All eyes on Cros­bie now

The Labradorian - - Editorial - Bob Wake­ham Bob Wake­ham has spent more than 40 years as a jour­nal­ist in New­found­land and Labrador. He can be reached by email at bwake­[email protected]

When you’ve been in­volved in the Fourth Es­tate racket as long as I have — it was 46 years ago this month that I lost my jour­nal­is­tic vir­gin­ity on a bea­tup R.C. Allen typewriter in a noisy, smoky Evening Tele­gram news­room — it only stands to rea­son that an eclec­tic list of politi­cians would find it­self oc­cu­py­ing a cor­ner in that bag of neu­rons I very gen­er­ously call a mem­ory bank.

Such an in­ven­tory in­cludes the many men (and the two women, Lynn Verge and Yvonne Jones) who’ve per­formed as leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Op­po­si­tion (a typ­i­cally grandiose ti­tle placed in our psy­che by the Brits), a group that now em­braces Ches Cros­bie, his in­clu­sion for­mal­ized by that tight vic­tory on Sept. 20 in the Wind­sor Lake by­elec­tion.

There have been op­po­si­tion lead­ers I’ve known or, at the very least, have ob­served, who’ve even­tu­ally found them­selves, for one rea­son or an­other, in the dust­bin of New­found­land po­lit­i­cal his­tory, as­ter­isks in a po­lit­i­cal science course — Len Stir­ling and Ed Byrne, to name just a cou­ple.

But I’ve also watched a num­ber of in­di­vid­u­als in that col­lec­tion who’ve par­layed their gigs as the chief chal­lenger of the gov­ern­ment of the day into laud­able lega­cies or suc­cess­ful ca­reers out­side pol­i­tics, or have ac­tu­ally man­aged to oc­cupy the pre­mier’s chair.

Some­times it was po­lit­i­cal acu­men (as­tute ma­nip­u­la­tion of the elec­torate, in other words), or a lack thereof that proved to be the crit­i­cal fac­tor in the suc­cess or fail­ure of var­i­ous op­po­si­tion lead­ers, but, more of­ten than not, it was sim­ply the fickle na­ture of New­found­land and Labrador vot­ers, blind ad­her­ents to the sim­plis­tic time-for-a-change phi­los­o­phy.

So how will Ches Cros­bie stack up? Will there even­tu­ally be a trip to the gov­ern­ment of­fices or will there be, in­stead, a spot in the po­lit­i­cal dump­ster for the class ac­tion moose­man-turned-politi­cian?

Well, to use that well-worn cliché of lazy pun­ditry: only time will tell, although the first re­port card, to be is­sued by prov­ince-wide New­found­land vot­ers, won’t be that far into Cros­bie’s ten­ure; next year’s elec­tion will be upon Cros­bie (and upon us) be­fore his leg­isla­tive seat is barely warm.

But one con­clu­sion we can safely draw about Cros­bie’s vic­tory in Wind­sor Lake: he’ll now have an op­por­tu­nity to earn his stripes, to strut his stuff, to shake his antlers, to show the pub­lic if he’s a flash in the pan or some­one it might wish to en­gage as its chief gover­nor for a while. It is in the House of As­sem­bly, af­ter all, with its daily blan­ket news cov­er­age, where Cros­bie will find him­self un­der the mi­cro­scope, and be­fore the cam­eras and mi­cro­phones, and in The Tele­gram’s pages, and scru­ti­nized closely.

And, as I and oth­ers have noted, he’ll have the Muskrat Falls al­ba­tross around his neck each and ev­ery time he’s on his feet to ac­cuse the gov­ern­ment of in­com­pe­tence.

As Hansard might record: The Hon­ourable the Leader of the Op­po­si­tion: “Mr. Speaker, I’d like to ask the Hon­ourable the Pre­mier about the boon­dog­gle of Muskrat Falls and whether his gov­ern­ment...”

The Hon­ourable the Pre­mier (in­ter­rupt­ing): “Mr. Speaker, I would sug­gest the Leader of the Op­po­si­tion give his Tory col­leagues, Mr. Wil­liams or Ms. Dun­derdale a call, take them out for a dou­ble-dou­ble and a yack if he’s in­ter­ested in the mess that is Muskrat Falls, or, as well, in ob­tain­ing back­ground on the eco­nomic mess we on this side in­her­ited from his pre­de­ces­sors.”

Yup. That can grow tire­some. But no­body has ever ac­cused New­found­land politi­cians of be­ing chock-full of orig­i­nal­ity.

And there’s also the is­sue of Cros­bie’s per­ceived lack of dy­namism (to put it as kindly as I can), a fire­brand Brian Peck­ford or Danny Wil­liams he is not; but per­haps New­found­land is sick of watch­ing the charis­matic card be­ing played, and is more in­ter­ested (if you be­lieve in mir­a­cles, that is) in sub­stance and so­lid­ity of thought and pol­icy (whether Cros­bie fits that bill will be part of the be­fore-men­tioned on­ly­time-will-tell ad­ju­di­ca­tion).

On an­other note here in the af­ter­math of the Wind­sor Lake by­elec­tion: it’s been quite a while since a Cros­bie took a spot in an elected cham­ber, the sight of a de­cid­edly aged John Cros­bie warmly con­grat­u­lat­ing his son last week a re­flec­tion of just how quickly time passes.

Cros­bie Sr. ran the prov­ince in the early and mid-’70s while his boss, Frank Moores, chased pheas­ant and women, but Cros­bie never ac­tu­ally found him­self in the pre­mier’s chair — the one place he longed to plant his arse.

His­tory has recorded, though, that Cros­bie came within a few bon­jours, or, per­haps in his rarely san­i­tized case, within a few manger merdes (to pla­gia­rize Trudeau Sr.) of be­com­ing prime min­is­ter.

(Back in the day, we joked that Cros­bie’s as­cen­sion to that par­tic­u­lar throne would have en­abled re­porters here to lo­cal­ize ev­ery sin­gle story out of Ot­tawa: “Prime Min­is­ter John Cros­bie, a New­found­lan­der, an­nounced to­day...”)

But re­turn­ing to the off­spring: Cros­bie Jr. has also given ev­i­dence that it is never too late to al­ter course in life, hav­ing been elected to House of As­sem­bly in the same year in which he was el­i­gi­ble for a so­cial se­cu­rity cheque.

Per­haps such sta­tus might come in handy dur­ing that sta­ple of elec­tion­eer­ing, the to­ken photo-op in se­nior cit­i­zen homes.

You’re prob­a­bly ahead of me here: only time will tell.

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