BY CHARLIE GILLIS • It’s taken some time to gain traction, but an alternate narrative to the Danny Williams Success Story began circulating in Newfoundland last week, finding a receptive audience both inside and outside the province. In a manifesto-style speech to a gathering of oil industry types in St. John’s, Craig Westcott, publisher of the upstart newspaper the BusinessPost, painted the province’s tough-talking premier as a power-mad demagogue whose hardline tactics against offshore
oil developers will soon beggar his people. “Danny Williams loves power,” said the veteran journalist, who is known as a tough talker in his own right. “He lives for it. He revels in it. He likes to show everyone he’s the boss.” The result, said Westcott, is a population afraid to speak out against actions that are dam-
aging the economy. “You’ve got to watch your Ps and Qs, stroke his ego,” he said in his address.
To put it mildly, Westcott is swimming upstream. The premier’s approval rating stands at a stunning 74 per cent; even members ofWestcott’s audience seem uneasy with his stridency. “As at the end of any speech, he was given customary applause by the audience,” says Ted Howell, president and CEO of the Newfoundland Ocean Industries Association, who was careful not to endorse any ofWestcott’s depictions of the premier. As for Williams himself, a spokeswoman dismissed Westcott as a serial exaggerator who has been “incredibly, incredibly critical” of the premier in the past.
Perhaps. But Westcott’s methodical attack seems to have struck a chord, drawing record readership when transcripts surfaced on political blogs in Newfoundland, generating rich fodder for open-line radio shows. By Monday, his words were filling the inboxes of government and media types in Ottawa. Not quite a groundswell, Westcott cautions, but the buzz just might cause some Newfoundlanders to staring thinking critically about their leader. “I’ve never seen a guy enjoy so much popular support,” he says. “Personally, I think it’s kind of dangerous.” M
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