Former federal cabinet minister John Crosbie has died at age 88, in a Jan. 10, 2020 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Former federal cabinet minister John Crosbie has died at age 88, in a Jan. 10, 2020 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Outspoken former federal cabinet minister John Crosbie dead at 88

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — John Crosbie, a former federal cabinet minister who was known as much for his sharp wit as for his politics, has died at the age of 88.

His death early Friday followed a period of declining health that saw an outpouring of support from both politicians and average citizens.

“It is consoling to know that our father, who dedicated his life to serving our province and country, is beloved throughout Newfoundland and Labrador and across Canada,” his eldest son, Ches Crosbie, said in a statement on Thursday.

Crosbie, who was perhaps best known as an outspoken fisheries minister under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, was born to a political family in pre-Confederation St. John’s in 1931. He was an exemplary student, graduating with honours from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., and Dalhousie Law School in Halifax.

He entered politics in 1965 as a city councillor in St. John’s. Within a year, he was appointed to the cabinet of Liberal Premier Joey Smallwood and shortly afterwards was elected to the legislature.

After a dispute with Smallwood over the leadership of the party in 1969, Crosbie crossed the floor to join the Opposition Progressive Conservative party led by Frank Moores. The Conservatives were elected to govern in 1972, and Crosbie held a number of cabinet positions before deciding to run federally in 1976.

As finance minister in the short-lived minority government of Prime Minister Joe Clark, he brought in a tough budget containing tax increases in 1979, and the government fell on a motion of non-confidence after less than nine months in office.

“Long enough to conceive, just not long enough to deliver,” Crosbie quipped at the time.

He ran for the party’s leadership in 1983 but, hurt by his inability to speak French, he lost to Brian Mulroney.

Questioned about his unilingualism, Crosbie shot back, “I cannot talk to the Chinese people in their own language either.”

Mulroney became prime minister in 1984 and Crosbie was named justice minister. In an exchange in the House of Commons in 1985, Crosbie told Liberal MP Sheila Copps to “Just quiet down, baby,” prompting Copps to reply, “I’m nobody’s baby.”

He riled Copps again in 1990 during a fundraiser in Victoria, B.C., saying Copps made him think of the song lyrics, “Pass the tequila, Sheila, and lie down and love me again.” The sexist quip was caught on camera, sparking an uproar. Crosbie later acknowledged the comment was “ill-considered.”

He later said he and Copps played up their squabbles for mutual gain. “She’s a professional politician, and I was as well,” he said in 2011. “We’re good pals now. We’re very friendly, and she’s married to a Newfoundlander, so she’s a fine woman as far as I’m concerned.”

During his time in the Mulroney government, he was one of the most vocal proponents of the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement.

Crosbie’s final cabinet post was as fisheries minister, and he oversaw the closure of the cod fishery in Atlantic Canada — a move that put thousands of people in his home province out of work.

Defending himself in front of protesting Newfoundland fishermen in 1992, shortly before he announced the fishing moratorium, Crosbie said, ”I didn’t take the fish from the God damned water!”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 10, 2020.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said the 500 deaths from COVID-19 in the province are a tragic milestone. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta hits ‘tragic milestone’ with more COVID-19 deaths

Province up to 500 COVID-19 deaths, adds 1,265 cases

A recent investigation by the RCMP Central Alberta District Crime Reduction Unit led to the arrests of 24 people. (Contributed photo)
24 people arrested following RCMP investigation in central Alberta

Twenty-four people are facing a combined 235 charges following an investigation by… Continue reading

Photo from Town of Sylvan Lake Facebook page
Sylvan Lake communities band together on development plan

Sylvan Lake Intermunicipal Development Plan expected to be approved next spring

Tribe restaurant owner Paul Harris, left, consults with manager Brandon Bouchard about how to proceed under pandemic rules that make it hard for eateries to be profitable. (Contributed photo).
New pandemic rules deemed workable for Red Deer retailers

Stricter COVID-19 reduction measures introduced in lead-up to Christmas

Quentin Lee Strawberry
Man accused in 2019 Red Deer murder will stay behind bars

Quentin Strawberry going to trial next year on second-degree murder charge

Hockey Canada suspends world junior selection camp after positive COVID-19 tests

Hockey Canada suspends world junior selection camp after positive COVID-19 tests

Justice Minister David Lametti responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Liberals to present bill on single-game sports betting

Liberals to present bill on single-game sports betting

Bayern, Man City win to advance to Champions League last-16

Bayern, Man City win to advance to Champions League last-16

FILE - In this March 26, 2006 file photo, former soccer player Diego Maradona smokes a cigar as he watches Argentina's first division soccer match between Boca Juniors and River Plate in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The Argentine soccer great who was among the best players ever and who led his country to the 1986 World Cup title before later struggling with cocaine use and obesity, died from a heart attack on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, at his home in Buenos Aires. He was 60. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko, File)
Argentine soccer great Diego Maradona dies at 60

Argentine soccer great Diego Maradona dies at 60

In this July 1, 2020, photo, Salt Lake Tribune data columnist and Utah Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen poses for a photo. Larsen is a sports writer, but with much of that world sidelined during the pandemic he's been digging into coronavirus data and its sobering implications. So when he found himself with a cache of spare change, partially from his childhood piggy bank, he knew plenty of people could use it. (Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)
Tweet on spare change generates big money for virus aid

Tweet on spare change generates big money for virus aid

FILE - In this Wednesday, March 18, 2020 file photo, a view of a 'Matterhorn-Express' gondola lift in front of Matterhorn mountain in the Zermatt ski resort, in Zermatt, Switzerland. Restrictions to slow the curve of coronavirus infections have kept ski lifts closed in Italy, France, Germany and Austria, as well as countries further east. But skiers are already heading to mountains in Switzerland, drawing an envious gaze from ski industry and local officials in mountain regions elsewhere on the continent who lost most of last season due to the virus. (Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone via AP, File)
As season nears, Europe ponders skiing during pandemic

As season nears, Europe ponders skiing during pandemic

FILE - In this Dec. 10, 2015 file photo, actor John Boyega, right, pose with Star Wars characters during the Japan Premiere of their latest film "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" in Tokyo. Boyega stars in Steve McQueen’s “Red White and Blue,” the third film in the director’s anthology of West Indian life in London from the ‘60s through the ’80s. The five-film series will debut Dec. 4. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara, File)
John Boyega isn’t going to ‘take the money and shush’

John Boyega isn’t going to ‘take the money and shush’

The Hockley Motel in Mono, Ont., is shown in this undated handout photo. An Ontario motel that served as a backdrop for the beloved CBC sitcom "Schitt's Creek" is up for sale. The Hockley Motel in Mono, about an hour's drive northwest of Toronto, was listed for $2 million today. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Colliers International
Calling all eccentric millionaires: ‘Schitt’s Creek’ motel up for sale for $2 million

Calling all eccentric millionaires: ‘Schitt’s Creek’ motel up for sale for $2 million

Most Read