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His Honour the Honourable
 John Carnell Crosbie

Crosbie on the floor of the Progressive Conservative 1983 leadership convention. Photograph by Alasdair Roberts.

Assumed office 
February 4, 2008
Governor General Michaëlle Jean
Premier Danny Williams
Preceded by Edward Roberts

In office
1976 – 1993
Preceded by Walter Carter
Succeeded by Jean Payne

Born January 30, 1931 (1931-01-30) (age 78)
St. John's, Newfoundland & Labrador
Political party Conservative (2004-Present)
Other political
Progressive Conservative (1969-2003), Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador (1966-1969)
Profession Lawyer, Politician
Religion United Church

John Carnell Crosbie, PC, OC, ONL, QC (born January 30, 1931) is a retired provincial and federal politician in Canada. He sometimes sparked controversy when a Cabinet minister during the government of Brian Mulroney, from 1984 to 1993. On February 4, 2008, Crosbie was sworn in as Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador.[1]


Early life

Born in pre-Confederation St. John's, Newfoundland, Crosbie was educated at St. Andrew's College in Ontario, between 1945 and 1949, after which he studied Political Science at Queen's University and law at Dalhousie Law School.

Crosbie's grandfather, Sir John Chalker Crosbie was a prominent businessman and politician. His father, Chesley A. Crosbie, was leader of the Party for Economic Union with the United States in the 1940s and a leading opponent of the campaign for Newfoundland to join Canadian Confederation. Although he was too young to vote in the 1948 referendums, John Crosbie assisted his father's campaign.

Local and Provincial political career

Crosbie first entered politics as a member of the St. John's city council until he was appointed to the provincial cabinet of Liberal Premier Joey Smallwood in 1966. He won a seat in the Newfoundland House of Assembly soon after. Smallwood's government had been in power since 1949, and the Premier was trying to rejuvenate his cabinet by bringing in new blood. Smallwood's authoritarian style and refusal to allow a younger generation to take power frustrated Crosbie and other young ministers such as Clyde Wells.

In 1969, Crosbie challenged Smallwood for the party leadership and lost. He crossed the floor to join the opposition Progressive Conservatives led by Frank Moores. Crosbie helped the Tories defeat Smallwood and come to power in 1972 and held several senior portfolios in Moores's cabinet.

Federal political career

In 1976, Crosbie moved to federal politics, winning the seat of St. John's West in the Canadian House of Commons in a by-election. When Joe Clark's Progressive Conservatives formed a minority government after the 1979 general election, Crosbie became Minister of Finance. He presented a tough budget that included tax increases in what Crosbie quipped was "short term pain for long term gain." A Motion of No Confidence on the budget brought the Clark government down on December 13, 1979, resulting in a new election which the Tories lost. Clark's government would last a total of 9 months less a day. Crosbie famously described it in his own inimitable way: "Long enough to conceive, just not long enough to deliver."

Crosbie was a candidate at the 1983 Progressive Conservative leadership convention, placing a strong third behind Brian Mulroney and Joe Clark. While Crosbie may have been the most popular of the candidates, he was hurt by his inability to speak French. His response that he did not know how to speak Chinese either was not well received. Less notable was the failure of the "John Crosbie blimp" to operate properly during his campaign's demonstration on the floor of the convention.

After Trudeau retired in 1984 and was replaced by John Turner, Mulroney led the Tories to power in the 1984 federal election. Crosbie was named Minister of Justice in Mulroney's first cabinet. In 1985, while justice minister, he attracted attention when, in a heated moment during parliamentary debate, he told Liberal Member of Parliament Sheila Copps "Just quieten down, baby." This remark was the motivation for the choice of title for her autobiography, Nobody's Baby.

In 1986, he was named Minister of Transport. He became Minister for International Trade in 1988, shortly after the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement was negotiated. A lifelong supporter of free trade with the United States, Crosbie actively promoted the agreement in the that year's federal election, which was primarily fought on the issue.

At a fundraising dinner in Victoria, British Columbia in 1990, Crosbie took another dig at Sheila Copps by saying that she made him think of the song lyrics, "Pass the Tequila, Sheila, and lay down and love me again." Crosbie finished his career as Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, and did not run for re-election in 1993.

He would later again rankle feminists and progressives with his recurring references, in the late 1980s and early 1990s (during the 34th Canadian Parliament), to the "Four Horsewomen of the Apocalypse", in reference to Copps, fellow MPs Dawn Black, Mary Clancy, and National Action Committee on the Status of Women President Judy Rebick.

Life after federal politics

In 1997, he published his memoirs, entitled No Holds Barred: My Life in Politics (ISBN 0-7710-2427-4). Around this time, the feud between him and Copps had also cooled. Crosbie had devoted an entire chapter in his autobiography to his confrontations with Copps. In her second autobiography, Worth Fighting For, Copps had Crosbie write an introduction in which he says "I write this Introduction to her new book as a tribute to a feisty, sometimes ferocious, feminist protagonist, never shy or retiring but redoubtable political personality. She was a constant thorn in my side while she was in Opposition, but her marriage to my fellow Newfoundlander Austin Thorne has made her more serene and has calmed her sometimes volcanic and partisan excesses".

Crosbie remained in the Progressive Conservative Party until its dissolution in 2003. Despite his earlier opposition to the Canadian Alliance, he did not oppose the merger of the two parties and joined the new Conservative Party of Canada. In 2004, he served as an advisor to Tony Clement's campaign for the leadership of the new party. In the 2004 federal election, he publicly considered running for the Conservatives against Liberal incumbent John Efford in the Newfoundland riding of Avalon, but ultimately decided against doing so.

Since 1994, he has served as Chancellor of Memorial University of Newfoundland. In 1998, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. Crosbie continued to practise law with the law firm of Cox & Palmerin St. John's until his current appointment.


Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador

On February 4, 2008, Governor General Michaëlle Jean, on the advice of her Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, appointed John Crosbie as Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador, suceeding Edward Roberts.

Memorable quotations

  • "Why are you yelling at me? I didn't take the fish from the God damn water, so don't go abusing me."[2] ~ July 2, 1992
  • "Americans were far more popular in Newfoundland than Canadians, so I was never hung up about the United States. There's always seemed to be a hang up with the Toronto cultural literati about the US. But that's never been the feeling in Newfoundland and Atlantic Canada."[3]
  • "Someday we're going to have a North American continent that's an economic union. That's inevitable. These economic forces are there, and government policy can't stop them. It's only a question of, How do you get into a more secure position? They're next door and geography dictates. Like it or not, we're going up or down with the US."[4]
  • "No, and I'm goddamned not going to either! I'll tell you that, and I'm telling you that there isn't one person in the whole goddamn government who's read it. I'm the only one honest enough to say so... At this stage of my life I don't have to kiss anybody's ass, I can say what I goddamn well like." (on reading the 1988 Free-Trade Agreement)[5]
  • "It is better to be sincere in one language than to be a twit in two." (referring to his own unilingualism and Trudeau's biligualism), 1983

Reference No Holds Barred - John Crosbie's autobiography

External links


  1. ^ GOC Calendar of Official Engagements
  2. ^ Cod moratorium protested. CBC. Broadcast July 2, 1992. Retrieved 2008-11-03.  
  3. ^ Martin, Lawrence (1993). Pledge of Allegiance. Toronto: McLelland & Stewart. ISBN 0-7710-5663-X.  , p.45
  4. ^ Martin, Lawrence (1993). Pledge of Allegiance. Toronto: McLelland & Stewart. ISBN 0-7710-5663-X.  , p.101
  5. ^ Martin, Lawrence (1993). Pledge of Allegiance. Toronto: McLelland & Stewart. ISBN 0-7710-5663-X.  , p.153
Government offices
Preceded by
Edward Roberts
Lieutenant-Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador
2008 –
Succeeded by
24th Ministry - Government of Brian Mulroney
Cabinet Posts (5)
Predecessor Office Successor
Elmer MacKay Minister for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
Ross Reid
Bernard Valcourt Minister of Fisheries and Oceans
Ross Reid
Pat Carney Minister of International Trade
Michael Wilson
Don Mazankowski Minister of Transport
Benoît Bouchard
Donald Johnston Minister of Justice
Ray Hnatyshyn
21st Ministry - Government of Joe Clark
Cabinet Posts (1)
Predecessor Office Successor
Jean Chrétien Minister of Finance
Allan MacEachen
Academic offices
Preceded by
Paul Desmarais
Chancellor of Memorial University of Newfoundland
1994 – 2008
Succeeded by
Rick Hillier


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