Retired politician and former Lt.-Gov. John Crosbie says he’s worried and dismayed by the state of politics in Newfoundland and Labrador right now, and especially the state of the PC party.
Crosbie spoke at a gathering in The Republic bar on Duckworth Street celebrating the work of journalist and satirist Ray Guy Saturday afternoon.
When he took to the microphone, Crosbie started by making a few jokes at the expense of Joey Smallwood, and reading from a 1969 Ray Guy column, about the running political battles between Smallwood and the Progressive Conservatives. Then, Crosbie veered away from history and into current political matters, specifically focused on the PC party.
“We have the same problems in Newfoundland here today. They never change. All kinds of skulduggery,” he said.
“We haven’t advanced very far in political life here in Newfoundland if this is the kind of the thing that happens to one of our major parties, that they can’t even organize a leadership convention,” Crosbie said.
Since starting out his life in provincial politics as Liberal cabinet minister in the 1960s, Crosbie went on to run for and lose the Liberal leadership against Smallwood, before switching parties and eventually becoming a senior cabinet minister in the Progressive Conservative government of Frank Moores.
Later, as a federal politician, Crosbie ran for the leadership of the Canadian Progressive Conservative Party, losing to Brian Mulroney.
So he had a lot of experience on his side when he started lamenting the current PC party leadership race.
The PC party organized a leadership process to replace Kathy Dunderdale, who resigned as premier in January. Three candidates came forward, but after one candidate was kicked out of the race and another one withdrew voluntarily, Frank Coleman became the premier-in-waiting by default.
Crosbie said it’s shocking that no member of the Progressive Conservative cabinet — or even the broader government caucus — stepped forward to run for the top job.
“Christ, what kind of a party are they at all? They’re all afraid to run for the leadership,” he said. “I mean, I’ll tell you, when I was around and I had a chance to run for the leadership, I ran for the God damn leadership.”
Crosbie questioned whether Coleman is really going to be in charge, or if he’s beholden to somebody else.
Speaking to The Telegram afterwards, Crosbie said he believes former premier Danny Williams orchestrated the PC party leadership.
“Just what is going on here? Why weren’t there any contenders from the present caucus and the present cabinet? This is a first time in my experience, certainly here in Newfoundland, but I haven’t heard of it anywhere else either,” he said. “There’s nobody else who’s in any position to be exerting that influence other than Danny.”
In the Republic bar, Crosbie said part of the reason he came out to the Ray Guy event is that as a politician, he admired Guy’s aggressive honesty.
“It’s a bloody pity that we haven’t got a Ray Guy here today to describe what’s going on and give his opinions on it,” Crosbie said. “He was a tremendous adornment to the journalism profession here in Newfoundland.”
The focus of Crosbie’s speech was on the PC party, but speaking to The Telegram afterwards, he said he’s not sold on the alternative either.
“I think it has been a great weakening of the PC party, and whether they can come back from that, I don’t know,” he said. “Whether the Liberals will be any better is very much to be seen because I haven’t heard any strong statements from the head of the Liberal party as to what their policies are going to be or not going to be.
“They’re just waiting now to have it all fall into their laps.”
A link to a video of Crosbie’s speech at the Republic bar can be found at: http://youtu.be/bKhfBVFuONo