Crosbie’s candour sends sparks flying

Published on June 7, 2014

Former lieutenant-governor John Crosbie is obviously feeling less constrained about expressing his opinion.

I remember when he was first appointed as the Queen’s representative to the province — he expressed concern that he would have a difficult time keeping his mouth shut, especially when it came to politics. The lieutenant-governor is never supposed to engage in a public discussion of anything political.

While he held the prestigious office he kept his tongue in check. But Crosbie is out of office now and no longer has to suffer silently under the mantle of public duty. When he wants to open his mouth he can do so with complete disregard for political correctness.

His recent commentary at a public event is testament to his renewed political voice. Crosbie was guest speaker at an open-mike venue celebrating the life and accomplishments of the late Ray Guy. He was expected to wax poetic about Guy, lament his loss and the void his passing left in the world of satirical humour.

Crosbie, as one of the many political figures Guy skewered over his career, would no doubt recount  examples and employ his own brand of humour to leave them laughing in the aisles. I’m pretty sure the organizers were not anticipating any kind of controversy.

But reports from the Republic bar on Duckworth Street, where the Guy celebration was held, indicate that Crosbie strayed off-script and opined to his audience that, “things never change in Newfoundland. All kinds of skulduggery.”

He then went on to express concern for the state of the provincial Progressive Conservative party and the government.

His message boiled down to three points.

1) Politics here has not advanced far since the days of Joey Smallwood.

2) The mighty PC party is in serious trouble, with not one of the party’s MHAs wanting to be premier.

3) Who is going to be running the show when Frank Coleman assumes office in July? Crosbie left little doubt that, in his opinion, Danny Williams is pulling the strings behind the scenes.

Crosbie said it was a “bloody pity” that “we haven’t got a Ray Guy here today to describe what’s going on and give his opinion on it.”

We could challenge Crosbie to tell us something we don’t already know, but it wouldn’t serve any purpose. He was stating the obvious — what a lot of people have been saying for months.

The PC government is in trouble, the party is losing membership and everyone believes the Coleman coronation was totally orchestrated by Danny Williams.

What makes this story interesting is that the elder statesman of the party, John Crosbie, is the person saying it.

If Crosbie is just being true to his nature and that’s what’s driving his public statements, then the same must be said of Williams. He had to respond.

He expressed surprise at Crosbie’s outburst and denied being involved in any kind of backroom shenanigans to discourage people from running for the province’s top post. Williams said it was just the opposite, with him encouraging MHAs and others — including Crosbie’s son, Ches, — to run for the position.

Williams painted himself as a victim of Crosbie’s attack, saying he

didn’t understand why Crosbie would say such things when he had done so much for him. He had approved the installation of an elevator at Government House so Crosbie could avoid the stairs, and he had supported the sealers memorial fund and other causes that Crosbie asked him to support.

“So I don’t understand the reason for what he’s doing here,” he said.

Maybe Crosbie could have chosen a more appropriate venue to air his views, but there’s no denying they’re shared by a lot of people, including his view that Williams wields too much influence inside the PC party.

Frank Coleman is going to have to work on that. I wonder what he’ll do.

Randy Simms is a political commentator and broadcaster. He can be reached at

rsimms@nf.sympatico.ca.

Twitter: @RandyRsimms