John Crosbie remembered by MP as champion of equal rights

John Crosbie left behind a long and storied legacy, but it goes beyond his economic accomplishments, says Liberal MP Seamus O'Regan.

While he was a long-standing member of the Progressive Conservatives, Crosbie held firm to Red Tory beliefs.

In 1990, Crosbie fought for the reinstatement of funding that had been cut for women's programs across Canada, as well as protecting LGBT people from discrimination.

O'Regan knew Crosbie for most of his life and said while the man was a political icon, he was also a "champion" for equal rights, even when it was unpopular with his own party.

"He made amendments to the human rights code to make sure that there was no discrimination based on sexual orientation in the federal civil service, the military, the RCMP," O'Regan said.

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"It was a move that was so controversial at the time … within his own party. And he had to take it to the floor of the House of Commons."

O'Regan said that, in itself, is an accomplishment to be proud of.

"When you come to his funeral with your husband, you don't forget that."

'Extraordinary feat'

As the federal minister for natural resources, O'Regan said it's a daunting role to fill, knowing it's a department established in large part thanks to Crosbie's work through his years in Ottawa.

In particular, the signing of a renewed Atlantic Accord last year highlighted for O'Regan the extent of the work Crosbie put into ensuring Newfoundland and Labrador's economic prosperity.

"When you get into how intricate that deal was, you realize the political capital he expended, you realize how savvy he was to get that for us politically," O'Regan said.

Look at the years of public service that he put in for this province. - Seamus O'Regan

"It was an extraordinary feat. That document, the Atlantic Accord, is our document of prosperity in this province. If he is remembered singularly for anything in this province, I think it's that."

But, as many who knew Crosbie will attest, there are a great many other things he will be remembered for.

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O'Regan said he will remember Crosbie's humour — his "poetic profanity" — as well as being a man dedicated to his home province.

"Look at the years of public service that he put in for this province and for the people of this province," O'Regan said.

"[He was] a man, I think, of such intelligence and such empathy and a man who showed you can be every bit as patriotic to your province without it taking away from being patriotic to your country."

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