John Crosbie, the Lieutenant-Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador, needs to decide whether he can be himself and still preserve and embody the dignity of his office.
When the 80-year-old was a partisan politician, he never told a joke he didn’t think was funny or gave a speech he didn’t enjoy hearing. But now he is the representative of Canada’s head of state, the Queen. And he is still determined to be himself, tilting at political correctness.
Telling jokes in his role at a swearing-in ceremony for the province’s cabinet is Mr. Crosbie being Mr. Crosbie, but telling a joke about a suicidal man who calls a hotline and finds himself transferred to a Pakistani call-centre, and urged to take a truck and blow up a building, is being Mr. Crosbie to excess. Mr. Crosbie’s unique sense of humour is no excuse. It is derogatory. It is wrong for a Lieutenant-Governor to tell, in his official capacity or any other capacity, because it divides people and promotes laughter at one group in a way that fosters a negative stereotype. It is hurtful coming from the Queen’s representative. The Queen’s representative should stand up for all the people at all times.
It was also a supreme disservice to Premier Kathy Dunderdale and the rest of the cabinet, because it implicated them in his sophomoric and divisive nonsense. How does a cabinet member tell a Lieutenant-Governor acting in his official capacity to shut up?
Mr. Crosbie had an opportunity to humbly accept the advice from others that he had gone too far. Ms. Dunderdale said the joke was “clearly inappropriate,” but having railed in his autobiography against “the enforcers of thought and speech control,” Mr. Crosbie apparently has no intention of acknowledging the possibility he was wrong. If people are going to be so sensitive, he said, he’ll simply be “more circumspect and more boring.” He misses the point. A Lieutenant-Governor should inspire people, not bore them. But being boring is preferable to telling stupid jokes whose purpose is to denigrate.