John Crosbie remembered as political ‘giant’ at state funeral in St. John’s

Dignitaries, politicians, family and friends have gathered in St. John’s for the state funeral for John Crosbie, a former provincial and federal minister, lieutenant-governor, and political icon in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Crosbie, 88, died Jan. 10 following a period of illness.

Ahead of the Crosbie family’s arrival for the service at the Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and former prime minister Joe Clark, Crosbie’s finance minister in 1979 during his government’s brief tenure, could be seen.

Brian Mulroney, who will deliver a eulogy after Ches Crosbie — Crosbie’s son — arrived earlier.

Current Lt.-Gov. Judy Foote also arrived ahead of the family, returning to St. John’s early from a vacation to attend the ceremony for Crosbie, who had previously occupied her office.

Jane Crosbie and daughter, Beth, make their to their seats at the Anglican Cathedral of St. John’s the Baptist in St. John’s for the funeral of John Crosbie. The church of the funeral is the same where Jane and John were married in 1952. (CBC)

The former lieutenant-governor’s ashes spent two days resting in state at Confederation Building in St. John’s. Crosbie is only the second political figure in the province to receive a state funeral, after his political rival, former premier Joey Smallwood.

The two days of public visitation saw hundreds of people filtering through Confederation Building to pay their respects to a political icon.

  • Special coverage of the funeral starts at 1:30 p.m. NT (noon ET) on CBC News Network, CBC Television and Radio in Newfoundland and Labrador, on CBC Gem, the CBC News app and, and on CBC N.L.’s YouTube and Facebook channels.

Former prime minister Joe Clarke, left, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the state funeral for John Crosbie in St. John’s on Jan. 16, 2929. (CBC)

Members of the Progressive Conservative Party lined the pews at the cathedral well ahead of the service, all donning sealskin bowties in Crosbie’s honour.

Crosbie was known as an advocate for the provincial sealing industry and frequently made public appearances wearing seal products.

Bill Gaulton was emotional as he made his way to the cathedral; Gaulton calls himself one of the few remaining volunteers of Crosbie’s municipal campaign in 1965, when Crosbie ran for St. John’s City council.

Bill Gaulton was emotional when talking about John Crosbie’s legacy. (CBC)

“It’s hard on me. I’ve been with him every step of his … political career. So that’s why I’m here — to honour him,” said Gaulton, who campaigned across the country for Crosbie.

“I’ve never met the like of John Crosbie. That’s why I’m here. He had a thousand people who would take a bullet for him.”

Among the people arriving hours ahead of the ceremony was Bud Davidge, a Newfoundland and Labrador musician from Fortune Bay who met Crosbie on a number of occasions.

“He’s probably the greatest Newfoundland representative, or patriot, or whatever you want to call it, that we’ve ever had,” Davidge said outside the cathedral.

Bud Davidge, an icon himself in the Newfoundland and Labrador music scene, was at the cathedral early Thursday afternoon to pay his respects to John Crosbie. (CBC)

“He had the heart of the province all the time. He spoke his mind clearly and he was involved in all of the things that mean so much for the future of the province. It’s impossible to say all the things that he’s done.”

Gordon Slade, provincial deputy minister of fisheries under Crosbie in the 1970s, said the legacy left behind by Crosbie won’t be forgotten.

“He’s a giant in terms of Newfoundland and Labrador politics, but also he was … the most significant minister we’ve had in Parliament since Confederation,” said Slade.

Gordon Slade worked with John Crosbie in a number of capacities, since serving as deputy minister of fisheries under Crosbie back in the 1970s. (CBC)

“And he’s done so much that people don’t know anything about.”

Archdeacon Roger Whalen will be presiding over the ceremony, which he said will be a traditional Anglican service, as requested by the family, in a place familiar to them.

“His wife Jane grew up coming to the cathedral — this was her parish — and the Crosbies were married here. And they’ve had a connection here for many years,” said Whalen, who added he expects a full house for his first-ever state funeral.

Newfoundland and Labrador Lt.-Gov. John Crosbie inspects an honour guard at the Confederation Building in St. John’s prior to the opening of the House of Assembly in St. John’s on March 5, 2012. (Paul Daly/The Canadian Press)

“We expect a capacity crowd, so about 800, maybe more if we can squeeze them in.”

Whalen said he’s nervous about the ceremony, but “tremendously honoured” to deliver the service, which is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. and should take about an hour.

It will end with a rendition of the Ode to Newfoundland.

Crosbie’s funeral is being held at the Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in St. John’s, the church where he and his wife Jane were married. (CBC)

A long list of family, friends, dignitaries, politicians and colleagues are expected to attend, while seating for members of the public will open starting at 12:30 p.m.

“Yes it’s a great honour, a great privilege, great responsibility,” he said, adding Crosbie is a political icon.

“With due respect to the current politicians, I don’t think there’s a politician from Newfoundland right now who would have the stature of Mr. Crosbie.”

Long political history

Crosbie was a political juggernaut, starting his early political career with St. John’s city council, before joining the Smallwood Liberal government.

Following a leadership challenge against Smallwood — which Crosbie lost — and a falling out with Smallwood, Crosbie set his sights on federal politics.

John Crosbie was elected as the Conservative MP for St. John’s West in a byelection in 1976.

He would represent that riding for the next two decades, sitting in the House of Commons in Ottawa under Tory governments and on the opposition bench through the years.

A cabinet minister under both Joe Clark and Mulroney, Crosbie held a number of portfolios, including Finance, Fisheries, Justice and International Trade.

Crosbie in 2011. (Paul Daly/Canadian Press)

Crosbie had an integral role in the negotiations for the Free Trade Agreement; he was also fisheries minister when the Atlantic cod moratorium came down, putting thousands of people in Newfoundland and Labrador out of work.

Never one to shy away from saying what was on his mind, Crosbie was known as a quick-witted and outspoken personality in federal politics, with some of his more eyebrow-raising comments making for heated debate both in the House of Commons and in the public political discourse.

He was also considered a champion of the province’s sealing industry, frequently making public appearances donning his sealskin coat, hat, boots or tie, to name a few.

Crosbie retired from federal politics in 1993, the same year the PCs would be not only cleared out of office but reduced to a caucus of just two members.

In 1994, he was named chancellor of Memorial University in St. John’s, a post he held for 14 years.

In 2008, he was appointed lieutenant-governor of Newfoundland and Labrador. His five-year term returned him often to the public eye, albeit in a much more ceremonial fashion.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

John Crosbie remembered as political ‘giant’ at state funeral in St. John’s

Aggregated from: CBC | Newfoundland and Labrador News

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