No Holds Barred : My Life in Politics
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 “Crosbie-isms.” Never one to worry about political correctness, he delivers powerful broadsides on such topics as patronage, feminism, and the “lazy” and “uninformed” media.
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.