But when they needed a big name from the Mulroney years to attack Stephen Harper, suddenly he became a respected elder statesman:
A "pessimistic" Crosbie is predicting hard times in the next election for his party, warning that Harper is scaring voters by linking his leadership to the campaign against same-sex marriages while heeding lousy advice from his inner circle.
OK, you're probably saying, so what? Crosbie's a 74-year-old political curiosity, best known as the former Conservative finance minister whose 1979 budget torpedoed Joe Clark's minority government a few lifetimes ago to the average voter.
But Crosbie still commands attention and respect in the reunited Conservative party, where only 15 months ago he was a huge Harper booster who flirted briefly with the bizarre notion of running against Liberal cabinet minister John Efford before his long-suffering spouse vetoed such silliness.
And he's got a well-earned national reputation as the sort of fearless observer who blurts out the hard truths everybody else is thinking but is too timid to say out loud.
John Crosbie's criticism can be boiled down to the same, tired old advice we've been getting from the Toronto media elites: Stephen Harper's too cold, the party has to move to the middle, muzzle the so-cons, etc., etc.
The Conservative Party will never win the affection of the Toronto media elites, even if it became a carbon copy of the Liberal Party.
But we don't need the love and affection of the chattering classes if we go over their heads directly to the people with a vision.
People know that Canada is not living up to its potential, and that we're paying too much tax for too little return.
What's needed is a vision as captivating as Pierre Trudeau's ultimately destructive Just Society was at the time. And that vision has to be a positive one with a coherent conservative message, both fiscally and socially.
The American conservative movement did it. So can we.