Friday, June 29, 2007

Richard Greene, Q.C, MHA: 1923-2007

On June 18, 2007, Richard (Dick) Joseph Greene, Q.C. passed away. Part of a vanishing important generation, he was a man of great influence on the political life of this province.

You can read the official obituary but that dry recitation of essential life facts and family details does little to convey the colour of the man. I knew the man slightly, and his family better, because I grew up down the street from him and his family. I went to school with his children and my father and he were acquainted.

Later on I learned much more about this neighbour of ours.

In the Confederation wars, he supported and fought for economic union with the US alongside the Crosbies and Don Jameison. For the long-term benefit and prosperity of the province, he thought it was critical that we be embedded within a larger economic framework and rejected the isolationist point of view.

After Confederation, he became a lifelong Progressive Conservative with an influence that far outstripped his titles. In the 60's he was a member of the House of Assembly and one of only three members of the opposition fighting the political hegemony of the Smallwood/Liberal political machine.

On that level he was a free-thinker and a rebel against what he saw was the stifling influence of overwhelming one-man rule.

After he left the House, he remained active as a prime mover of the PC Party policies in the election which saw the rise of Premier Frank Moores. Rumors said he was intimately involved in the backroom political machinations which finally saw the downfall of Smallwood. All through that administration, he worked the politics behind the scenes, including terms as PC Party president.

A notable moment in the limelight was his role at the 1979 PC convention where Brian Peckford was elected leader. You can see him here on the right, to the left stands Frank Moores, getting ready to announce Peckford's victory (video here). That convention saw the passing of the torch to a new generation of PC's, at least on the provincial level, and he wasn't quite so active provincially thereafter.

On the federal level he was a prominent member of the national PC Party and a critical part of their national fundraising arm, the PC Canada Fund. He had the reputation of being a political fixer and fundraiser extraordinaire.

He was a friend and confidant of the likes of Deifenbaker, Clark and especially Mulroney; they were frequent guests at his home.

As a child growing up I remember he always drove a big green Lincoln Continental land yacht.

In his private life he was legal heavyweight who generally practiced on his own rather than in a big firm. More than a few important legal case precedents from this province have his name on them.

There is no doubt that the political history of this province would have been very different without the guiding hand of Dick Greene behind the scenes. Too many stories of the problems he fixed over the years will never see the light of day. We are not very good at digging into the political history of this province and that's too bad; we miss out on knowing the best parts.

And many of the best parts of the last 50 years involved Dick.


Condolences to the family can be left here.

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