“Let’s go down to the Health Sciences hospital, and how many professional people are in hospital with a disease, with a health problem? Whether they’re a truck driver or a doctor or a lawyer or whatever, they’re going to have to resign because of their health problem? That’s a bit ridiculous.”
— John Efford, Sept. 22, 2005, on his having to resign as federal natural resources minister because of health problems
Remember back in the days when John Efford was taking a political drubbing for his role in the Atlantic Accord negotiations? When he was trying to shove Ottawa’s deal down the province’s throat instead of acting as an advocate for us?
Remember his famous ultimatum from that time?
“Let me say it, and let me say it clear: the deal is done. Do you want it, Mr. Sullivan? Do you want it, Mr. Williams? There are no more changes.”
That was on Oct. 25, 2004, and he was issuing a final demand to finance minister Loyola Sullivan and premier Danny Williams.
Let’s just say it didn’t sit very well with a lot of people who weren’t exactly crazy about Efford’s tone, or his lack of allegiance to the province.
What I remember most about those times is feeling almost a sense of relief that, finally, Efford was revealing his true colours.
This was the same man I had interviewed more than 10 years prior during an inquiry into whether he had shown favouritism in his hiring practises. One moment he was outside the inquiry room, crying crocodile tears about having been ousted from cabinet, the next he was back in the room, sniggering with Beaton Tulk, the two of them passing notes back and forth like schoolboys.
Well, chickens tend to come home to roost and, sure enough, a year after the Atlantic Accord deal was reached, the federal Liberals weren’t too impressed with Efford’s performance, either, and were nudging him out the cabinet door.
He said at the time that health problems were keeping him from key votes in Parliament, and important meetings and conferences.
And pity the innocent observer of politics who dared question him about it.
“That’s a personal thing that I have to deal with, and it shouldn’t be debated in the public,” Efford told VOCM on Sept. 20, 2005.
“Just imagine, when someone gets a health problem, that the general population or the people are calling for their resignation. I mean, I think that’s going a bit too far.”
By Nov. 10, 2005, he was even more fed up.
“I’m getting pretty tired and sick of the news media making the statements that they’re making,” he told CBC Radio in St. John’s, as quoted in a story by The Canadian Press.
“If they’re saying that people who have a disease or have a problem or disability of some sort, a health problem, that everybody should hide away and perish, that’s their opinion. It’s not mine.”
Wait a second — somebody pinch me.
I could have sworn I heard Efford questioning Liberal Leader Yvonne Jones’ health status two weeks ago as she was preparing to undergo radiation treatments for breast cancer.
Here’s what he told CBC Radio’s “Morning Show,” and note how he begins by trying to sound like an amiable political colleague before clumsily stabbing Jones in the back:
“Yvonne is a great person. She’s been a great leader in the Opposition, but unfortunately the people of the province — they’re the ones who speak. Yvonne Jones, unfortunately, does not have good health and people just don't see her as the next premier of Newfoundland and Labrador.”
Gee, who needs enemies, eh?
It’s ironic that while the other parties have been sensitive and supportive to Jones as she recovers from breast cancer — just as the opposition parties were to Danny Williams when he had heart surgery — she finds herself under attack from someone within her own party.
On Nov. 15, 2005, Efford was quoted as saying in a Canadian Press story, “I don’t know why the press, continually, day after day, wanted to talk about my health. … I’m not the only person who’s sick in Canada.”
Well, he got that last part right, but here’s where he went wrong.
Whereas Efford complained loudly and often about being pummelled in the press for not carrying out his duties because of illness, Jones has responded with characteristic grace under fire, dismissing Efford as a “nuisance” — a droning mosquito to be swatted away from your face.
As she told The Telegram, “John Efford aspired to be the leader of this party before and failed to do so. He’s certainly not contributed anything to this party since his loss in 2001. I look at the source of the information and dismiss it very quickly.”
Pam Frampton is The Telegram’s story editor. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.