All in Good Time


273 pages
Contains Photos, Index
ISBN 0-14-301613-X
DDC 971.064'8'092





Reviewed by Melvin Baker

Melvin Baker is an archivist and historian at Memorial University of
Newfoundland, and the co-editor of Dictionary of Newfoundland and
Labrador Biography.


By any measure, Brian Tobin has had a highly successful career in
Canadian politics. Elected to the House of Commons in 1980 at age 25, he
won re-election in 1984, 1988, and 1993 before resigning in 1996 to
become premier of Newfoundland and Labrador. A member of the “rat
pack” during the Liberal Party’s years in opposition from 1984 to
1993, Tobin served as Minister of Fisheries and Oceans under Prime
Minister Jean Chrétien from 1993 to 1996. In this memoir, Tobin
provides an insider’s observations on the workings of the Canadian
federal parliamentary system and what it takes to win an election—and,
most importantly, to get re-elected. There are also insights into the
strengths and weaknesses of Canada’s prime ministers from Trudeau to
Chrétien. He is at his storytelling best in the detailed account of his
efforts in 1995 aimed at getting the federal government to take
unilateral action, despite the “un-Canadian” nature of such an act,
against foreign fishing infractions by vessels from the European Union
in Canadian waters. His reputation as “Captain Canada” was further
enhanced in 1995, when he rallied federalist support from across Canada
to a demonstration in Montreal in support of Canada during the Quebec
referendum campaign on separation from Canada.

Tobin’s brief four-year tenure as premier of Newfoundland and
Labrador was a whirlwind of activity. Acclaimed by the provincial
Liberals as their leader in early 1996, Tobin easily won a snap election
as well as a second election called in 1999. Tobin describes his efforts
to balance the budget, the holding of a successful referendum to rid the
province of denominational education, his fast-tracking of efforts to
settle Aboriginal land claims, the visit of Queen Elizabeth II during
the 1997 Cabot celebrations, and the Voisey’s Bay nickel negotiations.

In 2000, Tobin heeded an appeal from Prime Minister Chrétien to return
to federal politics. Elected in the general election of November 2000,
he served as Minister of Industry until January 2002. Having determined
that any attempt to win the leadership of the Liberal Party following
the Prime Minister’s pending retirement would be very difficult,
Tobin, heeding the advice of his late father “to follow his gut,”
resigned from political life to spend more time with his family and to
enter the private sector.


Tobin, Brian., “All in Good Time,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed January 21, 2022,