JOHN CROSBIE became famous in Canada as
a politician unlike the others, someone with a
sharp tongue who has always spoken his mind.
Now that he is out of politics, he has given us a
book that will have many politicians and public figures running for cover - and many readers chuckling and cheering him on.
This memoir takes us from Crosbie's younger
days as a medal-winning student to municipal politics in St. John's and then the crucible of Joey
Smallwood's corrupt dictatorship. (And if that phrase
seems too strong, the proof is in these pages.) The
stories of those Newfoundland days seem almost
incredible now, and affected Crosbie's attitude
towards greater provincial powers.
We tend to forget that John Crosbie came
close to succeeding Joe Clark as Tory leader.
Typically, it was his testy response ("I can't speak
Chinese either") to a question about his French that
crippled his campaign and gave Brian Mulroney a
narrow win. But he served at the very highest levels
as minister of finance, transport, justice, international trade, and fisheries and oceans. He was
arguably Mulroney's most effective cabinet minister, and it is instructive to see just how progressive
his legislative record - which included promotion
of gay rights and divorce reform - was.
He was not, however, the most reticent of ministers, and this book is studded with unrepentant
"Crosbieisms." Never one to worry about political
correctness, he delivers powerful broadsides on
such topics as patronage, feminism, and the "lazy"
and "uninformed" media.
Continued from front flap
In No Holds Barred, Crosbie offers trenchant
opinions on issues ranging from Atlantic Canada's
prospects after Quebec separation and the desirability of fostering a closer relationship with Castro's
Cuba. At the same time, he shrewdly and unflinchingly assesses the politicians he has known. He
describes the baseness of Smallwood, the laidback style of Frank Moores, the vacillation of Joe
Clark, and the crass opportunism of the "brothel-
creeping" Liberals. He evaluates Kim Campbell's
disastrous leadership of the Conservative Party
and discusses his epic feud with "Tequila" Sheila
Copps. Nothing is withheld in this entertaining
(and sometimes outrageous) memoir by one of the
dominant politicians of his generation.
Geoffrey Stevens, who worked with Mr. Crosbie
on No Holds Barred, has been a member of the
Parliamentary Press Gallery, a political columnist
and managing editor of the Globe and Mail, and
publisher of the Sun Times of Canada. He is the
author of Stanfield (1973) and Leaders and Lesser
Mortals (with John Laschinger, 1992). He is currently
managing editor of Maclean's magazine.