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Sunday 26 May 2013


He was always a jokester.  You could be splitting your sides and Crosbie would be dead pan serious.

If you were the serious one, John would be whoopin’ and hollerin’.  That’s just the way he is.

Same thing with his Saturday Telegram Column, "Muskrat Falls is worth the risk".   You might have
thought he had joined Kathy Dunderdale in support of Muskrat Falls.

But be careful with that one.  John’s approach to serious issues might differ from yours.

What tipped me off was his attempt to justify the Project with a single snippet from Bartlett’s Favourite Quotations.  Intoned Crosbie: “Only those who would risk going too far can possibly find out how far you can go.”  Cripes, he must have known T.S Eliot was pure giveaway.  He was saying, ‘don’t be surprised if you fall off the deep end’!   

After T.S. Eliot, he put down his pen.  That was another clue. Two years late, we still await Dunderdale’s explanation for how Muskrat is either necessary or economic.  John could have posted about this megaproject in the next fifty-two editions of The Telegram.  Yet, he hardly used up even one. 
The younger crows won’t remember, but the older ones will…it was Crosbie, along with Clyde Wells and Ray Guy, who helped ‘slay’ Joe Smallwood.  He extricated John Shaheen and John C. Doyle from the public purse, two gadflies who had big ideas, all of the Muskrat scale, and no money of their own.   He practically shoved his boot up their arse.  And we cheered him on!

With John on the loose, again, it’s just a wonder Ed Martin hasn’t needed rectal surgery.

As a Federal Cabinet Minister, he “delivered” and not in the way Peter Penashue suggests.  He was a damn good Minister.

John knows better than most, NL is a place that needs comic relief; on this, too, he has excelled.  Don’t discount humour in a place where you need a jack hammer to sow potatoes, Frank Moores used to say. Little wonder that for decades we put politicians on a pedestal.

After Smallwood, Crosbie recognized that people tend to put too much faith in political icons.  Likely, he and they discovered the risk that, too often, bombast is substituted for informed argument.

It is one thing for the current Premier to engage in Smallwoodian hyperbole to bolster Muskrat, but, Mr. Crosbie, given his personal political history, would reflexively, eschew this attraction, especially in matters financial. 

As Ray Guy might suggest, in a creaky voice: it’s good to have a healthy scepticism for things wrapped ‘in the flag’;  they are a better cure for rickets or rheumatism.

Crosbie makes no reference to the objections of Vardy, Penney or Martin, for whom he has the greatest respect.  And, he offers ‘neither a jot nor a tittle’ when it comes to the concerns raised by the PUB.  As he would say, “what’s the pint?”

Crosbie always demanded a “good brief”; staff and paper going everywhere, an entire departmental bureaucracy never allowed to sleep.  He would give little time to ass-kissing economists or for ‘provincial’ minds.  Imagine him giving Dunderdale a free pass on a $7.4 billion Project. Brigitte Bardot would have more luck french-kissing a seal.

“I consider Muskrat Falls the last and best chance we have to overcome the disastrously unfair provisions of the original Upper Churchill agreement”, Crosbie wrote, careful to conceal how a bad deal on the Upper, could possibly assuage the risk and terrible economics demanded by the Lower.

Crosbie has always been a good laugh.  Read one of his stump speeches and you are guaranteed to need your appendix out.  Like a good wine, the guy improves with age.  As I was reading his stuff, I said Christ, he’s sharper than Majunder or Mercer.  There’s another career here. This guy won’t quit!

Then he went for the ‘kicker’, as Don Cherry would say:

Wrote Crosbie, “(t)he priorities of the project are to achieve maximum benefits for our people and to secure stable rates and markets with good returns for our province and Nova Scotia”. 

Crosbie is truly at his best when ‘tongue in cheek’.  This was vintage John.  He knows that the Nova Scotia power cost will be less than half and possibly a third the rate paid by Newfoundlanders. He understands that Nova Scotia’s risk is capped while Newfoundland’s risk is unlimited. Yet, he’ll try and tell you the opposite…just to see if you are listening.

Yes, you have to be careful with Crosbie; he can, in a moment of weakness, revert to hyperbolic claims or spout completely irrelevant quotations, but in a pinch, he’ll always go for understatement.  Majunder and Rick Mercer are simply too young and inexperienced: they can’t win against such lithe humour and extemporaneous wit.

Surplus power, Crosbie suggested, may be available for “New England”. 

This was too much; there are only so many jokes you can bear, unless that is, you are a Member of the House of Assembly.  At this point my sides were getting pretty tender. Of course, John knew the difference!  He had signed into law, before Christmas, the Government’s “monopoly” legislation on local power production.  He knows it is the kiss of death for any power exporter to the U.S.  Yet, by god, he was able to keep a straight face.

Many critics have advanced the “isolated island” option and other ideas. John didn’t go there.  Likely, he’s not over Dunderdale’s insult, knowing as he does, the wisdom of “filling in” our power needs, until 2041.  That’s when the Province’s ownership stake in the Upper Churchill begins to have merit.  Crosbie, in the Moore’s Administration, was one of the people responsible.  Why didn’t he mention it? “Jesu’ Chr’st B’y”, why would I state the goddam obvious”, you can just hear him now!

If you picked up Mr. Crosbie’s Article, looking for the ‘smoking gun’ of Muskrat, you were sorely disappointed. 

He knew all along who is about to get skinned!      

Satisfied? Are your ribs sticking out?  What! You’ve haven’t laughed hard enough?  Alright, alright, one more from Uncle John, for ‘ol times sake; but, just one more!

Let’s pick the “North Spur”; that tricky matter of “quick clay”, over which Nalcor failed to perform essential geotechnical study, prior to Project sanction. Can’t you just hear Minister Crosbie, shouting at some sheepish bureaucrat, from Nalcor, having been forced to explain that this is a ‘project killer’:  “why are you putting the goddamn cart before the goddamn horse”? he would rightfully ask.

You got to hand it to Mr. Crosbie; he’s good.  He’s better than the best.

Thing is, with John, he makes you laugh so hard, you can never take him too seriously.