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Succeeding from a Newfoundland legend like Joey Smallwood is no easy task, but after 23 years it was Frank Moores who came in as the new premier of the province, only the second in Newfoundland’s history.

Frank Moores was born on Feb. 18, 1933 in Carbonear, Newfoundland.

As a young man, he was educated at St. Andrew’s College in Ontario and briefly attended Boston University.

After leaving college due an argument with his professors, he worked in the Boston fish industry, and then went to work at his father’s fish plant in Newfoundland.

With the family business, Moores started to expand the family business until it was the largest fish processor in Newfoundland in the 1960s, employing over 2,000 people.

A lover of sports, Moores was heavily involved in the build up of the minor hockey system in Newfoundland. In 1958, he was the man behind the construction of the SW Moores Stadium in Harbor Grace and he was also responsible for the establishment of the Conception Bay CeeBees hockey club, that ran from 1958 to 1969. He also served as its president during that time.

For his work with hockey in Newfoundland, he was inducted into the Newfoundland and Labrador Hockey Hall of Fame in 2005.

He was also gifted in sports himself, at one point becoming the all-Newfoundland tennis champion.

When his father died in 1962, Moores took the company to year-round operations and sold a majority interest to British owners.

Despite having no experience in politics, Moores was elected to the House of Commons in 1968 as a Progressive Conservative when the party won six of seven seats in the province. He defeated Liberal cabinet minister Charles Granger by over 6,000 votes.

During his time as an MP in Ottawa, he lived with fellow rookie MP Don Mazankowski.

Two years into his stint as a Parliamentarian, Moores left to become the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland after the leadership election in May 1970.

For months afterwards, he stayed out of public view and some within the party criticized him for his silence, while others stated he was working behind the scenes to reorganize the party in the leadup to a new election.

At the time, the Liberals under Joey Smallwood were on the decline and Moores picked the perfect time to pursue leadership in the province.

Leading up to the 1971 election, Moores travelled throughout the province speaking at rallies and going door-to-door. Typically, Smallwood received more press for his flowery and passionate speeches.

By the time election day approached, both the PCs and Liberals were in a dead heat.

The campaign was especially vicious as Smallwood attempted to hold onto power after 23 years. Moores said Smallwood, quote

“attacked my family, my personal life and everything else he could think of.”

In the 1971 provincial election, Joey Smallwood and his Liberals lost 19 seats to finish with 20, while Moores and the Progressive Conservatives won 21 seats.

Moores said after the election,

“I don’t think the premier should try to form government. He does not have the confidence of the people.”

The support of an independent kept Smallwood in power but the government was shaky at best. It eventually led to a Supreme Court decision in January 1972 stating that Moores had won and should be premier. Smallwood soon resigned and Moores was called on to form government. In the process, became the premier of the province on Jan. 18, 1972.

He immediately named 15 people to his cabinet, stating he wanted excellence in the government.

He said,

“The first priority is to find out where we are at present, to assess what responsibilities and commitments we are inheriting, to really find the present base of government.”

He then called an election for March.

In that election, his party won 33 seats, easily defeating the Liberals to form a majority government.

Moores said,

“Young people, particularly, wanted the yoke of Mr. Smallwood shucked.”

Around this same time, he was dealing with personal issues when his wife Dorothy filed for divorce just prior to the campaign. She withheld the divorce proceedings until after the election, and it was then made final afterwards. The couple had seven children together.

Rumours abounded of Moores love for the high life and possible affairs with other women. He said of this,

“Sure I like a good time, and I like to take a drink. I was no angel, and I admit it.”

He soon married Janis Johnson, his private secretary, with whom he would have a son. She went on to become a Senator and the first female national director of the Progressive Conservative Party.

During his time as premier, Moores advocated for the development of the rural areas of the province, and provincial control of the natural resources to spur on economic development.

Hoping to distance itself from the years of Joey Smallwood, which were almost dictatorial, Moores promised to make his government more accountable and democratic. To that end, he brought more transparency to government, and distributed power among elected officials more evenly.

In 1973, Newfoundland became the first province to pass a Conflict of Interest Act, which required all elected officials and civil servants to make public any investments or relationships they had that could influence their official duties.

A daily oral question period was also introduced to the House of Assembly under Moores.

John Crosbie, a cabinet minister under Moores, wrote in his autobiography,

“Frank was the chairman of the board. Discussion and debate were encouraged in cabinet.”

Moores stated that he often had to remind himself that he was premier. He said,

“I’m not very good at wearing the mantle.”

He added that he loved being premier and doing the job.

The National Post would write of him during a Legislature session,

“Moores sits awkwardly, looking somewhat like a football player at a society dinner, occasionally permitting himself a little tug at his coattails.”

In 1975, Moores went through his third election and this time his party won, but with 30 seats. This was still more than enough to form another majority government.

That same year, his government created an independent and non-partisan provincial ombudsman to investigate complaints from citizens.

John Crosbie wrote,

“Frank Moores was a complete contrast to Joey Smallwood. Discussion and debate were encouraged in cabinet. Frank was an engaging, friendly, effusive personality who was more than happy to delegate authority to others.”

While Moores did have occasional run-ins with the news, and accused some newspapers of yellow journalism, his relations with reporters was typically friendly. Many times, he would have drinks with reporters while visiting some community in Newfoundland.

His government also tried to renegotiate the deal Newfoundland made with Quebec under Smallwood that gave Quebec electricity from its Churchill Falls generating station at a rate fixed in 1968.

The Newfoundland Liquor Commission was also scrapped, replaced with the Newfoundland Liquor Corporation that administered the sale of alcoholic products, and the Liquor Licensing Authority, which licensed brewers and establishments.

Throughout the 1970s, Moores government attempted to fix various economic deals that Smallwood made including the Come By Chance refinery that cost the government millions, and the Stephenville sawmill that had huge cost overruns.

During his time, Moores also enjoyed the high life, according to Crosbie. He wrote,

“Moores always enjoyed the good life, the high life, and this didn’t change by one iota when he became premier. He loved travel, fine restaurants, salmon fishing, partridge hunting, women, booze, late nights and as little work as possible.”

He loved fishing so much that he was often not seen from June to September as he took a government helicopter to the remote wilderness near Long Harbour or Labrador and spent his summer fishing. 

Moores decided to retire from politics and his last day as premier was March 26, 1979 but the groundwork he laid kept the Progressive Conservatives in power until 1989.

At the time of his resignation, he was involved in a libel suit filed against a Montreal businessman who said he was collecting political payoffs.

Bill Rowe, leader of the opposition, praised Moores for his abilities as a campaigner stating,

“Nobody in the present PC caucus, including the new leader, can match Frank Moores in that regard.”

Brian Peckford replaced Moores as the new premier and leader of the Progressive Conservatives, having defeated nine other candidates to. Moores said he was a good man.

Unemployment and difficult economic times were a constant issue during Moores’ time as premier. This resulted in the province going further into debt in the 1970s to provide services to its residents. The provincial debt rose from $970 million 1972 to $2.6 billion in 1979.

He went back into the business world and worked as a lobbyist, using his government connections.

In 1983, he was an organizer for Brian Mulroney in his successful bid to become the leader of the federal Progressive Conservatives.

Throughout Mulroney’s time as prime minister, Moores was an advisor to him. He was eventually appointed to the board of Air Canada, while also working for Government Consultants International, a powerful lobbying firm he founded. When GCI took on the Airbus file, Moores resigned.

Years later, the Airbus Affair would erupt with claims that Brian Mulroney had been paid secret commissions, along with others, in exchange for Air Canada purchasing a large number of Airbus jets. In 1995, Moores was accused by the RCMP of accepting kickbacks.

He said at the time,

“I’m like a lightning rod. All this damn stuff that’s happening all of a sudden ends up with me.”

Throughout the entire scandal, Moores denied having any involvement. In 1997, federal Justice Minister Allan Rock and the RCMP commissioner sent a letter of apology to Moores as part of a settlement made due to Brian Mulroney’s defamation lawsuit against the Canadian government.

For the rest of his life, he lived quietly with his wife Beth in Chaffeys Locks, Ontario. In the community, he was a supporter of the local heritage society, and often contributed anonymously to several community causes.

Dave Brown, a local resident said,

“If it was needed, a cheque would come in and you knew it was from him, but he didn’t want any public thanks for it.”

On July 10, 2005, Moores died of liver cancer in Perth, Ontario. He had been diagnosed the previous year, and by 2005 it spread to his back.

Premier Danny Williams said of Moores upon his death,

“He was committed to making Newfoundland and Labrador a better place, and we all owe him a debt of gratitude for his significant contributions as the province’s first Progressive Conservative premier.”

Prime Minister Paul Martin Moores was,

“a steadfast proponent for his province, and defender of the interests of the people.”

Information from Canadian Encyclopedia, Newfoundland Heritage, CBC, The Globe and Mail, Wikipedia, No Holds Barred, Hockey Newfoundland, Vancouver Sun, Montreal Gazette, Kingston Whig Standard, North Bay Nugget,

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