Cablegate: Newfoundland's Premier Orders Canadian Flags

Published: Wed 29 Dec 2004 08:08 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Premier Danny Williams of Newfoundland and
Labrador took the unusual step of ordering the Canadian Flag
removed from all provincial buildings on Thursday, December
23. Williams was reacting to another failure to negotiate a
deal with the Federal government on offshore oil revenue and
equalization transfer payments, and contends that PM Martin
broke his word, leaving Newfoundland and Labrador yet again
on the short end of the federal-provincial stick. While
Newfoundland and Labrador thrive on a sense of historical
alienation and the move may play well locally, it could also
serve to generate ill will for his cause nationally. END
2. (SBU) Premier Danny Williams of Newfoundland and Labrador
ordered that the Canadian Flag be removed from all provincial
buildings on Thursday, December 23. Williams was reacting to
another failure to negotiate a deal with the Federal
government on offshore oil revenue and equalization transfer
payments. The cities of St. John's and Corner Brook have
joined the Premier by ordering that the Canadian flag be
removed from municipal buildings, and Mount Pearl, a bedroom
community of St. John,s, raised a pre-confederation
Newfoundland flag. To the best of post,s knowledge this is
the first time in the recent past that a province has lowered
the Canadian flag in a protest against the Canadian
3. (SBU) Premier Williams and Premier John Hamm of Nova
Scotia were invited to Winnipeg, Manitoba last week to
negotiate an offshore petroleum revenue deal with Federal
Finance Minister Ralph Goodale and Natural Resources Minister
John Effort. Williams left the meetings on December 22 very
unhappy with the government,s proposal, stating have
slapped us in the face at Christmas time. I can tell you we
will not forget this, believe me.8 He immediately returned
to Newfoundland and called a press conference where he
announced the lowering of the Canadian flag. Williams has
not been quoted on the issue since the press conference.
(NOTE: Minister Effort is the only Federal cabinet minister
from Newfoundland. He has supported the Prime Minister on
this issue, while other Liberal backbench MPs from
Newfoundland have not. END NOTE)
4. (SBU) PM Martin has responded strongly to the Premier,s
actions, calling it and stating that the
flag should not be used as a tool for partisan politics.
Opposition Leader Harper has previously noted his general
support for Premiers Williams and Hamm in their fight with
the Feds and states that the problem is an example of the
Prime Minister,s inability to make a decision.8
He has, however, been conspicuously silent since the flag
5. (SBU) William,s argument is that PM Martin broke his word
in a deal he made with the Premier to change the offshore oil
revenue transfer payment formula, and says this is only the
latest example of an ongoing pattern of Newfoundland and
Labrador getting bad deals from the Federal Government.
Other historical examples, Williams contends, include
hydro-electric power, fishing rights, and mineral rights.
6. (SBU) Comment: Premier Williams may be taking this
dramatic action to further solidify local public opinion, and
by using the Canadian flag he gains a national stage for the
offshore revenue issue as well. Newfoundland and Labrador
possess a sense of historical alienation as a resource rich
province that is stuck in have-not status and Political
Science Professor Stephen Tomblin of Memorial University in
St. John's predicts that Williams' local popularity will only
grow as a result of this recent action. But bringing the
flag into the debate also raises the risk of creating
ill-will among potential supporters elsewhere, and could make
it difficult for other provincial premiers or federal
officials to support him in the future.
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