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland. As Craig Jackson reported in the Telegram of January 21, 2006:
Williams said the fact is the Voisey's Bay agreement was signed by the former Liberal government.On April 3, 2006, the Premier again cited the Voisey's Bay deal to imply that something was wrong with it:
The Tories, who were in Opposition at the time, publicly stated "you can drive a truck through it," the premier said.
Williams said Inco is using clauses contained within the agreement "to pull back out of Argentia."
The former Liberal government, which Reid was a member, also agreed to a confidentiality clause which "puts a piece of duct tape over our mouths," Williams said.
It restricts government from releasing any information on the matter, he said.
"To say that, you know, we've known about this for awhile and we can't disclose information, we're living by the terms of a poorly-negotiated agreement," Williams said.
Now, I am not going to go back and start to talk about the possible Lower Churchill deal that you were going to do, or Voisey’s Bay, and the implications of that, and where that has gone for the people of Placentia and Argentia, and where that is all at. Let’s just leave that.And, less than a year ago, CP reported:
Williams said he believes the Toronto-based Inco, which is about to be bought by Brazilian mining company Companhia Vale do Rio Doce, will live up to its obligations. But the premier added he has long been worried Inco may eventually back out.
"I've had the concern all along because of the weak agreement that's been signed here," Williams said Thursday...
"I'm disappointed," Williams said. "Now it looks like things are going to start to lean towards moving to Long Harbour ... It's not something this government wants to do, however, if there's no indemnity and you don't have a strong, enforceable agreement, then we have no choice."
All of which made Wednesday's announcement on the Hebron Press Release of Principles all the more interesting, once reporters got to ask questions.
At about 1:44 into the video file, in response to a barely-audible question comparing the Hebron MOU to the Voisey's Bay Statement of Principles that he famously condemned, Danny Williams made this amazing concession:
Well, you have to put that in context, there were other issues with regard to that MOU that we had concerns about at the time, and I’m not gonna get into this, because I don’t want to diminish this announcement by diminishing that project, which is a good project, and I’m prepared to say that.
There you have it: Voisey's Bay. Not a giveaway. A good project. Not to be diminished. Danny says so.
Which makes you wonder — If Danny Williams, Great Negotiator™, with his ability to judge the quality of a contract or the value of a development, didn't know the difference between a good deal and a bad one back in 2002... what indication is there that he knows the difference now?The last word, for now, goes to Roger Grimes.
Speaking in the House of Assembly on December 12, 2002, the then-Premier said:
I guess the people of the Province are delighted to be discovering all these great loopholes that we have been waiting so long to find, that we are supposed to be able to drive Mack trucks through and so on, because they do not exist, Mr. Speaker, and the Leader of the Opposition has been exposed for what he was at that point in time — someone who made up a story and could not substantiate it.Give Grimes his due: he had Danny down to a T.
Too bad the current incumbent in office was never exposed as a storyteller, then or since, to the much greater extent that he should have been.