A provincial politician who clashed with Ottawa to turn the fortunes around in Atlantic Canada is on a new mission and now Brian Peckford is determined to set the record straight on how the agreement came about in November 1981 to Patriate Canada’s Constitution.
Peckford calls Qualicum Beach home these days but the former Newfoundland and Labrador premier was back in his old political stomping ground this week where he launched a book called Some Day the Sun Will Shine and Have Not Will Be No More.
Released by Flanker Press the book is a political memoir that aims to change the story of how the deal that brought about the Constitution actually went down.
Back in the day, Peckford was a brash but popular premier of a hard-luck province and it was a turbulent time.
He was determined that Newfoundlanders would benefit from what was still just the promise of offshore oil wealth.
He fought with Ottawa over the Labrador power deal with Quebec and it was Peckford’s administration that battled for and achieved the Atlantic Accord, a new groundbreaking arrangement with the federal government which has become the template for all exploration and development of offshore oil and gas resources in Canada.
Stirring up Newfoundlanders’ sense of grievance and of nationalism the former premier threw himself into the constitutional talks that began in early 1981.
He was a central agitator among the “gang of eight” provinces resisting the centralizing federals.
Now 69 years old, Peckford wants to correct what he calls the misrepresentations of the events of Nov. 4-5, 1981.
According to the history books, the story of the deal has three players; Jean Chrétien and attorneys-general Roy McMurtry of Ontario and Roy Romanow of Saskatchewan sketching out the deal on scraps of paper in a kitchen at Ottawa’s Chateau Laurier.
Peckford argues that the kitchen cabinet story is largely myth and was nothing more than an exchange of information between Chrétien and the provincial ministers about a substantive deal that was already taking shape.
He states historical accounts of the deal have overlooked the true breakthrough event: an informal gathering of premiers on the evening of Nov. 4, 1981, in a suite at the Chateau Laurier, where he claims a Newfoundland-led proposal became the heart of the eventual constitutional accord.
“We made a written proposal the night of Nov. 4 and it ended up being the forerunner to the patriation agreement.”
He recalled that a written proposal from Newfoundland was presented to B.C., Saskatchewan and Alberta on the evening of Nov. 4, and later that night to include Nova Scotia and P.E.I., with Manitoba being informed later.
Peckford has been busy this week doing book signings in several locations in Newfoundland.
He has also booked a space at the Parliamentary Press Gallery in Ottawa on September 19, for a press conference addressing the section of the book that deals with the Canadian constitution.