How will history remember John Efford? This is the question bandied around by journalists, political observers and those who are prone to philosophical musings. Of course how we remember John's political life will depend on what snapshot in time we view his career. The provincial John Efford was a champion. A politician like non other. He was a man who garnished support from his constituents that would be the envy of any person in public life.
The federal John was a different man. John's federal career and support from his people declined simultaneously, one feeding on the misfortunes of the other. The downfall of John began at the Liberal leadership convention which would ultimately decide the eighth Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador. John lost to Roger Grimes by fourteen votes. He felt betrayed by the colleagues with whom he had given so much of himself. If there is a defining moment when the fight went out of John Efford it was at this point in time.
John now found himself for the first time in his political career without a defined goal. Then opportunity knocked in Ottawa as Brian Tobin decided to throw in the perverbial towel. The political blood is thick in John, he jumped through the open door. But the move from being a big fish in a small pond to the pond/cesspool of Ottawa politics was a role that he didn't adapt well to. He was rejected by his party and out of his element. Then the winds of a shitstorm took its footing. John was mostly silenced and did not get his evening Sound bites that he was accustomed to. His fellow N&L felt he was being lax in not representing us at a very critical point in our history with-respect-to fisheries and resource management. Truthfully John had lost some of his fight and it showed. Throw in one final element. John's diabetes became a factor. He worried about it, he lost his focus and concentration. Although he felt he was giving up so much of himself even at the sacrifice of his health - there came no support or thanks from his province. And why would we; nothing in John's actions in Ottawa was translating to anything positive for the province.
The final betrayal of John came again from his party colleagues, this time in Ottawa. (Does 7 seats even get noticed among the 308?) John gets his weekly five minutes with Martin and Martin tells him, "John on this Atlantic Accord deal either Williams take this or he will lose it." John of course figures he can take the word of the Number One Man in Canada. Apparently he hadn't been reading too much news at the time. This party is as crooked and wasteful as any party of any free world country this century. In Ottawa No doesn't mean NO. No means, "well how much stink are you willing to kick up about it with this minority government.” John forgot to play all the cards. Williams had nothing in his hand - but a poker face that would cause the best of the best Vegas players to fold. A verbal promise over the phone from the PM was nothing, but a question of integrity against a government whose integrity could not bare to take another shot... As good as a handful of aces.
John lost the limelight becoming known as "John Effortless", signs on the highway demanded he retire. Websites called him a Traitor. John was a man who could climb... but take a fall!? He's never had to get back up from a fall like this.
So how will John's Political life be remembered? Provincial John Effort: in the seal skin coat battling unions, companies, seal protestors and any other attack on the rural identity he wore like a crown... or Federal John, silenced by Ottawa, betrayed by his party, and weakened by diabetes. There must be a great temptation to end such an illustrious career with one final big Hurrah! We've seen this attempt by the likes of Chretian, Cher, even Gretzky. In the end Gretzky's coaching of the 2002 Gold metal Olympic team was another notch in his belt.
So... John Efford has to find his "coaching" role. Maybe no longer being known as a "Member" will be good for him. Not to worry, old politicians never die; they just lose the support of their caucus.