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From 1985 to 2001, he served as a Member of the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly. He was Opposition critic for consumer affairs, public works, fisheries, health and social services. He later served as minister of social services, minister of works, services and transportation, and minister of fisheries and aquaculture. He lost the 2001 leadership convention to become Liberal party leader to Roger Grimes by 14 votes in a divisive contest. Efford and fellow leadership contestant Paul Dicks subsequently left provincial politics saying that they could not work with Grimes.
Efford was elected to the House of Commons in a by-election in May 2002 and was re-elected in the 2004 general election. In 2003, he was named Minister of Natural Resources. He has served as a member of the standing committees on Canadian Heritage and on Fisheries and Oceans. He has also served on the standing committees on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities and on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources.
On September 1, 2005, after considerable speculation that he intended to resign his federal cabinet position due to ill-health, Efford announced, to much surprise, that he had no intention to resign. He later stated on NTV that he would not run again in the 2006 federal election or run for the leadership of the Newfoundland Liberal Party. In November 2005, it was reported that Efford was retiring from politics due to poor health from diabetes.
After completing a business administration program, Efford established and ran Efford’s Wholesale, Snow's Plumbing Ltd and the Della Lee retail clothing store. Efford and his wife, Madonna, have three children Jacqueline Ann, R. John III, Joseph Lee children and three grandchildren, R. John Efford IV, Jenna Emily Suzanna Efford & Cali Jean Efford Fitzgerald.
In February 2011, Efford criticized the leadership of provincial Liberal Leader, Yvonne Jones and called for her to consider resigning. Efford stated that her low poll numbers were the main reason for his request. He referenced a Telelink poll released that week by NTV, in which 11 percent of respondents said they would prefer Jones to lead the province. Jones responded by saying Efford was an absolute nuisance to the Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal party, and another poll done in March showed that Jones' popularity was now up to 18% from the 11% that the February poll showed.
- Canadian byelections 2002
- "Efford won't run in next election". CBC News, November 18, 2005.
- "Efford an 'absolute nuisance': Jones". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 18 February 2011.
- "Jones won't become premier: Efford". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 17 February 2011.
- How'd They Vote?: John Efford's voting history and quotes
- John Efford – Parliament of Canada biography
|Parliament of Canada|
Brian Tobin, Liberal
|Member of Parliament from Bonavista—Trinity—Conception
|Member of Parliament from Avalon
Fabian Manning, Conservative