Seeking re-election on May 2 is Judy Foote, Liberal Member of Parliament for Random-Burin-St. George’s since 2008.
In addition to her MP duties, she also serves as the Official Opposition’s Deputy House Leader in the House of Commons and is a member of the Procedure and House Affairs Committee.
Prior to her involvement in federal politics, she spent 11 years in provincial politics as a member of the House of Assembly, serving under three premiers. Among her roles were minister of development and rural renewal, minister of industry, trade and technology and minister of education.
And before that, Ms. Foote was director of communications with Premier Clyde Wells for eight years.
“It’s been very exciting and very challenging,” said Ms. Foote of being a Member of Parliament. “In a riding as large as Random-Burin-St. George’s, you really do need to take time to get to know the riding. The issues are as varied as the communities. You know, we’re talking about 180 communities altogether, several of which are isolated and can only get to them by ferry.”
She noted the riding is unlike any other in the country due to its geographic size and population.
“About 90 per cent of the riding is actually rural,” she said. “We have our communities like Stephenville, Marystown and Clarenville, which are much more urban oriented. But you can’t look at it and say this is a rural riding or this is an urban riding, therefore the issues are different as well.”
What are the Liberal Party’s plans to revitalize the Coast Guard, fisheries
and navy vessels?
[The Government of Canada] put in place a national shipbuilding policy and I’ve been working behind the scenes on this. I’ve been talking to the ministers involved, the minister who has responsibility for the program itself is Rona Ambrose. I’ve been talking to Peter McKay on this. My fear has always been that Newfoundland would be shut out, that they would find a reason for not including Kiewit on the Burin Peninsula in Marystown. So I talked to them over and over again.
One of the issues that kept being raised by the Bloc [Quebecois] in particular was Davie shipyard [located in Levis, Que.]. Well, Davie is in bankruptcy and when you’re insolvent, you’re not supposed to be able to compete for national programs like the national shipbuilding strategy.
And we are as good as anybody in the country – the shipyard that we have in Marystown can be considered a centre of excellence and in fact, there are only four in the country and we’re one of them. So, I’ve been pushing over and over again to ensure that we have fair access to this program, and I’ve been assured that it will be fair, open and transparent. This is why I’m keeping it on the front burner, so that they know we’re there, that they know that I’m pushing this. If there’s any skullduggery or if there’s anything that happens behind the scenes, they’ll know that I’ll have been made aware of it.
Health care in rural regions, especially the number of doctors and nurses is
becoming a real concern. What are the Liberals proposing to overcome this issue?
One of the things that we’re doing is forgiving some of the loans that are incurred by students who are going in, not only to be doctors, but nurses as well – if in fact they will relocate to rural parts of our province and our country. We’re doing that because we recognize there is a problem here. Canadians and Newfoundlanders and Labradorians need to have access to medical services. They need to have access to a doctor; they need to have access to nurses. So what we’re saying to students who are in training to be doctors and nurses that we will forgive a portion of your student loan if you will in fact give years of service to rural communities.
The fishery is another concern, particularly with the non-return of northern cod after the 1992 moratorium. Even though the crab fishery seems to be in better shape this year, with a good price, there are concerns with that fishery and the lobster fishery. Where are the Liberal Party’s plans in this regard?
The fishery for me has always been an issue and a concern. I get representation all the time with what’s going on the fishery. The reality is that we have to look at restructuring the fishery in a way that recognizes the contributions that have been made over the years by those who have been engaged in it.
How we do that is by sitting down with those involved in the fishery and seeing the kind of programs that can be put in place to respond to this – whether it’s licence buy-back, whether it’s looking at quotas, trying to find a way to make sure that the fishery continues to thrive with the number of people required to make it thrive. But in saying that, you just don’t disregard those who have made a contribution for years and years and years. You have to find a way of restructuring the fishery, like I said, that responds to those who want to continue in the fishery and those who have made such a significant contribution over the years who now would like to retire with dignity.
Another important issue is childcare. What will the Liberals do to help young families, for example with two working parents in rural areas?
What we’ve said is that we need to have a national childcare program that responds to the needs of Canadians. People need to be able to feel comfortable that they can, in fact, afford to go to work and be able to put their child in daycare, if that’s what they choose to do.
Because there are people who have said they like getting the $100 a month that they’re getting now [via the Canada Universal Child Care Benefit], so we said we’d do that. We said they’ll continue to receive that $100 a month, but then for those parents who want to avail of childcare program, we’re going to make it possible for you to do that.
The future of the Stephenville Airport remains in doubt. What can and should the federal government do to assist?
This is a file that has consumed a lot of my time, in fact, ever since I got elected and prior to getting elected. The Stephenville airport has been something that’s been front and centre to me.
When I took on this job initially and looked at the Stephenville airport and knocked on doors at the federal level, as I did time and time again to try and see what kinds of programs we could access. … I was asked, is this a priority for the province? Because clearly, as a Member of Parliament going looking for money for a major initiative like an airport, the federal government of any political stripe needs to know that this is a priority for the province. When you have several airports, then the province has to determine where its priorities are.
So my response always was, and still is, if the airport is a priority for the province, then the province needs to let the federal government know that, regardless of what political stripe, because that’s the only way you’re going to find money coming in for an airport from a federal level. I’ve been told that by those who I dealt with in Ottawa, I was told that by ACOA officials in Newfoundland and Labrador. From what I’m reading now about the new management at the airport, the new board and new board chair, things are looking up. Things seem to be on a more level playing field and people are speaking more positively about the airport now.
Our main connection to the rest of Canada, our TCH if you will, are
the Gulf ferries. There have been issues with the Marine Atlantic vessels in
recent years. Do you think the crown corporation and Ottawa are on the right track with these new ferries that have been leased? Should new-builds be the answer?
I’ve tended not to be critical of Marine Atlantic in the public. And I do that because it is the connection between mainland Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador. Apart from how we get back and forth as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians because it is our Trans Canada Highway, it is a vehicle for getting tourists here.
The last thing I want to do is have tourists looking at Marine Atlantic as something less than what it should be, as something they’re nervous about travelling on, as something they need to be afraid of. So, I’ve walked I guess a fine line in dealing with Marine Atlantic as a Member of Parliament and having conversations with Marine Atlantic when issues are brought to my attention. I have not and I will not go on the public airways or talk in the media about those concerns for fear of creating unnecessary concerns among those who we’re trying to attract to our province to help build our tourism industry here.
Ms. Foote commended the employees of Marine Atlantic for their hard work and dedication.
I also wrote to Minister John Baird, when he was minister of transport; I wrote to Minister Rob Merrifield, who’s responsible for Marine Atlantic as the minister responsible for crown agencies – and said you’ve leased these vessels now for five years, you’ve had enough time now to know what our needs are, to actually have proper vessels designed to meet the needs on the Gulf and you know what the requirements are, so why don’t you take this time now and build ships in Canada? You create jobs in Canada, I’d love to see them built in Marystown obviously, and we’re competitive, so I know we could compete if it was a level playing field, so I’ve already written to them.
A question about the federal gun registry issue. Where do you stand on this?
I voted to keep the long gun registry, as you know, even though I had some constituents who suggested that I shouldn’t. You know something, all of the people in my riding who use long guns are law abiding citizens, they’re not criminals, they shouldn’t be treated as criminals.
But if keeping the long gun registry meaning saving one life, then it’s worth keeping. We’ve had an incident in our riding where a husband killed his wife and then killed himself and left three children homeless. I’ve talked to women’s shelters; I’ve heard horror stories. Would the long gun registry prevent these things from happening? I don’t know. But if there’s one iota of a chance that it could, then I want to keep the long gun registry.