There was a little blurb in last Saturday Globe and Mail talking about the possibility of Chief of Defense Staff, Gen. Rick Hiller succeeding Danny Williams as leader of the Conservative party in Newfoundland and then becoming, de facto, the next premier of Newfoundland and Labrador. Although I found it later, Scott Feschuk of Macleans also mentions Hillier's possible future in politics.
I'm sure this rumor has been kicking around in Newfoundland for quite some time, especially given the very public profile Hillier has nationally these days. Rick Mercer made the quip on his show that Hillier was the most powerful Newfoundlander alive, and like many things Mercer says, it's funny and not exactly wrong.
I can't imagine Hillier wanting to go quietly into retirement once his job with the Canadian armed forces is over. I'm sure Ed probably knows how much longer he has in his current position, which I think has a mandatory length of time, but it can't be more than another couple of years since he's already been at the job more than two years.
Then what? Well, he'll probably take some time off, maybe write a book and then, yeah, I could see him entering politics. The timing would work pretty well for him, I should think. And yeah, if he wanted Danny's job, I don't think too many people are going to be able to beat him.
I have my reservations. Granted, he seems like a nice enough guy. He's had one hell of a tough job, trying to fix the mess the Canadian armed forces have been for the past decade or so. And despite the controversy about whether or not Canada should be in Afghanistan, I haven't heard many people say that Canadian forces are doing a bad job over there. In fact, most of what I've read said they've performed with distinction.
A lot of that has to do with the men and women on the ground, of course. But let's not forget, if things were going horrifically then the first people on the media firing squad would be the generals running the show. People might complain about Hillier's public profile and a few of his mistakes, but by all accounts, people seem to like and respect him and the job he's doing. People can also correct me on this, but when people have publicly called the armed forces on some flaw, they've been generally pretty quick to try and fix the problem. Well, quick for the military.
And really, you have to ask, if the man is making a go at organizing an army to help rebuild Afghanistan, how hard could it be to try to fix Newfoundland?
The thing of it is, Hillier is still a little too high profile, still a little too much willing to speak out in public and criticize when he doesn't get his way. And, well, the military is one thing, politics is quite another. I appreciate that in his position, he needs some political skills. But being premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, especially once Williams is done, isn't like being thrown in the deep end. It's being thrown off the edge of the Grand Banks.
I'd like to see someone a touch quieter and more willing to just go and do the work and not pick fights all the time. I've said already that from what I've seen of her, I think Elizabeth Marshall would make an excellent premier, but we shall see how things shape up.
I guess one good thing, though. If Hillier expresses an interest and a groundswell builds up around him as potentially the next premier, it might inspire the knives to come out for Danny. You get the feeling there is more than one frustrated Conservative out there right now with Williams. But few in the caucus have the clout to stand up to him, let alone bump him off. But someone like Hillier, who is well beyond Williams' ability to control or attack, could certainly do the job.
Wouldn't that make an interesting bit of political theatre...