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MP Judy Foote has clout in political circles

Public Services and Procurement Minister Judy Foote and other federal MPs were at the Liberal AGM in Gander last weekend. As the province's representative in the federal cabinet and a member of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's inner circle, Foote treads softly but wields more clout than any other Newfoundland and Labrador politician.
Public Services and Procurement Minister Judy Foote and other federal MPs were at the Liberal AGM in Gander last weekend. As the province's representative in the federal cabinet and a member of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's inner circle, Foote treads softly but wields more clout than any other Newfoundland and Labrador politician.

Dwight Ball and Judy Footed walked in side-by-side Friday night at the Liberal Party convention in Gander, as the jubilant delegates stood and cheered and clapped.

It was a symbolically significant moment, the premier and the federal minister presented as equals. But if you ask Liberals at the convention, who's the most powerful politician in Newfoundland and Labrador, the answer is nearly universal: Judy Foote.

Much is made of the fact that Foote sits directly beside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the House of Commons - close enough to know what socks he's wearing, know what he smells like.

Less well known, but even more significantly, she sits on Agenda, Results and Communications, the supremely powerful cabinet committee chaired by Trudeau, which sets the direction for government.

As minister of public services and procurement, Foote has wrestled with the Phoenix payroll controversy, she's responsible for government buildings, for purchasing - basically, she's got a lot on her plate.

And on top of all of that, she's got Newfoundland and Labrador.

Foote made it clear in her Friday night speech to the Liberal convention that she's working to deliver federal money to her home province.

"I'm not going to stand here and tell you about all the federal money that's been brought into Newfoundland and Labrador. There's more to come," Foote said.

"We don't just want our fair share. We want more than our fair share."

Everybody who drove from St. John's to Gander for the convention cruised right past her handiwork - passing lanes are under construction on the Trans-Canada Highway in Terra Nova National Park, a project Foote announced in March.

She's delivered money for Memorial University projects, and an array of other infrastructure initiatives.

Foote was also present when the provincial government restructured the deeply unpopular Deficit Reduction Levy - a move made possible because Ottawa decided to postpone repayment on a loan made as part of the equalization program.

And then there's the $2.9-billion expanded loan guarantee from Ottawa, conveniently announced last week just days before the Liberal convention.

Foote said none of this is an accident; the federal government is aware of province's massive deficit, and financial challenges associated with the beleaguered Muskrat Falls project.

"Newfoundland is a big file for me, primarily because of the mess that this Liberal government inherited," Foote told TC Media in an interview.

"We're a family. So in a family, if a member of your family gets in trouble, if a child gets in trouble, you turn to your parents."

At the convention, Foote revealed that she speaks to Ball every Sunday.

"(We talk) in terms of the need in the province, and his thoughts on how best to go forward and Dwight taking the opportunity to get my views on, you know, things that they're considering doing. So it's a very comfortable, working relationship," she said.

"Now, do we disagree? Of course. You know, and sometimes decisions that are taken, I'll say, 'Why'd you do that?'"

As for the idea that she's the most powerful politician in the province right now, when TC Media asked in an interview, Foote acted surprised at the notion, but she didn't disagree with it either.

"To me, it's all about delivering for Newfoundland and Labrador," she said. "It's not about power. It's not about people saying, 'Judy, you're doing a really good job.' It's about doing what is right."

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