The Telegram article saw Crosbie shifting the blame for the Muskrat Falls project onto the Liberals. “What they should have done was make sure that a proper stopgo analysis was done as soon as they got into office. They frittered that opportunity away,” he was quoted as saying. Crosbie is correct on the point, but he needs to deal with the ghastly mistakes of his own Party before he is ready to throw stones at his rival.
Not to his credit, Crosbie asserted: “… PCs are like everyone else in this world: we’re only human. If mistakes were made we’ll have to take the approach that that was then, and this is now,” he told the reporter.
Crosbie could be forgiven if Muskrat was actually just a “mistake”. But his assertion barely dignifies civility. Indeed, the view puts him at risk of falling into the same cesspool of deceit occupied by every recent Tory leader from Danny Williams to Paul Davis.
It is not just that all of them were reckless with the Treasury — as much as with the truth — or that they offended fundamental principles bearing on disclosure, transparency and oversight. It’s not even that their lack of civility towards legitimate criticism was offensive. Crosbie forgets that literally every leg of the business case for the project has fallen apart. Construction estimates, electricity demand forecast, oil price forecast, management capability, Water Management Agreement — not one has survived even the construction phase of the project. Not a single one.
For that reason, it seems absurd for the neophyte politician to have also asserted that “his party made decisions based on the best information available at the time.”
The “best information” to which Crosbie refers was given by not just one but two senior Panels — the Joint Federal/Provincial Environmental Panel and the PUB — and ignored. In so doing, the Tory leadership skewered a bright economic future for this place.
No one expects new political party leaders to have all the answers, especially given the enormity of our fiscal problems, including Muskrat. But reasonableness also suggests that a ‘new broom’ will not attempt to excuse the inexcusable, as Crosbie is attempting.
Understandably, accountability is not popular among partisans; any attempt to clean house will be resisted at every turn. But when the stench of recent leadership is so odious that it cannot be allowed to co-exist with a style of governance that is values-based — one we expect Crosbie to be guided by — it is incumbent on him to act.
Welcome to the challenge of leadership, Sir.
The defeat of most Tory Members in the last election has not voided the influence of the Williams tribe. Besides, the elephant in the room — Williams’ legacy — is inseparable from the growing questions that overhang the project sanction process.
If Crosbie is content to carry the can for Danny Williams, I suggest to him: good luck with that.
In truth, he will not be capable in Opposition any more than as head of the Government. The conflict between the ‘elephant’ and doing right by the public is simply too large.
In any democratic polity, the official Opposition is an integral part of the process of informing the public; its job is to explain problems, giving them context and dimension. They are expected to challenge the Government and to expose the absence of leadership.
Don’t forget, Premier Dwight Ball didn’t become feckless only when he arrived at the 8th Floor. The Liberals miserably failed to face down the Tory Government inside or outside the House of Assembly.
Was the process made difficult by the Tories? Yes. Was it impossible? No. It just wasn’t politically expedient for the Liberals to burn much political capital on a project the public supported. They were not willing to risk bursting the bubble that Danny Williams had inflated.
When Ball became Premier and Davis took over as Opposition leader, only the Government’s colour changed; the ineffectiveness did not end. It was worse than dull — it was conflicted.
Faced with confirmation from Consultants E&Y and from (selectively) frank-talking Stan Marshall, that Muskrat was a failure before it began, how could effective Opposition from Davis be reasonably expected? It wasn’t in him to do the honourable thing and resign. It wasn’t in the Party’s remnants to push him out or to recognize that his lingering presence was only causing the democratic deficit to worsen.
While Ches Crosbie is not an elected Member in the House of Assembly, as Party leader he is still expected to perform — to set new markers for a Party whose performance under Williams, Dunderdale, Marshall and Davis justifies less a period of rejuvenation than a day of judgement.
Admittedly, being leader of anything — a political Party or the neighbourhood social club — is not easy. Crosbie must have known that. He knew that he would be leading a Party in trouble; one that had blundered badly. Now that Party wants another chance — even before the public has been made fully aware of their misdeeds, for which the Liberals are largely to blame.
Perhaps Crosbie is vying for the uninformed vote. If that is not the case, he can’t justifiably ask for anyone’s support until he can tell them that the culprits have been banished.
Crosbie should quit the talking and start shaking things up. If the PC Party is ever to be worthy of a second chance, he must shake out the self-aggrandizing blunderers who have delivered the province into an abyss.
Crosbie must stop this sordid business of dragging around Danny’s and Kathy’s baggage.
“Best information available”? Crosbie must have been talking to Nalcor.
I would offer this simple advice: No leader should be so burdened that they are unable to carry the can for the public.