N.L., Quebec premiers apologize to Tory leader, family for Crosbie quip

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. -- A meeting of Eastern Canadian premiers began Monday with two provincial leaders apologizing for a joke that compared Newfoundland and Labrador's Tory leader to his recently deceased father.

During a photo opportunity on Sunday, Quebec Premier Francois Legault quipped that Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie is "not as great" at public speaking as his late father, John Crosbie.

Liberal Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball laughed at Legault's joke, which came just days after John Crosbie, a former federal cabinet minister and lieutenant-governor of Newfoundland and Labrador, died at the age of 88.

Newfoundland and Labrador's Progressive Conservative caucus issued a statement Monday morning requesting an apology to party leader Ches Crosbie from Legault and Ball.

"While we believe this behaviour was inappropriate, disrespectful and tasteless, we are focused on remembering the incredible legacy of a political icon and supporting our friend and leader, along with his family, at this very difficult time," the statement read.

Ball opened a meeting of premiers in St. John's on Monday by apologizing to the Crosbie family for the incident. He spoke highly of John Crosbie's wit and said it would be unfair to compare anyone to him.

"The bar is way too high for any modern-day politician to even measure themselves by," Ball said. "I apologize to the Crosbie family for my reaction last night."

Legault added that John Crosbie was a great Canadian and apologized for the "bad joke," which he said was intended to help Ball with his opposition in provincial politics.

"He was one of the best speakers and I just wanted to say that his son is different," Legault said.

"I want to offer my condolence to his son and to all the friends of John Crosbie and to all the people of Newfoundland and Labrador."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 13, 2020.