The political career of the charismatic, acerbic John Crosbie, who died Friday at the age 88, can conjure up a number of ‘C’ words.
Cod, Copps and controversy spring to mind.
For Paul Connolly, a former Liberal MLA on P.E.I., thoughts turned to another – Crowbush – when he learned of the passing of the man who served in federal cabinet portfolios and who played a dominant role in his beloved Newfoundland and Labrador for decades.
Connolly says during his time in the Joe Ghiz government, there was a strong desire to build a showcase golf course.
“At that time, the local golf industry was in its infancy stages and the thinking was ‘let’s build a first-class golf course that helps to establish P.E.I. as a true golf destination,’’’ he recalls.
For that to have happened, he explains, federal funds were needed.
Enter, John Crosbie
John Crosbie, who was then minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), which works to create opportunities for economic growth in Atlantic Canada, was the man to hit up for cash.
However, Crosbie did not believe that ACOA funding should be used to build golf courses, says Connolly.
Ghiz, though, saw an opening when a successful Newfoundland businessman named Craig Dobbin called to invite the premier to come to Newfoundland to assist in a celebration marking Crosbie’s 25 years (and counting) in public office.
“Quick-thinking Joe indicated that he would (take part) on one condition: that Craig arrange a 20-minute one-on-one with Mr. Crosbie,’’ says Connolly.
“Craig assured Joe that he could do that.’’
“I think in my estimation it kind of fueled the golf industry (on P.E.I.). I think it has been instrumental in sort of cementing P.E.I. as a legitimate golf destination.’’
The meeting was held, and the funding was secured, enabling the Ghiz government to proceed with building The Links at Crowbush Cove in Lakeside, located 30 minutes east of Charlottetown just outside of Morell.
Connolly says a good chunk of the approximately $6 million spent to build Crowbush came from ACOA.
Did you know?
- The Links at Crowbush Cove, which opened in 1993, hosted the 1998 Export "A" Skins Game featuring professional golfers Mark O’Meara, Fred Couples, John Daly and Mike Weir.
The course, which was recognized by Golf Digest as Canada’s Best New Course in 1994, remains a key draw to golfers from around the world and still considered by many to be the jewel in Prince Edward Island’s strong golf course offerings.
“I think in my estimation it kind of fueled the golf industry (on P.E.I.),'' says Connolly.
“I think it has been instrumental in sort of cementing P.E.I. as a legitimate golf destination.’’
Connolly, who is an avid golfer, says Crowbush cements Crosbie’s connection to Prince Edward Island.
As an amusing footnote, Connolly notes he met up with Crosbie three years ago. The pair discussed the meeting where Ghiz convinced Crosbie to have Ottawa cough up millions of dollars to build Crowbush.
Crosbie’s comment, recalls Connolly, was ‘how could I not accommodate him (Ghiz) when he was good enough to come over to salute me?’’’
Connolly says the late John Crosbie was no ordinary politician.
“He served the people of his province with distinction for many years,’’ says Connolly. “Through those years, he encountered many challenges but always met them head on. He always did his job with a flair whether it was challenging Joey Smallwood for the leadership of the Liberal party of Newfoundland or throwing himself into the lion’s den to tell a large crowd of Newfoundland fishermen that the cod fishery had to close.’’