Remembering John Crosbie, his wit and insights

  • In 1979 when the Joe Clark government fell on a non-confidence vote on respecting the budget, less than nine months in office: “Long enough to conceive, just not long enough to deliver.”
  • On Question Period: “The usual lot of noise not signifying very much.”
  • “Mr. Speaker, I am glad the honourable gentleman finally got around to asking me about this question, because if you want an answer, you have to go to the horse’s mouth…. In this case, Mr. Speaker, the other end of the horse asked the question.”
  • “In fact, Mr. Speaker, they are not interested in the answers at all. They are howling and bawling like a bunch of banshees.”
  • “Mr. Speaker, the longer this House continues, the more I become in favour of capital punishment.”
  • “I refused to act as though I’d been weaned on a pickle.”
  • “The media, however, wouldn’t make the effort to listen to what I was saying or understand what I was doing. Instead, they stereotyped me as a buffoon, an entertainer, a jokester who was incapable of taking serious matters seriously.”
  • “[It’s not correct to describe me as a] loose cannon because I refused to pussyfoot around issues and only say safe, predictable things.”
  • “No one took things in politics personally if they wanted to be successful.”
  • “With a Polish pope and a Newfoundland finance minister, you mainlanders had better watch your jokes.”
  • “I would sooner have a foot in my mouth than a forked tongue.”
  • “I’ve spoken too long, I’ve said too much, I’ve been too frank, and I don’t give a damn.”
  • On politics: “People are ambitious and so you know this is always a big risk, right? It’s not namby-pamby.”
  • “I represented several parties. I never had any hesitation to change parties. All parties have got something to be said for them and if I got fed up with one party and pissed off with whatever they were doing, I was always quite willing to go with another party, and I didn’t suffer any bad feelings of conscience or anything as a result. I think politics is probably the most difficult profession one can get oneself involved with, but for me, I’ve had no regrets.”
  • The celebrated June 1985 House of Commons exchange with MP Sheila Copps: “Just quiet down, baby,” to which Copps responded: “I’m not his baby, and I’m nobody’s baby.”
  • Further to this exchange, he quoted lyrics of a Bobby Bare song at a B.C. fundraising dinner: “Pass the tequila, Sheila, and lay down and love me again.”
  • Regarding John Turner’s 1984 election campaign gaffe when was caught on TV cameras slapping Liberal MP’s Iona Campagnolo’s backside: “The Hon. leader of the Opposition knows all about butts. He has had his hands on more butts than there are members of this House.”
  • Responding to the Liberal Opposition: “What is their alternative? Not once have we heard an alternative from the ragtag, tatterdemalion remnants on the Liberal benches.”
  • On the Liberal MPs known as the Rat Pack: “We have been awaiting with trepidation all week the charge of the rodent brigade.”
  • Responding to the NDP Opposition: “The honourable gentlemen in the NDP are members of the neurotic, demagogic and paranoid party. They are the party of professional whiners, they are the professional groaners, they are the professional moaners, they are the down-at-the-mouthers … not offering any solutions, but just making the welkin ring with their complaining.”
  • Describing NDP MP Dawn Black: “[One of the} four horsewomen of the apocalypse.”
  • On the NDP: “The NDP does provide an alternative. It provides Canadians with the alternative of committing suicide, of committing hara-kiri, the alternative of all of us getting together and marching off the wharf like a group of lemmings.”
  • On July 2, 1992 at a protest against shutting down the northern cod fishery: “Why are you yelling at me? I didn’t take the fish from the God damn water.”
  • Questioned about his inability to speak French: “I cannot talk to the Chinese people in their own language either.”
  • Referring to Trudeau’s bilingualism: “It is better to be honest and sincere in one language than a twister, a trickster and a twit in two.”
  • “The best Prime Minister that we’ve had since ’49? It would be difficult to pick one because we’ve had some very fine men, though Brian Mulroney would probably be my favourite politician. He’s the one I got along best with. I enjoyed being involved in his cabinet. It was a congenial atmosphere because you could always express your opinion and if you had a different opinion than his and you disagreed with him in cabinet or expressed a different opinion, it didn’t cause any difficulty with him. He accepted the fact that you had the right to your own opinion and he welcomed you to express your opinion, so my favourite prime minister during my years in politics was Mulroney. I give him high marks for being a good PM for Canada, and for Newfoundland.”
  • On PM Kim Campbell and the 1993 election defeat: “The world knows who’s responsible. It’s the leader and those immediately around her who advised during the course of the election campaign. They must bear the burden of responsibility.”
  • On Canada-US Trade during his 1983 PC leadership bid: “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.”
  • “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.”
  • “The secret to every success for every man is a good woman.”
  • Referring to Jane, his wife of 65 years: “This here is the secret to my success, if I had any.”
  • “How important is having a strong family when you’re in politics? It’s very important. Any man involved, or any woman involved for that matter, needs the willing support of husband or wife. I always said that in my political career my family were always a tremendous help to me. Without their help I couldn’t have accomplished much. If I accomplished anything it was because I had support. You’ve got to have a willing wife and a family that’s supportive if you are going to be a success at anything.”
  • “My proudest thing would be that I survived through it all, that I managed to get elected and re-elected in various positions despite what attitude I was taking. That was a major accomplishment. I’d like to be remembered for being a person unafraid to express his opinion about public issues, either publicly or in cabinet. I’ve always expressed my opinion.”


R.I.P. John Crosbie






[With special acknowledgement to interviews published in 2018 in The Newfoundland Herald. Links: and ]

Photo credits: Toronto Public Library / Toronto Star License & Wikimedia Commons 

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