Premier of Newfoundland Danny Williams stepping down

Thu Nov 25, 2010 12:06pm EST
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By Jeffrey Jones and David Ljunggren

CALGARY/OTTAWA (Reuters) - Danny Williams, premier of the oil-producing Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, said on Thursday he was leaving politics after seven years, having clinched a much sought-after hydroelectric deal.

An emotional Williams, who had heart surgery in February, said he would resign on December 3. Deputy Premier Kathy Dunderdale will take over until the ruling Progressive Conservative party can elect a new leader.

"If you want a happy ending, you need to know when to end your story ... It is time for new leadership and new ideas within the PC party of Newfoundland and Labrador," Williams told a news conference in the capital, St John's.

The famously scrappy leader listed accomplishments he said helped the country's Easternmost province move from "have-not" status to "have," including winning more energy-royalty revenues from Ottawa, gaining more of a take from offshore oil projects and, last week, signing an agreement to develop the Lower Churchill Falls hydro project.

He said the C$6.2 billion ($6.1 billion) deal with Nova Scotia's Emera Inc will cushion the blow of a 1969 agreement with Hydro Quebec for the first Churchill Falls project, in which Quebec reaps most of the benefits.

Williams, 61, has been a relentless promoter of Newfoundland's natural resources sector. It is now Canada's third-largest oil-producing province.

He began his tenure as premier by criticizing the world's oil majors for what he said were overly rich deals for developing the Atlantic province's oil reserves. He successfully negotiated higher royalties and equity stakes for new projects, such as the Hebron development, and now brags about his strong ties with the industry.

A Progressive Conservative, Williams is a fiery character and not afraid to speak his mind. In 2008, after a clash with Conservative Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper over how much money the province could keep from its resources earnings, he urged voters to shun the federal party.   Continued...

<p>Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams announces his retirement from politics in St. John's, Newfoundland on Thursday, Novermber 25, 2010. REUTERS/Greg Locke</p>