Former premier Danny Williams says he wasn’t pulling any strings behind the scenes in the PC party leadership, no matter what John Crosbie might think.
In fact, Williams said he even encouraged Crosbie’s son, Ches Crosbie, to run for the top job.
“First of all, I can’t understand why John Crosbie is coming at me, to be quite honest with you,” Williams said. “He’s come to me on the sealers fund and other funds, and I’ve contributed — personally and otherwise — to these funds. So I don’t understand the reason for what he’s doing here.”
On Saturday at a celebration of the life and work of Newfoundland political satirist Ray Guy, Crosbie read from a 1969 column and compared the politics of the Joey Smallwood era to the current state of play.
Crosbie said he was dismayed by the fact that not a single member of the PC caucus or cabinet ran for the leadership, and that premier-designate Frank Coleman will take office without ever winning any sort of democratic process.
Crosbie said he believes that Danny Williams was pulling the strings behind the scenes to make it happen.
But Williams said he was taken aback when he read the comments in the newspaper, because he always felt that he had a pretty good relationship with Crosbie.
“When John was in Government House, John came to me looking for a half-million dollars for an elevator because he didn’t want to walk up over the stairs to the second floor, and after time we put it in,” Williams said. “Out of respect, I put that in place.”
But when she heard the comment about the elevator, Crosbie’s granddaughter, Megan Alexander, took to Twitter to stick up for him.
She posted a picture of herself in a cast and crutches standing next to Crosbie, and she wrote, “(Government House), a gov building, was rightly made handicap accessible after I couldn’t safely get up the stairs.”
She said the elevator wasn’t for him — or for her, specifically — but the stairs are very narrow and her situation made it clear that the building wasn’t accessible to people with disabilities.
More broadly, Crosbie’s point about the PC Party was that without a competitive leadership race, it’s nearly impossible for the party to renew itself.
But Williams batted back on that point too.
“When I ran for the leadership, nobody else ran against me. Not because I went out and strong-armed them not to, they just decided that it was going to be uncontested,” he said. “I did the same thing and that worked out OK, I think.”
Williams acknowledged that he publicly criticized Tory leadership challenger Bill Barry — who withdrew from the race in April, saying “the fix was in” — but apart from Barry, Williams said he encouraged all of the cabinet ministers, MHAs and outsiders who talked to him about running for the job.
That includes Ches Crosbie, who Williams said came up to his office and talked about a possible run.
The Telegram was not able to reach Ches Crosbie for comment.
Williams said once he gets past a bit of a rocky start, he thinks Coleman will do well.
“It’s important that we have good people stepping up for politics, but when you’ve got to leave yourself open to this kind of abuse from a former politician who doesn’t have the facts correct, it’s really sad,” he said. “I’ve got to tell you, Mr. Coleman is an outstanding individual. He’s got great credentials in business. He’s a wonderful family man, he’s a good speaker, and he’s just a very, very good person.”