Judy Foote celebrates 'a new day, a new beginning' at historic swearing-in

Foote adds the title to an already impressive resume that includes veteran politician, breast cancer survivor, wife and mother.

'We can make an incredible difference in our province and I think we have the responsibility to do so'

Judy Foote speaks with Allison Tilley, a member of HMCS Cabot. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

The recent wild political times in the House of Assembly were momentarily paused Thursday for the installation of former Liberal MP Judy Foote as Newfoundland and Labrador's 14th lieutenant-governor.

"[It's] a new day, a new beginning, in this province," said Foote, a former cabinet minister at both the provincial and federal levels, and the first woman to serve as lieutenant-governor. 

The crowd at the ceremony, which included Foote's family, friends and politicians, rose to its feet, clapping, following the proclamation.

Foote said the significance of the milestone is not lost on her.

"I happen to have the honour and privilege to hold that position ... today's appointment is for every woman in our province " she said addressing the crowd.

Foote said there was a "deliberate focus on women" for her installation ceremony since the Indigenous water ceremony, Celeste Choir and Lady Cove Choir were all parts of what Foote calls a "celebration" — and are all-female groups.

A call to action 

Foote used her speech to talk about the importance of younger generations.

"Education is so important ... [and] we need to do so much more to encourage our children to go out on a limb, to take chances to experiment," she said.

Children are not leaders of tomorrow, said Foote. "They are leaders today."

Foote also called on Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to step up and make the province a better place. 

"We know that there will always be challenges ... there is no place on our planet that is perfect, but we need to come together to face what we're being confronted with and to deal with those challenges," she said.

Foote added "we should never think that those we elect have all of the answers."

She thanked her family for all her support, including her husband, Howard Foote, to whom she has been married for 44 years. 

"I'm glad he is still by my side [although] I have to get used to calling him his honour," Foote joked. 

Judy Foote sits with husband Howard Foote as the swearing-in ceremony gets underway. (CBC)

She said she is looking forward to talking to people in the province about the problems and solutions. 

"Together we can make an incredible difference in our province and I think we have the responsibility to do so," Foote concluded near the end of her speech.

'They will look at you as a leader'

Premier Dwight Ball referenced the milestone of Foote's appointment, calling it a "remarkable, historic and fantastic day."

"There is no better role model for young girls in our province ... they will look at you as a leader," Ball said, noting Foote had conducted herself in her political career with grace and dignity.

Ball noted Foote had provided him with "some invaluable knowledge and advice" when he embarked on his own political career.

"Thank you once again for stepping up. Thank you for what you've done already," Ball concluded his remarks.

St. John's South-Mount Pearl MP, and Minister of Veterans Affairs, Seamus O'Regan also heralded a first for the province.

"There could not be a finer woman to break that [glass] ceiling," said O'Regan, who spoke on behalf of the prime minister at the ceremony.

"You've led a life of service in our province ... you know what we need to do to create a better future for our children and grandchildren."

It wasn't just politicians praising Foote.

"This was absolutely momentous," said Linda Ross, president of the Provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Women.

"Not only from the perspective that our new lieutenant-governor is a woman, but the opportunity that she took to send a message that was so loud and so clear to women and girls across the province, but to men and boys as well.

"I just couldn't be more thrilled."

Long-time Liberal

Foote stepped down from her role in Trudeau's cabinet in late August, citing family reasons, and resigned as an MP the following month.

She twice battled breast cancer while in office, and said during her emotional departure speech that health concerns for her children prompted the need to spend more time closer to home.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau embraces MP Judy Foote after her final remarks in the House of Commons last year. (CBC)

Foote carries a gene that leaves her susceptible to cancer, that has also been passed down to two of her daughters.

The new job will ensure that she is close by for her family.

"My reason for stepping down was to be close to them and that will always be my priority."

Foote succeeds former Lt.-Gov. Frank Fagan, whom Ball praised for his "compassion, respect and humility."

With files from Terry Roberts and Fred Hutton