Skip to main content

Former federal cabinet minister and Newfoundland and Labrador lieutenant-governor John Crosbie speaks in Toronto, in a Jan. 21, 2014, file photo.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

Generations of Canadian politicians filed into an Anglican cathedral in snowy downtown St. John’s on Thursday to honour a man described as a one-of-a-kind political figure whose influence will outlast his lifetime.

John Crosbie, who died last Friday at the age of 88, was remembered at the state funeral as a patriot who played a key role shaping Canada.

Former prime minister Brian Mulroney delivered a eulogy highlighting Mr. Crosbie’s contributions as a minister in his Tory cabinet, alluding to his famous sense of humour but also his devotion to his home province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Story continues below advertisement

“And so we say goodbye today, au revoir, to the Hon. John Crosbie – patriot, senior cabinet minister, devoted partner to his beloved Jane,” Mr. Mulroney told mourners at the Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in St. John’s.

Past and present politicians filed into the Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in St. John's, N.L. for the funeral service of John Crosbie. The Canadian Press

He remembered Mr. Crosbie as a loving father, grandfather and great-grandfather, but also an “indomitable defender of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and a proud Canadian who served his country with high distinction, unblemished integrity and unprecedented achievement.”

“No one – no one – could ask for more,” Mr. Mulroney concluded.

Mr. Mulroney was among a large cast of past and present politicians from Newfoundland and beyond who came out to pay their last respects to the man who also served as Newfoundland and Labrador lieutenant-governor.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who after Mr. Crosbie’s death hailed him as “a true force of nature,” attended the service, as did former prime minister Joe Clark and a number of former premiers of Newfoundland and Labrador. Mr. Trudeau did not speak with reporters on Thursday.

During a lengthy political career that began on St. John’s city council, Mr. Crosbie held many federal cabinet portfolios, including finance, fisheries, justice and international trade.

Former Quebec premier Jean Charest, who served alongside Mr. Crosbie in the Mulroney cabinet, had fond words on Thursday for his friend and former colleague, who he said “defined Canadian politics” when he was in Parliament.

Story continues below advertisement

“The country will never be the same, will it?” Mr. Charest said before entering the church. “There will never be another person like John Crosbie, ever. We will miss him.”

Former Newfoundland and Labrador premiers Paul Davis and Danny Williams called Mr. Crosbie an inspiration. He “embodied what we are” as a province, Williams said.

“We’re proud of our culture and our humour, but I think John also showed that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are intelligent people and big contributors to the Canadian culture,” Mr. Williams said.

Mr. Davis said he was wearing sealskin to honour Mr. Crosbie’s vocal support of the province’s seal harvesters. Former Newfoundland and Labrador premier Brian Tobin also wore a sealskin coat to the funeral in memory of Mr. Crosbie’s work establishing a memorial for perished sealers.

Mr. Tobin recalled Mr. Crosbie’s “big battling personality,” but also the politician’s humanity and “gentle nature, which belied the fighting Newfoundlander that everybody saw.”

Seated at the front of the church near Mr. Charest, Mr. Mulroney and other colleagues, Mr. Tobin said the group swapped memories of their colourful friend.

Story continues below advertisement

“We were having a few chuckles,” Mr. Tobin said. “We were remembering some things that we probably wouldn’t remember publicly about John, some of his lines, some of the cut and thrust and debate with him, and so on, but everything said with total affection. He was a wonderful guy.”

Other Newfoundland celebrities including hockey broadcaster Bob Cole and comedian Rick Mercer came out to pay their respects.

Mr. Mercer remembered filming comedy segments with Mr. Crosbie and said he stood apart from other politicians, who needed far more coaching on how to be funny.

“It was like dealing with another comedian,” Mr. Mercer said. “He had impeccable timing. He came prepared, he knew what he wanted to do and therefore it was always a great day at the office.”

Mr. Crosbie leaves his wife, Jane, and children Michael, Beth and Ches, who is leader of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Progressive Conservative party.

Even during the sometimes sombre funeral service, Crosbie-isms shared by speakers drew big laughs. His son Ches said in a eulogy that his father was an avid reader, and later in life, when asked what he was reading, he would reply: “The Bible. I want to be ready for my final exam.”

Story continues below advertisement

Ches Crosbie praised his father as “loyal to the core,” saying he did not let partisan differences get in the way of helping others.

“For my father, politics was a calling to service,” he said. “He did it oh, so well.” He cited the late Mr. Crosbie’s promotion of free trade and the Hibernia offshore oil development as cornerstones of the province’s economic development.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter
To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies