Canadian Premier shuns own health care; comes to U.S. for surgery

Tuesday, February 2, 2010 - 12:59pm

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams will undergo heart surgery later this week in the United States.

Deputy premier Kathy Dunderdale confirmed the treatment at a news conference Tuesday, but would not reveal the location of the operation or how it would be paid for.

"He has gone to a renowned expert in the procedure that he needs to have done," said Ms. Dunderdale, who will become acting premier while Mr. Williams is away for three to 12 weeks.

"In consultation with his own doctors, he's decided to go that route."

Mr. Williams' decision to leave Canada for the surgery has raised eyebrows over his apparent shunning of Canada's health-care system.

"It was never an option offered to him to have this procedure done in this province," said Ms. Dunderdale, refusing to answer whether the procedure could be done elsewhere in Canada.

Mr. Williams, 59, has said nothing of his health in the media.

"The premier has made a commitment that once he's through this procedure and he's well enough, he's going to talk about the whole process and share as much detail with you as he's comfortable to do at that time," she said.

Ms. Dunderdale wouldn't say where in the U.S. Mr. Williams is seeking treatment.

A popular Progressive Conservative premier, Mr. Williams has also seen his share of controversy. During the 2008 federal election, Mr. Williams vehemently opposed the Conservative government, launching his "Anything But Conservative" — which has been credited with keeping the Tories from winning any seats in the province.

He's also drawn criticism for his support of the seal hunt.