Doyle’s memoir a must-read

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John Crosbie
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Norman Doyle has spent 27 years so far in active political life and was elected eight times.

"According To Doyle — Recollections" — Norm Doyle

Born in Avondale, a small community in Conception Bay about 50 kilometres from St. John’s, he was first elected to the House of Assembly in 1979, and re-elected in 1982, 1985 and 1989.

He served as a cabinet minister under former premier Brian Peckford, first as his parliamentary assistant and then as minister of  Municipal Affairs, Transportation, and Labour until he left provincial politics in 1993.

Several years later he decided to go back to politics, and entered the federal arena in 1997, running to become the MP for St. John’s East. He was elected in four federal elections, serving 12 years in the House of Commons as a PC party whip, chair of the PC national caucus and, more recently, as the chair of Senate committees, including the most important one, the Internal Economy Committee.

So he had plenty of political fodder when he set out to write his  autobiography, “According to Doyle: Recollections,” published this fall by Flanker Press.

As he notes in the book, “Politics is a very difficult job if you intend to do it honestly and with some degree of integrity.”

Doyle has certainly done just that. When he’s not attending to Senate business in Ottawa, he lives in St. John’s.

He was the youngest of nine children born to the Doyle family in the 1920s and ’30s, when living in outport Newfoundland often involved  difficult circumstances.

The men of the family, commencing with his father and then three of his brothers — and eventually Norman himself — had to leave Newfoundland for New York to work as iron workers, building skyscrapers, including Norman’s experience working on the World Trade Center.

His book is well-written, factual and inspiring. His career in politics has been rewarding and certainly has brought great benefits to those he represented throughout his career, in both the federal and provincial jurisdictions. His stories of life in politics are inspiring.

The book comes at a particularly relevant time in view of the great interest displayed in politics in recent months, not only about the Senate and some errant senators, but because of interest in the PMO and the prime minister, and political activities across the country.

•••

Norman’s father worked most of his life in New York as an iron worker with his three sons. Norman arrived on the scene in 1963, joining two of his brothers to erect steel on the tallest skyscraper in the world, the 110-storey World Trade Center.

Norman, hired on his first morning in New York, was placed in the “raising gang,” a group of five responsible for steel erection. His description of this work is fascinating.

Years later, on Sept. 11, 2001, he turned on the TV in his hotel room in Edmonton and saw a plane flying into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, the one he had worked on in 1971.

At first he thought he was watching a movie, but soon discovered it was real. He watched the tower he had worked on tumble to the ground, remembering the endless steel columns he had erected with others.

•••

Norman returned to Newfoundland at age 27, at about the time when the Moores-led Tories had captured 21 of the 42 seats in the House of Assembly in the general election of Oct. 28, 1971.

After several years of venturing into the business world, in 1979 he became active as a member of the Bill Doody PC Association for Harbour Main–Bell Island.

Doody was an excellent member for the district and an effective cabinet minister in the Moores government.

When Moores announced he was stepping down as leader of the party, and called a leadership convention for March 1979, Norman supported Doody in the hotly contested leadership contest, which Brian Peckford went on to win.

Norman saw Peckford in action at the convention and became interested in running for election himself. At the age of 33 he decided to try for the PC nomination in the district of Harbour Main, and won it by just nine votes.

Peckford called an election for June 8, 1979 and won decisively, with 33 seats, including the one won by Norman Doyle.

Norman later became Peckford’s parliamentary assistant and served in cabinet posts in the Peckford administration.

There would be turbulent times ahead, but triumphs, too.

Next week: Successes and struggles

John Crosbie welcomes your feedback

by email at telegram@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: House of Commons, World Trade Center, Bill Doody PC Association for Harbour Main–Bell Island

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Avondale, New York Conception Bay Ottawa Edmonton

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