Hardly a creature stirring with less than an hour to go before parade time, though the rain had just let up when I snapped this. As I type, the sidewalks are indeed getting thicker. It seems many parade-goers were on standby, at the ready for the moment the rain broke.
And in case you were wondering, Ziggy’s on the scene, just a few feet up the road from his normal spot pulling double duty as a road block.
I stumbled on wet snow as I exited Christian’s Pub on George Street. It was March 3, 2006. Every television in every bar had been tuned to CNN, and the streets were now filling with revelers. Someone yelled out drunkenly, “I’m gonna go club a seal!”. As the street erupted in cheering, I could look past the hyperbolic barbarism to see the humor and appreciate the victory. Our premier had just finished debating one of the four most famous people in the world, on international television. By all accounts, he’d won, too.
The fallout from this one interview had consequences that you might not be aware of if you’ve lived in St. John’s for the past four years. I’ve seen it everywhere I’ve lived, from Vancouver to Ottawa. I’ve seen people’s envy that our underdog province finally got a leader who would stand up to anyone for our best interests. Coworkers in Ontario confided in me their wishes that they had such a leader – someone they felt they could trust.
This one interview changed the worlds’ perception of Newfoundland and Labrador for the positive. People already knew that we were a province full of people with unrivaled generosity and warmth, as they’d seen on September 11th. What was new to them was the idea that we were not the lazy, lovable but stupid do-nothings they’d heard in so many crude jokes. They learned that our soft hearts were balanced out by a backbone. A spine deserving of respect.
Granted, this backbone has stood up to our own workers, too. Most notably, Nurses have been forced to bear the brunt of an ineffective provincial health care administration all the way to the picket lines. From what I’ve heard over beers, this is mostly because of seniority problems and a lack of qualified professionals willing to shake things up on the island when they could be making so much more money in other artificially inflated private markets like the United States.
From a charismatic leader, there were no solutions for this problem. Our aging and ailing demographic of baby boomers may end up draining the newly replenished coffers via hospital and doctors’ bills in future years.
Still, with a 90%+ approval rating, Danny boy exits on a high note: a conservative even a liberal could love. What was seemingly a terrible economic and political decade for most of North America has been our best. With infrastructure and resources in place to last us into the next decades, it’s a good time to reminisce, think on and rise to the challenge of how we can make the future just as good as our recent past. How can we stay the course on our windfalls and keep from being idealogs by changing course on our conservative shortcomings? (Stay healthy and eat less Ches’s, that’s for sure.)
The most important thing Danny achieved during his seven years is perhaps the most subtle.
Around 10 years ago Newfoundland and Labrador was a pretty desperate place. Yes, there was a glimmer of hope, but generally times were tough.
We’ve always been a proud people, but before Danny we were like Rocky in the 5th round, battered, bruised and gasping for air. We were not tough, we were not confident and we certainly were not the proud fighting Newfoundland and Labrador of our forefathers.
Danny changed that.
We’re now united thanks to Mr. Williams. We hold our heads high and take no guff from anyone else. Like Rocky, we battled back under Danny, fighting for what was ours with Danny as our big hitter. Standing up for us on a national and international level, he was not a member of the “old boys club” in Ottawa, screwing Newfoundlanders with a nod-n-wink in a backroom.
Lots of other writers will make claims like “we’ll never see someone else like Danny” and others will write about “the real Danny” telling all the bad things he’s done and taking one last chance to throw a brick.
But who cares, he showed us how we should be as true, proud Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. Under Danny we became one group, ready to fight, ready to stand tall and stand together. As a people we became, one united.
Somewhere out there is a boy or girl with politics in their future. Influenced by Danny, they’ve learned what being a member of this province entails. Sometime in the future, when times are tough, that person will rise to the top and lead us with strength, confidence and zeal… uniting us again as one, just like Danny has.