Former federal cabinet minister John Efford dies at 77

Former federal cabinet minister John Efford dies at 77

by Sue Jones
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Former provincial and federal politician John Efford died Sunday in hospital in Carbonear.

John Efford

John Efford died Sunday at the age of 77. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Former Newfoundland and Labrador provincial and federal politician John Efford has died. He was 77. 

In a statement, Efford’s family said he died in hospital in Carbonear on Sunday.

“Dad was a proud and passionate Newfoundlander who deeply loved this province and its people … he always wore his heart on his sleeve,” daughter Jackie said in the statement.

“His many years of public service and commitment to making a difference in the lives of all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians was second to none.”

John Efford In 1991

Efford was a front-bench cabinet minister during much of the provincial Liberal governments of the 1990s. (CBC)

Efford sat in Newfoundland and Labrador’s House of Assembly from 1985 to 2001 as the MHA for Port de Grave.

He ran for the provincial Liberal leadership in 2001. He lost that bid to Roger Grimes by just 14 votes.

Efford moved on to federal politics and went on to be elected to the House of Commons as an MP in 2002.

He served in the Liberal government for the next three years, with part of his time in office being spent as the minister of natural resources, including when Newfoundland and Labrador reached a new agreement with the federal government on the Atlantic Accord in 2005. 

Efford retired from politics in 2006 and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2017.

He went public with his diagnosis in an interview with CBC News two years later in hopes of bringing more awareness to the disease and rallying for more research and scientific advances.

Premier Andrew Furey offered his condolences Sunday, calling Efford “a force.”

“Without a doubt, John was one of Newfoundland and Labrador’s most recognizable and colourful figures, inside and outside the political arena,” Furey said in a statement.

“I am glad to have called John a friend and send condolences to his family and friends on behalf of the provincial government.”

The province will said it will fly flags at all government buildings at half-mast from sunrise to sunset until Efford’s funeral.

Pam Parsons is the MHA for the Harbour Grace-Port de Grave district, Efford’s former seat.

While speaking with CBC News, Parsons said Efford has always “been there by my side, supporting me.”

“John Efford was a pioneer and a leader out here in this region, and across our province, ultimately. But he was also a family friend,” she said. 

Negotiating Success

Premier Danny Williams and Prime Minister Paul Martin watch the Atlantic Accord being signed by John Efford, front right, the then minister of Natural Resources Canada, and Loyola Sullivan, who was Newfoundland and Labrador’s finance minister at the time.

In a statement, former Prime Minister Paul Martin said he was saddened to learn of his former cabinet minister’s passing.

“John had a remarkable political career In Ottawa and in Newfoundland and Labrador. He was a passionate advocate for his constituents, for the province he loved, for its fishing industry as well as the communities that depend on it,” Martin said.

“He never shied away from any challenge in his years as a provincial and federal advocate and faced them all with resolve and kindness. He was an extraordinary public servant, a cherished colleague and a friend.”

Former Premier Danny Williams also remembered Efford’s dedication to Newfoundland and Labrador.

“I had a deep admiration for his absolute commitment to serving the people of our province,” Williams said in a statement.

“His love for Newfoundland and Labrador and for those he represented was unwavering, and a testament to what it is to be a public servant. His legacy will certainly be a lasting one.”

Efford’s family has asked for privacy. A celebration of life will be held at a later date due to COVID-19 restrictions.  

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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