N.L. Tory leader Ches Crosbie delivers parting shot as he steps down after loss

·3 min read

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — The leader of Newfoundland and Labrador's Progressive Conservative party is stepping down after losing his seat in the provincial election, but he's not fading gently away.

Ches Crosbie announced his resignation Wednesday morning while taking aim at the messy election that concluded Saturday and offering to help anyone interested in challenging the results in court.

"I'm not expecting at the moment to go back to being a practising lawyer," Crosbie said. "But if someone were to approach me for help … even though I'm not allowed to give legal advice, I'd be of assistance to people where I could be."

Newfoundland and Labrador's pandemic-delayed election stretched over a 10-week period punctuated by controversies surrounding the election authority's management of the vote. After a COVID-19 outbreak prompted officials to cancel in-person voting on Feb. 13 and shift to mail-in ballots, results were announced Saturday.

The Liberals, led by Andrew Furey, were re-elected with a slim majority, winning 22 of the province's 40 seats. The Tories were reduced to 13 seats from 15, while the New Democrats won two alongside three Independents.

In a major upset, Crosbie lost his seat in the St. John's district of Windsor Lake. His was one of two Progressive Conservative seats taken by the Liberals.

Wednesday morning's news conference was Crosbie's first public appearance since the results were announced.

"I would prefer to stand before you today as premier, announcing a dramatic plan of action to get our people back to work," he said. "Instead, my legacy of public service is that the (Progressive Conservative) party and caucus is united ... to hold the Liberal government to account."

Crosbie told reporters he was proud of his run as Tory leader, particularly of the party's success reducing Dwight Ball's Liberal government to a minority in the 2019 election. The night of that election, Crosbie made a scathing speech in which he refused to concede victory to Ball, who was replaced by Furey last August.

By contrast, on Saturday Crosbie delivered a subdued, recorded concession speech. He said Wednesday he had been silent for the last four days so he could consult with his family and his party. "A couple of days later, I think I'm appearing before you in a measured way," he said.

Crosbie is the son of the late John Crosbie, an outspoken former federal and provincial politician. Like his father, Crosbie was unafraid of ruffling feathers. While Furey ran a low-risk campaign, which began with a pledge to increase grants for community gardens, Crosbie was unabashed in bringing up the province's towering financial challenges and its brushes with insolvency.

During the campaign, Crosbie called the upended election a "shambles" and said it made Newfoundland and Labrador a "laughing stock" in the rest of the country.

He remained critical on Wednesday. "I think there will be legal actions taken by various people," he said, though he did not say by whom. "I do think the process was disgraceful in many respects .... People's legal rights need to be vindicated in court."

Crosbie will be succeeded by David Brazil, who won the riding of Conception Bay East-Bell Island. Brazil will act as interim leader of the party and said he will not run in the next leadership election.

Brazil told reporters the party will announce in the coming days whether any of its candidates will seek a judicial recount or otherwise challenge Saturday's election results.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 31, 2021.

Sarah Smellie, The Canadian Press