The death of John Crosbie will be marked across Newfoundland and Labrador and Canada today, with a televised funeral from the Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.
Crosbie, 88, died on Jan. 10, following a period of illness.
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 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.
At Thursday’s funeral, which begins at 2 p.m. NT / 12:30 p.m. ET, former prime minister Brian Mulroney, under whom Crosbie served as cabinet minister, will give the eulogy, as will Crosbie’s son, Ches Crosbie, who is leader of the provincial Progressive Conservatives in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be among the dignitaries attending the funeral.
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.
“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.
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 no doubt 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.”
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 Clarke and Mulroney, Crosbie held a number of portfolios, including Finance, Fisheries, Justice and International trade.
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.