Timeline: Williams Government, 2007-2010

Sept/Oct 2007 The provincial general election campaign was widely seen as lacking in issues and competition. The Liberals and New Democrats were underfunded and had difficulty finding candidates. With the Progressive Conservatives enjoying 79 per cent of voter support (according to the polls), there were predictions that the party might win all 48 seats in the House of Assembly. The Liberals argued that Williams was ignoring the fisheries and outmigration to pursue an oil-driven agenda, while the New Democrats focussed on health care and social reforms. The Conservatives pledged to continue their fight to protect non-renewable resources from the federal equalization formula.
9 October 2007 The Conservatives were re-elected with an increased majority, winning 44 out of 48 seats, and 70 per cent of the popular vote. The Liberals won three seats and the NDP one. "So there's a message here, Steve," Williams told supporters in St. John's. "If you want to take my team on, you have to take on all of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador."
10 October 2007 Ottawa and Nova Scotia reached an agreement over the equalization formula. Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered the same arrangement to Newfoundland and Labrador, but Williams refused, saying it will ultimately cost the province $10 billion by 2020.
13 November 2007 The Liberal leader Gerry Reid, who lost his riding to Conservative Derrick Dalley by 12 votes, resigned from politics.
15 November 2007 Liberal MHA Yvonne Jones became interim leader of the provincial Liberals.
30 November 2007 Harper met with Williams to discuss the equalization formula during a visit to St. John's. They "agreed to disagree."
10 December 2007 In a financial update, Finance Minister Tom Marshall projected a record $881.8-million surplus for the 2007-2008 fiscal year, the result of high oil prices, increased production from offshore platforms, and the revised Atlantic Accord. The money would be used to pay down the provincial debt. Marshall also announced the province would adopt the same equalization formula as Nova Scotia for one year.
14 January 2008 Williams announced to reporters that he will campaign against Harper in the next federal election.
4 February 2008 John Crosbie, a former provincial and federal cabinet minister, replaced Edward Roberts as Lieutenant-Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador.
18 March 2008 The provincial government revealed that 383 Eastern Health patients received incorrect breast cancer test results between 1997 and 2005, and that 108 had since died.
29 April 2008 The budget predicted a $544-million surplus in 2008-09, and an end to the province's 'have-not' status in 2009-10, when it would not qualify for equalization payments. Rising oil prices helped push the 2007-08 surplus to a record $1.4 billion.
20 August 2008 The deal to develop Hebron, Newfoundland and Labrador's fourth oilfield, was finalized. Hebron was expected to pump first oil in 2017 and earn the province $20 billion in revenues during its 20- to 25-year lifespan.
7 September 2008 A federal election was called for 14 October 2008. Williams began an "Anything But Conservative" (ABC) campaign against the federal Conservatives.
26 September 2008 The province and the Innu Nation signed the Tshash Petapen (or New Dawn) Agreement. It addressed key issues relating to Innu land claims, the impact of the anticipated Lower Churchill hydroelectric development, and compensation for the impact of the 1969 Churchill Falls hydroelectric development.
14 October 2008 The federal election allowed the Conservatives to form a minority government. They were shut out of Newfoundland and Labrador, where six Liberals and one New Democrat were elected. (In 2006, the province sent three Conservatives and four Liberals to Ottawa.)
15 October 2008 Williams and Harper tentatively agreed to end their feud.
28 October 2008 When testifying before the Cameron judicial inquiry into faulty breast cancer tests done by the Eastern Health Authority between 1997 and 2005, Williams apologized to the patients and their families who were affected by the errors.
31 October 2008 The Cameron Inquiry heard from its final witness, a Labrador woman who was not informed that her test was flawed until eight years after she was diagnosed.
3 November 2008 Newfoundland and Labrador stopped receiving equalization payments for the first time in the program's 51-year history, making it a 'have' province. Williams predicted that the province would not receive equalization for at least two more years.
15 December 2008 The Montreal-based forestry company AbitibiBowater announced the closure of the century-old paper mill in Grand Falls-Windsor, with its 800 workers, on 28 March 2009. The move was explained by declining demand for newsprint in North American markets.
16 December 2008 The legislature passed legislation expropriating AbitibiBowater's assets. The government said its actions were validated by the original 1905 agreement which, it argued, tied the company's rights to the operation of a mill.
12 February 2009 AbitibiBowater shut down its Grand Falls-Windsor mill, putting about 800 people out of work.
3 March 2009 The government released the Cameron report on flawed breast cancer tests. The document harshly criticized the Eastern Health Authority for the hundreds of test mistakes between 1997 and 2005, for failing to tell some patients about the errors in a timely fashion, and for failing to put in place adequate quality control measures. It also criticized the provincial Department of Health. Cameron made 60 recommendations, and the government said it would act quickly on at least half of them. The Eastern Health Authority apologized to patients affected by the faulty test results and offered compensation.
12 March 2009 A Cougar Sikorsky S-92a helicopter crashed off Newfoundland's east coast while bringing workers to the Hibernia and White Rose oilfields. Seventeen people died. There was one survivor.
26 March 2009 The provincial budget forecasted a deficit ($750 million) for the first time in four years, but recorded a $2.4-billion surplus for the 2008-09 fiscal year. The sharp change was attributed to a drop in oil production and prices. The Finance Minister, Jerome Kennedy, also placed some of the blame on changes to the equalization formula in the federal budget. The budget set aside $2.6 billion for health care, including $21 million to implement some recommendations made in the Cameron Report.
18 January 2010 Nalcor said it would file a legal challenge in the Quebec Superior Court to reopen the 1969 Churchill Falls contract.
1 February 2010 The press reported that Williams had flown to the United States for heart surgery. The news drew well wishes, but also questions about the quality and accessibility of Canada's health-care system.
2 February 2010 Deputy Premier Kathy Dunderdale told reporters that the province did not provide the kind of surgery Williams needed, and that doctors advised him to travel to the United States.
17 February 2010 The Innu Nation, Innu Band Councils, the provincial government, and Nalcor Energy signed a Land Claims Agreement in Principle, a Lower Churchill Project Impacts and Benefits Agreement, and an Upper Churchill Redress Agreement. The documents gave legal weight to the 2008 New Dawn Agreement, but final agreements remained subject to negotiations with the federal government and ratification by the Innu people.
25 February 2010 AbitibiBowater announced it had filed a complaint with NAFTA over the expropriation of some of its Newfoundland assets by the provincial government in 2008. It was seeking $500 million in compensation. NAFTA challenges are a federal responsibility.
15 March 2010 Williams returned to work after heart surgery in Florida.
29 March 2010 The provincial government's budget forecast a second deficit in as many years, projecting a shortfall of $194 million for 2010-11. Drops in oil prices and production, alongside a global recession, were largely to blame.
24 August 2010 Ottawa announced it had settled with AbitibiBowater, paying $130 million to resolve the company's claim that Newfoundland and Labrador had illegally expropriated some of its assets.
18 November 2010 Williams and Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter announced a $6.2-billion agreement to jointly develop the Lower Churchill hydroelectric megaproject. The Newfoundland and Labrador Crown corporation Nalcor would build the first phase of the project, an 800-megawatt site at Muskrat Falls in Labrador, and would partner with Halifax-based Emera Inc. to install subsea power lines to transmit energy to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. The deal could result in the sale of power to New Brunswick and the United States. It was subject to approval by regulators in both provinces, and to Ottawa's acceptance of an Innu land claim that includes Muskrat Falls. The Innu Nation will participate in the Lower Churchill project if it does proceed and collect about five per cent of royalties.
25 November 2010 Williams announced he would retire from politics in one week and that Deputy Premier Kathy Dunderdale would take over as acting premier. He said he would not enter federal politics. "Orson Welles once said that if you want a happy ending, you need to know when to end your story. So I've called you here today to announce the end of my story as a ninth premier of Newfoundland and Labrador." Williams said he had accomplished many of the goals he set for himself, and that "with the completion of the Lower Churchill deal it is time for new leadership and new ideas within the PC Party of Newfoundland and Labrador."
3 December 2010 Williams officially left office and Dunderdale became PC leader and the first woman to be premier in Newfoundland and Labrador. All three of the province's main political parties were now led by women: Yvonne Jones led the Liberals, and Lorraine Michael the New Democrats. Dunderdale again made history on 11 October 2011, when voters made her the province's first elected female premier. The general election returned 37 Conservatives, six Liberals, and five NDP members.

Article by Jenny Higgins. ©2012, Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Web Site

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