ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — He’s prone to flashes of temper and personal attacks, but Danny Williams says he still likes being Canada’s most popular premier and wants a third term.
“I feel stronger, better than I ever did before,” the Newfoundland and Labrador leader told reporters last week.
“I know we’ve got a lot of issues in the province, but that’s what the job is all about. And, you know, I enjoy that.
“We’re 18 months from an election and we’ll be good and ready,” he said of the fixed dated vote planned for Oct. 11, 2011.
Questions were raised about the premier’s demeanour after some especially nasty public tussles.
He is also recovering from heart valve surgery in February — a procedure that sparked a medicare uproar because he chose to have it done in Florida.
In recent weeks and days, Williams has made headlines for rhetorical attacks on doctors, a Quebec judge and a furious exchange in the legislature with NDP Leader Lorraine Michael.
Williams erupted last month under pointed questioning from Michael, a diminutive former nun. She asked when the premier would stop “grandstanding” and reach a deal with doctors ensnared in protracted, increasingly bitter contract talks with the province.
“This is about getting an agreement and bringing good health care to the people of the province — not playing cheap, dirty politics like you do,” Williams yelled across the house of assembly.
“Holier than thou, the member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi!”
Last week, Williams went after a ruling by Quebec Judge Clement Gascon dismissing the province’s environmental claims against insolvent AbitibiBowater.
Williams wants to force the restructuring company to cover cleanup work that could cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
But Williams has admitted that in the government’s rush to expropriate Abitibi assets — a move the company is challenging under the North American Free Trade Agreement — it mistakenly seized a paper mill that needs pricey cleanup work.
That gaffe has been rich fodder for Liberal critics who say the province, already facing a $194-million deficit, is likely on the hook for those costs.
The government is appealing Gascon’s ruling.
“Gascogne … Gascon … the Great Gatsby or whatever his name is,” Williams said in the house on Monday.
“The honourable judge in Quebec obviously has no time for Newfoundland and Labrador, and what he has done has gone beyond his constitutional competence.
“He made palpable and overriding errors of fact.”
The premier’s popularity speaks for itself, and he has never shrunk from speaking his mind.