I realize the trendy thing to do is jump up and down on the political corpse that is John Efford. And make no mistake, it is the political undead we're talking about here. Efford's been dead since this time last year, when he sided with Ottawa instead of Newfoundland on the offshore royalities battle. But because this is John Efford - about as stubborn a son of a bitch as you'll ever meet - he just hasn't taken the hint and keeled over yet.
With the roasting I'm sure he's getting on the open line shows in Newfoundland, his assine comments to the CBC and editorials this weekend in The Telegram and The Globe and Mail he's pretty much cooked. He won't run in the next federal election. He's not that oblivious.
It's a sad end to a political career. I might not have always agreed with his politics, his decisions or his comments, but I always liked how approachable he was. If you were a journalist in Newfoundland, there was no one more accessible in government than Efford. At least until he went to Ottawa. I think he was always over his head in Ottawa.
I remember calling his office at 6 p.m. on a Friday and interviewing him for 30 minutes. I also remember him coming into the office in Clarenville on a holiday to chat with me about a story because he "was in the neighbourhood anyway, so why not do it in person rather than on the phone?" A colleague of mine called his office at 8 a.m. to leave a message for Efford's secretary. Efford picked up the phone (the secretary wasn't in yet) and they did the interview then.
Every journalist in the province has a story like this. About being able to reach him on his boat. About always being able to get a good quote out of him, even if it came back and bit him on the ass (the line about wanting every seal dead - not his smartest political hour). He's one of the the last of a particular breed of politician and we should mourn his passing.
So yeah, I do feel a bit bad for him, watching him go through this. A fine political animal, who is clearly sick and beyond his prime, is being brought low. It's not the way you would want him to go out. Some kind of blaze of glory would have been more appropriate. If he had stayed retired after losing the Liberal leadership, perhaps.
But yeah, he's got to go now. It's a mercy at this point. I don't think anyone would have begrudged him staying as MP for Avalon while trying to get his diabetes under control. As the Globe points out, several other MPs are battling serious health problems. There would have come a time when he would have to decide if he should stay or go. But as a MP, people would have given him the time and space.
But in this weird nebulous realm of being a pseudo cabinet minister, still drawing more than $100,000 a year of ministerial salary. And vacationing in Florida when he hasn't been to Ottawa in six months? The prime John Efford never would have done that. If a Tory had of done that, Efford's blood pressure would have went through the roof. It looks like he's sticking around in his job just for the money. And it is a lot. But it's not something I ever thought Efford would do.
So John should go and perhaps he will in the coming weeks. The Prime Minister might want to name someone else as Newfoundland's minister, just to shore up their reelection chances. Although who that will be is beyond me. Part of the problem, part of the reason why Efford is still there, is there is no one else from the Liberals remotely qualified. Gerry Byrne was a wash during his last run in cabinet, Bill Matthews is a joke and Todd Russell and Scott Simms are still too green to assume the responsibility.
The best qualified MP would likely be Loyola Hearn. But I'm guessing Paul Martin won't be appointing a Tory to cabinet anytime soon.
Last 5 on iPod
1. Paradise by the "C" - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (Live: 1975-85)
2. One step beyond - Madness (Divine Madness)
3. Everything else - Fur Packed Action (ECMA sampler)
4. Dreamer - Supertramp (Very Best Of...)
5. Summer in Siam - The Pogues (Very Best Of...)