Most people who remember the Hon. John C. Crosbie will do so for his larger-than-life political stature. “To Newfoundland and Labrador and to Canada, he was an independent spirit, a passionate nation builder, an orator of biting wit and charm, and always—forever—a tireless fighter for the people,” said his family in an official statement on his passing.
When he graduated law school, he did so with the highest marks in the country. His storied career carried him from St. John’s City Council to federal cabinet chambers. He presided over Canada’s 1989 free trade deal with the United States, was the minister charged with shutting down N.L.’s northern cod fishery in 1992 and was an early champion of the Hibernia offshore oil project. His quick wit and unapologetic turn of phrase landed him in hot water too many times to count. He was bold, brash, brilliant and brave. He was my friend.
I grew up with John. He and his family were close friends with me and mine. He never forgot that, even when he went to Ottawa consorting with the Prime Minister and other heads of state. John was there for me when we launched our first magazine at the Royal York hotel in Toronto 37 years ago and he was a popular columnist for us for well over a decade.
The only time he wasn’t there for me? When we played tennis. We were doubles partners for years and I, with the younger lungs and legs, was expected to chase the ball around. His job was to stand there and whack it back to the other side. Our conversation consisted of him telling me to move faster and me telling him to get his arse up to the net. He truly was one of a kind.
Fare thee well, John. It was an honour to know you. Sincerest condolences to his family—Jane, Ches, Beth and Michael. •