Politicians remember former NL and Federal Cabinet Minister John Eford

ST. Johns, NL-Former Federal and State Cabinet Minister John Eford is remembered as the “true icon” of Newfoundland and Labrador politics.

He died on Sunday at the age of 77, urging mourning and appreciation from current and retired state-wide politicians.

In a news release, Prime Minister Andrew Furey said Eford had “selflessly served his state and country” for 20 years and was happy to call him a friend.

“Undoubtedly, John was one of Newfoundland and Labrador’s most famous and colorful figures, working both inside and outside the political arena,” Fury said. “Today, Newfoundland and Labrador has lost its true icon.”

Eford was born in 1944 in a small fishing village in Port de Grave on the coast of Conception Bay, just west of St. John’s. He was first elected to the Legislature in 1985 and held several ministerial positions during his tenure, including Minister of Development and Rural Revitalization and Minister of Social Services.

He was appointed Minister of Fisheries and Culture of the State in 1996. This was four years after the moratorium on cod fishing in the state led to widespread economic collapse and despair, especially in rural areas. Eford himself is a fisherman and minister, visiting countries such as Japan to explore new markets for seafood in Newfoundland and Labrador, and struggling to recover the industry.

In 1992, state fish harvesters traveled to Toronto and held a rally at Nathan Phillips Square to protest the Moratorium of Tara. In the online footage of the rally, Eford is featured on stage as a founding member of United Fisher Parsons in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“How are you?” Eford yells at the crowd in front of him. This phrase is a common Newfoundland expression for “How are you?”

“Let’s talk one thing from the beginning,” he continues. “I’m from Port de Grave. I don’t believe my accent. It’s real.”

He then begins a ferocious speech about the importance of the Tara fishery to Newfoundland and Labrador and the devastation caused by its imposition.

“All Newfoundlanders have the right to fish,” he exclaims. “This fishery belongs to Newfoundland and Labrador!”

Eford left state politics in 2001 and was elected to the House of Commons in 2002 to represent the Bonavista-Trinity-Conception in the federal constituency. There, he was appointed Minister of Natural Resources in 2003 and held that position until his retirement in early 2006.

A few years before his death, he spoke openly about his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

When the words of his death spread on Sunday, politicians expressed their admiration for Eford’s dedication and heritage.

Former Prime Minister Paul Martin, of whom Eford served as Minister of Natural Resources, issued a statement in condolences.

“John had an amazing political career in Ottawa, Newfoundland and Labrador,” Martin said. “He was … an avid supporter of the state he loved, its fishing industry and the communities that depended on it.”

Former Prime Minister Dwight Ball said Eford has a great ability to connect with people.

“He spent his life fighting for the countryside (Newfoundland and Labrador),” Ball wrote on Twitter. “His determination and resilience had a positive impact on everyone who knew him.”

On his release on Sunday, Fury said Eford had “the strength of the personality and personality that empowered him in our state.”

The flags of Newfoundland and Labrador government buildings will fly with a half-mast of Eford’s honor, Fury added.

Along Sarah Smerry

Canadian press