The small reception room was packed with old friends and colleagues, including a handful of former ministers. They sat attentively as Brian Peckford read a poignant anecdote from his new book, with all the charm of Ted Russell’s Uncle Mose.
When the former premier finished his tale, the audience applauded generously.
But the book — “Some Day the Sun Will Shine and Have Not Will Be No More” — is about much more than Peckford’s early life and clever stories from the campaign trail.
It is more about setting the record straight on his tenure as premier — a record that has received short shrift over the years, largely overshadowed by his troubled last few years in office.
That became clear Tuesday when the Canadian Encyclopedia confirmed it has agreed to revise its entry on 1982’s repatriation of the Canadian Constitution, largely based on Peckford’s book.
The encyclopedia had overlooked Newfoundland’s role in the behind-the-scene events that led to the country’s first ministers — minus Quebec — signing a final deal. The editor had a change of heart when confronted by Peckford’s account, along with supporting documentation and interviews.
It’s all rather odd, since anyone in this province who followed the news at the time is well aware that Peckford and his team came up with the initial proposal for that final pact.
Speaking of being ignored, noticeably absent at Tuesday’s book launch were members of the current Progressive Conservative government, save for St. John’s South MHA Tom Osborne. (Osborne left to sit as an independent on Thursday.) No premier, no ministers, not one of the current movers and shakers.
This reflects sadly on a government that has, since 2003, basically ridden on the coattails of Peckford’s most noteworthy achievement: the 1985 Atlantic Accord.
The administrations of Danny Williams and Kathy Dunderdale owe their good economic fortune to the legacy of Peckford and others who hammered out the historic offshore oil pact.
That’s not to say the snub is surprising. Today’s Tory government seems to operate in a vacuum.
They are their own heroes, with few debts to history or the work of their political ancestors. Ourselves alone, if you will.
That became clear in 2007, when Peckford dared to comment on the province’s resource policies.
“I find it sad when former premiers comment on current administrations,” Williams scolded.
Of course, Williams didn’t hesitate to stick his oar in after he left office, and Premier Kathy Dunderdale has given him the cold shoulder, as well.
It’s a uniquely ahistorical attitude, one that can’t bode well for the future of any established political party. A tree with no roots eventually withers and dies.
In the meantime, it will be interesting to see what other gems emerge as readers pore through the Peckford’s book.