The Late Honourable John Carnell Crosbie, P.C., O.C., O.N.L.
Honourable senators, I rise today to remember The Honourable John Crosbie, a political giant, an icon, a legend of national politics and a tireless advocate for my province.
John Crosbie was born in pre-Confederation St. John’s on January 30, 1931, to Ches Arthur Crosbie, a prominent St. John’s businessman and politician, and Jessie (Carnell) Crosbie. After graduating from political science at Queen’s University, he graduated from Dalhousie University in 1956. He became a practising lawyer and entered politics in 1965 as a city councillor in St. John’s. He served briefly as Deputy Mayor of St. John’s in 1966. In that same year, he was appointed Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, creating Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation. In 1967, he became Minister of Health, creating the Newfoundland and Labrador Medicare Commission and the framework of the Newfoundland and Labrador Medicare Plan.
After a dispute over the Liberal leadership in 1969 with another political icon, Joseph R. Smallwood, John Crosbie crossed the floor and joined the opposition Progressive Conservatives in 1971, who were subsequently elected to govern in 1972 and led Crosbie to hold a number of provincial cabinet posts. In Moores Progressive Conservative government, he held the positions of Minister of Finance, President of the Treasury Board, Minister of Economic Development, Minister of Fisheries, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Minister of Mines and Energy and Government House Leader. He left provincial politics in 1976 and entered federal politics in 1979.
In 1979, when the Progressive Conservatives won a minority government under Prime Minister Joe Clark, he became Minister of Finance and tabled a tough budget that was not supported by the House of Commons. Clark’s government fell on a motion of non-confidence in 1980. For this reason, Mr. Crosbie remembered the eight-month Joe Clark government as “long enough to conceive, just not long enough to deliver.”
In 1983, he ran for leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party and placed third behind Mr. Clark and Mr. Mulroney. When Brian Mulroney became Prime Minister, Crosbie was appointed to cabinet.
His political achievements include promotion of the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, the investment in the successful Hibernia offshore platform and the fight to advance Newfoundland and Labrador’s economic future.
One of the toughest political decisions he had to make was closing the cod fishery in 1992, as Newfoundland and Labrador struggled with the collapse of the northern cod stocks that supported Newfoundland’s economy for centuries.
Crosbie left federal politics in 1993 and published his memoirs No Holds Barred: My Life in Politics in 1997.
He received the Order of Canada in 1998 and the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador in 2008. In 2008, he was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador. He served in this position until 2013.
He was an approachable and genuine man with courage, compassion and commitment and a great sense of humour. He was also well known for his high standards. This past January, he passed away at the age of 88. He is survived by his wife Jane, who was his staunchest supporter, and children Michael, Beth and Ches, who is now the provincial leader of the Progressive Conservative Party in my province.
Honourable senators, join me in remembering a prominent politician, an icon of municipal, provincial and federal politics but, above all, a proud Newfoundlander and Labradorian.