Foote steps down
Liberal MP announces retirement
Fighting back tears, surrounded by her family, Judy Foote said goodbye to politics, ending a two-decade career that saw her rise to the highest levels of Canadian politics.
Foote retired as arguably the most powerful female politician in Newfoundland and Labrador history, who sat next to the prime minister in the House of Commons and was tasked with handling some of the federal government’s most thorny files.
She said that after an exhausting two decades of travel and elected politics, she is ready to spend more time with her family.
“I have no regrets, and my children and my husband will tell you that we’ve really done this as a family,” she said.
“While my family has always been my priority, the reality of the jobs I’ve had has not made it possible for me to be with them as much as I wanted to.”
Foote has been on leave from the federal cabinet since April, for largely unspecified reasons. On Thursday at her retirement announcement on Signal Hill, Foote offered a bit more of an explanation.
“The jobs that I’ve had have required me to be on the road, and I’ve done that despite having cancer twice, but I want to assure everyone that I continue to be, as far as I know, cancerfree,” she said.
“Twenty years ago I had my first bout of cancer. The last was three years ago.”
Foote also talked about a genetic predisposition in her family for cancer, and alluded to family health issues.
Throughout her comments, she repeatedly emphasized she wants to spend more time with her family.
“I want to be here on the ground with them, in the event that we find ourselves in a situation where we need to be together,” she said.
Foote was first elected to the provincial House of Assembly in 1996, and was immediately appointed to cabinet. Before running, she had worked as a journalist, and later as director of communications in the office of premier Clyde Wells.
After making the shift to federal politics in 2008, she quickly became one of the dominant figures in the federal Liberal caucus, notably serving as caucus whip and deputy house leader. When the Liberals were grappling with the sexual misconduct allegations swirling around MPS Scott Andrews and Massimo Pacetti, Foote was tasked to investigate and handle the situation. When the Liberals took government in 2015, she was named minister of Public Services and Procurement, a sprawling department responsible for dealing with some of the government’s most tangly files, including the Phoenix payroll problem, and shipbuilding and jet fighter procurement.
In responding to questions from the media, Foote downplayed the rumour that she might be in line to become the province’s next lieutenant-governor.
“For me to have that discussion with you would suggest that I’m interested in the position. I haven’t even gone there. We are doing what we need to do as a family.”
Foote said that in her years as a politician, she was most proud of being able to help individuals.
“It is when you’re able to help individuals who don’t know where to turn, and they really need you to be there for them,” Foote said. “For me, that has always been my biggest accomplishment.”