Thursday, 5 June 2014


The recent combative, even feisty tones of John Crosbie somehow triggered my memory of a couple of lines from an old Simon and Garfunkel tune:

Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio
A nation turns its lonely eyes to you (Woo, woo, woo)

It may appear improper, even unfair, that anyone should possess large and unwieldy expectations of an octogenarian, especially one who has served the Province long and well. 

But when John Crosbie came out swinging, on Monday, with Danny Williams in his sights, he stirred up memories of the “old” days; after all his reputation wasn't built upon a single "we got it" which quickly evaporated.  

Inside political hot houses he was referred to, respectfully, as “JCC”.  Those barely weaned, in the ’60s and ‘70s remember him for his fearless rebuke of Joe Smallwood and his cronies, especially the carpetbaggers John Shaheen and John C. Doyle. Later generations remember him, too.  

He was a tour de force in Frank Moores’ Cabinet.  When he ran Federally, serving as a Minister in the Federal Cabinet, he was akin to a Don Jamieson on speed.  His ability to loosen the Federal Government’s purse strings, during the cod moratorium, prevented great human misery and helped rural Newfoundland to survive a lot longer. 

His success at having Ottawa take Gulf Oil’s 8.5% share of the Hibernia Project was instrumental in getting offshore oil production moving.  

Not one for braggadocio, Crosbie is a politician with a real history.  That’s why people still listen to him.

He and Brian Peckford had their tiffs, but rarely did it get personal; that trademark was reserved for Danny Williams.

Paul Simon said his lines were a tribute to DiMaggio’s “unpretentious heroic stature….” Politics seldom finds occasion for unanimity, as in baseball; but few would argue Crosbie was an immense figure, a Joe DiMaggio in a blood sport.

It was fitting that the recent fuss should all start when Crosbie turned up the volume on Ray Guy Night – a celebration of the man whose impact on our politics, especially during the Smallwood years, is still being defined.  Even posthumously, Ray Guy seems able to stir up mischief. 

Who better to bring out the best in one and the worst in another! 

It was vintage Crosbie.  But, it was typical Danny Williams, too. 

Crosbie said it was a "bloody pity" that there is no Ray Guy to deal with the current political situation in the Province with an uncontested Frank Coleman heading for the Premier’s Office and a Cabinet and Caucus unable to produce a single person willing to run.

Crosbie described as “frustrating” and “discouraging” the state of democracy in the Province. He remarked that he has seen the P.C. Party reduced to a shambles with Williams’ meddling.

It wasn’t in Danny Williams to say just say Crosbie was entitled to his opinion and to leave it there.

Jack had to be as good as his master, as they say.  He called Crosbie an ingrate: ‘I installed a half million dollar elevator at Government House because he couldn’t climb the stairs, Danny sulked, giving no quarter to the requirement that Government Buildings should be wheelchair accessible.  In essence, Danny was saying, as if the money came out of his own pocket: I did him a favour, he shouldn’t be pickin’ on me.

It’s not difficult to see why Ray Guy made it seem easy to invoke characters like Aunt Cissy Roach.  For certain, she would certainly have called Williams a “mawmouth”.  If she was in a good mood, which was rarely, she might have called him “the gall of a spavined bullock”, to his face. 

Danny would not have answered her back unless he wanted to get a crack from the handle of Aunt Cissy’s “double-bit axe”. Crosbie didn't need to be spiteful. He made a public display of dropping Danny with a crash; akin to what the voters did in Virginia Waters.

Crosbie didn’t require Nick McGrath to invoke any force majeure for him, either, as he did for Coleman.

What Crosbie had in mind was not the ‘one’ person but the whole Province.  He did what Ray Guy was unable; the latter having permanently taken his place among the ‘Greats’. 

In the blunt style that belies a steadfast character Crosbie sent a message, perhaps even a warning, about the poor state of the Tory Party and the Government. 


Related Reading:          ODE TO RAY GUY

                                        CROSBIE CAN'T BE SERIOUS

But the media recognized the man, too.  The same crowd that seem to know only road kill and weather still chased Crosbie for every utterance. The notice is a testament to his etched cache.

Why do warriors like Crosbie still matter?  For the very reason Crosbie cites: the absence of a mature democracy and the willingness of some to shag with our democratic institutions. 

He is needed as counterweight to people like Danny Williams; the latter too corporately conflicted and blinkered to be a worthy speaker for the public interest.

It is a pity that John Crosbie did not become more politically engaged in the days following the end of his tenure, as Lieutenant Governor.  The “anti-Muskrat Falls” camp needed one of his stature as a spokesperson to butt heads with the Dunderdale/Ed Martin propaganda machine.  Though Crosbie endorsed that Project, I have always thought his position inconsistent with his long history of condemning stupidity and misspending. 

Until he confirms that he seriously reviewed the business case for that Project, I am forced to conclude that he was speaking from his heart (the concept) rather than his head (the numbers).

That said, his re-emergence as an opinion-maker is important.  The Tory Party has not served us well; it is in the grip of a ‘puppeteer’.  No one likes their Government controlled by interests other than the public interest, even if the puppeteer is named ‘Danny’.

Love him or hate him, Crosbie has raised the alarm.  In his own words:
“We have the same problems in Newfoundland here today. They never change. All kinds of skulduggery…we haven’t advanced very far in political life here in Newfoundland...they can’t even organize a leadership convention.”

Frank Coleman likely won't interpret his comments as a ringing endorsement of his leadership.

Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?  Farewell, Ray Guy. 

There’s still lots of life in John Crosbie.


  1. The speech given by crosbie marked the epitath of the Danny Williams legacy. The shine has come off Williams in the past 6 months. The public has awakened and now see his political record for what it is. 20 Billion of oil revenue spent on what? Increased public debt? Inflated public sector, and the creation of the legarthic Nalcor.

    In watching the Nalcor AGM yesterday the same old language from Ed Martin is growing tired. Rhetoric of mamoth dividends, with no real evidence of the same. The reality is that Nalcor are doing less with more. The net revenue in 2013 is less than that from the 2000-2003 period, adjusted with inflation.

  2. I pondered the same question. Why didn't Mr. Crosbie speak up sooner? It appears that the governing party is on the ropes and is going to lose the next election. I also find it strange that he endorsed the Muskrat Falls project. It makes no fiscal sense to me at all. The die hard supporters of the project are hanging their hopes on the fact that in 2041 the power contract with Hydro Quebec will be over, and we will be able to re-route that 5000 megawatts into the United States. (whoops...the line they are building won't handle that much power)
    Maybe there will be a miracle, and the Americans will stop burning coal, and shale gas.
    Start praying now, or we're shagged.

  3. As usual, I find your comments both entertaining and enlightening. Danny boy should learn to stand back and let the executive of the party run the business. He had his day and that day is long gone. His performance while he thinks was nothing short of stellar, was nothing more than good fortune given the price of oil during his reign. As pointed out in the above comment, where did all the money go??

    Then you have his hand picked replacement, Kathy Dunderdale and we know where that got us and her in the end. Now he has hand picked Frank Coleman and in doing so removed all possibility of another contender having a fair and democratic opportunity to run for the leadership of the party and become premier. On that note, his recent comments in the Telegram, in response to John Crosbie was laudable. It went something along the lines of, when no one ran against him for the top job, there was nothing wrong with it, and things worked out just fine. I guess in his way of thinking, if it was good for the goose, then it's good for every other gander out there, "provided" he gets to hand pick from the flock. What a sad little man he is and even more sad, the fact that the party allowed this to happen.

    Looking at who we have running the province and how they are handling matters such as Nalcor is to say the least very concerning. Shea's resignation and Marshall's announcement that he's gone as soon as Frank Coleman sits in his chair, is but another example of just how much damage has been done and how bad things have gotten. I guess it paints a picture of rats jumping off of a sinking ship. Frank Coleman is not going to save the party and neither is he going to stick around as leader of the opposition following an election. Perhaps he should stick to paving roads or then again maybe not, given his performance in Labrador.

    Look forward to your next commentary.

  4. I was intrigued, but not totally surprised, by Mr. Crosbie's comments about the state of the PC Party in the province. It demonstrates what so many many people are thinking but don't have the courage to voice publicly….a state of affairs I attribute to the mafia-like machinations of this party and its leaders during the past 10 years.

    Like you, I am baffled by Mr. Crosbie's endorsement of the Muskrat Falls deal, in light of the obvious flaws in the project. I can only hope that he is merely blinded by the government's propaganda machine, although that does not fit with Mr. Crosbie's persona. I am of the opinion that people with money to invest are going to gain a lot of personal or company wealth with this development….. and that is mainly why many in the business community are keeping quiet. I find that disconcerting and a sad commentary on what it means to be a proud Newfoundlander. It is, from my perspective, a sell out of our own people.

  5. Great column, John and I very much enjoyed it. We forwarded it to our nine grandchildren.

    Jane & John Crosbie