JOHN C. CROSBIE, R.I.P.

One of Newfoundland and Labrador’s most able politicians, John C. Crosbie, passed away today. He has already been missed from the political stage for a few years; now we justifiably mourn his passing. This Blog wrote two Posts on the man whose biography was perfectly titled “No Holds Barred”. One, called “Where Have You been John C. Crosbie?”, welcomed his putting Danny Williams in his place in 2014 for meddling in the P.C. Leadership Campaign of that year. Another, a 2013 post called “Crosbie Can’t Be Serious” contained a facetious chastising for what respectfully of the octogenarian, I had deemed must really have been a ‘tongue in cheek’ condemnation of Muskrat; it being completely out of character for him to give a nod to such a crazy idea. 

Both pieces, however, speak to the contributions he has made to the Province, his sharp wit and sharper mind, and especially his ability to speak his mind and not be fettered by political correctness. I still regard both pieces a tribute to the man and the place he carved out out in the hearts and minds of many people and surely in the annals of Newfoundland and Labrador history. Here is Where Have You Been John C. Crosbie?
Copyright The Daily News
The recent combative, even feisty tones of John Crosbie somehow triggered my memory of a couple of lines from an old Simon and Garfunkel tune:

Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio
A nation turns its lonely eyes to you (Woo, woo, woo)
It may appear improper, even unfair, that anyone should possess large and unwieldy expectations of an octogenarian, especially one who has served the Province long and well. 
But when John Crosbie came out swinging, on Monday, with Danny Williams in his sights, he stirred up memories of the “old” days; after all his reputation wasn’t built upon a single “we got it” which quickly evaporated.  

Inside political hot houses he was referred to, respectfully, as “JCC”.  Those barely weaned, in the ’60s and ‘70s remember him for his fearless rebuke of Joe Smallwood and his cronies, especially the carpetbaggers John Shaheen and John C. Doyle. Later generations remember him, too.  


He was a tour de force in Frank Moores’ Cabinet.  When he ran Federally, serving as a Minister in the Federal Cabinet, he was akin to a Don Jamieson on speed.  His ability to loosen the Federal Government’s purse strings during the cod moratorium prevented great human misery and helped rural Newfoundland to survive a lot longer. 
His success at having Ottawa take Gulf Oil’s 8.5% share of the Hibernia Project was instrumental in getting offshore oil production moving.  

Not one for braggadocio, Crosbie is a politician with a real history.  That’s why people still listen to him.
He and Brian Peckford had their tiffs, but rarely did it get personal; that trademark was reserved for Danny Williams.
Paul Simon said his lines were a tribute to DiMaggio’s “unpretentious heroic stature….” Politics seldom finds occasion for unanimity, as in baseball, but few would argue Crosbie was an immense figure, a Joe DiMaggio in a blood sport.
It was fitting that the recent fuss should all start when Crosbie turned up the volume on Ray Guy Night – a celebration of the man whose impact on our politics, especially during the Smallwood years, is still being defined.  Even posthumously, Ray Guy seems able to stir up mischief. 
Who better to bring out the best in one and the worst in another! 
It was vintage Crosbie.  But, it was typical Danny Williams, too. 
Crosbie said it was a “bloody pity” that there is no Ray Guy to deal with the current political situation in the Province with an uncontested Frank Coleman heading for the Premier’s Office and a Cabinet and Caucus unable to produce a single person willing to run.

Crosbie described as “frustrating” and “discouraging” the state of democracy in the Province. He remarked that he has seen the P.C. Party reduced to a shambles with Williams’ meddling.
It wasn’t in Danny Williams to say just say Crosbie was entitled to his opinion and to leave it there. Jack had to be as good as his master, as they say.  He called Crosbie an ingrate: ‘I installed a half million dollar elevator at Government House because he couldn’t climb the stairs, Danny sulked, giving no quarter to the requirement that Government Buildings should be wheelchair accessible.  In essence, Danny was saying – as if the money came out of his own pocket – I did him a favour, he shouldn’t be pickin’ on me.
It’s not difficult to see why Ray Guy made it seem easy to invoke characters like Aunt Cissy Roach.  For certain, she would certainly have called Williams a “mawmouth”.  If she was in a good mood, which was rare, she might have called him “the gall of a spavined bullock” – to his face. 
Danny would not have answered her back unless he wanted to get a crack from the handle of Aunt Cissy’s “double-bit axe”. Crosbie didn’t need to be spiteful. He made a public display of dropping Danny with a crash; akin to what the voters did in Virginia Waters.
Crosbie didn’t require Nick McGrath to invoke any force majeure for him, either, as he did for Coleman.
What Crosbie had in mind was not the ‘one’ person but the whole Province.  He did what Ray Guy was unable; the latter having permanently taken his place among the ‘Greats’. 
In the blunt style that belies a steadfast character Crosbie sent a message, perhaps even a warning, about the poor state of the Tory Party and the Government. 

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Related Reading:          CROSBIE CAN’T BE SERIOUS
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But the media recognized the man, too.  The same crowd that seem to know only road kill and weather still chased Crosbie for every utterance. The notice is a testament to his etched cache.
Why do warriors like Crosbie still matter?  For the very reason Crosbie cites: the absence of a mature democracy and the willingness of some to shag with our democratic institutions. 
He is needed as counterweight to people like Danny Williams; the latter too corporately conflicted and blinkered to be a worthy speaker for the public interest.
It is a pity that John Crosbie did not become more politically engaged in the days following the end of his tenure, as Lieutenant Governor.  The “anti-Muskrat Falls” camp needed one of his stature as a spokesperson to butt heads with the Dunderdale/Ed Martin propaganda machine.  Though Crosbie endorsed that Project, I have always thought his position inconsistent with his long history of condemning stupidity and misspending. 
Until he confirms that he seriously reviewed the business case for that Project, I am forced to conclude that he was speaking from his heart (the concept) rather than his head (the numbers).
That said, his re-emergence as an opinion-maker is important.  The Tory Party has not served us well; it is in the grip of a ‘puppeteer’.  No one likes their Government controlled by interests other than the public interest, even if the puppeteer is named ‘Danny’.
Love him or hate him, Crosbie has raised the alarm.  In his own words:
   
“We have the same problems in Newfoundland here today. They never change. All kinds of skulduggery…we haven’t advanced very far in political life here in Newfoundland…they can’t even organize a leadership convention.”

Frank Coleman likely won’t interpret his comments as a ringing endorsement of his leadership.
Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?  Farewell, Ray Guy. 

And, today, we say farewell John C. Crosbie.

Des Sullivan
Des Sullivan
St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada Uncle Gnarley is hosted by Des Sullivan, of St. John's. He is a businessman engaged over three decades in real estate management and development companies and in retail. He is currently a Director of Dorset Investments Limited and Donovan Holdings Limited. During his early career he served as Executive Assistant to Premier's Frank D. Moores (1975-1979) and Brian Peckford (1979-1985). He also served as a Part-Time Board Member on the Canada-Newfoundland Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB). Uncle Gnarley appears on the masthead representing serious and unambiguous positions on NL politics and public policy. Uncle Gnarley is a fiscal conservative possessing distinctly liberal values and a non-partisan persusasion. Those values and opinions underlie this writer's views on NL's politics, economy and society. Uncle Gnarley publishes Monday mornings and more often when events warrant.

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