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Judy Foote, the resident of that conspicuous mansion on Military Road, the representative in this smiling and fiscally challenged land of ours of Queen Elizabeth (the matriarch of that familial gift to tabloid journalism), has a history that has leaned heavily on self-promotion.
Even before entering the me-myself-and-I world of elected politics, Foote had recognized the profound benefits of public relations, having worked diligently and obediently as press secretary to Premier Clyde Wells to ensure every utterance, every appearance, made by her boss at the time was given the type of spin that would boost his popularity. That was, that is, the nature of the beast of the press secretary to politicians, the nature of the consummate flack.
Then, of course, as a traveller on the campaign trail seeking votes herself, first provincially and then federally, and then as an occupier of a seat in the House of Assembly and the House of Commons, and wishing to remain there, she adhered to a braggadocious philosophy (as do all successful politicos). Not only do representatives of the people — the city councillors, the MHAs, the MPs — have to do what they were elected to do, they have to announce to the world about the good deeds they’ve performed (an extremely biased assessment, to be sure). Thus, the mailouts, the brochures, the constant barrage of self-congratulatory messaging.
But you would have thought that in her present job, that of lieutenant-governor, Foote would not have required a policy of boastfulness; after all, she was recommended for the job by her grateful former boss, Justin Trudeau, and appointed thereafter in rubber stamp fashion; there was no campaign to wage, nor will there ever be a campaign to wage. Foote will serve out her term and will start collecting an old age pension like the rest of us common folk.
For sure, and not without justification, there were charges from the outset that Foote’s appointment was a gift of patronage, that her lengthy history in the Liberal party was the most significant reason she was given the chance to rest her post-electioneering head in the rooms of Government House.
And there was the recent, embarrassing spectacle of Foote’s daughter being handed that lucrative job at The Rooms without so much as a token effort at competition, an affair for which cabinet minister Christopher Mitchelmore was forced to fall upon his sword — the plunge anything but adequately explained by Dwight Ball and company.
Still and all, Foote won’t be required to wear a cloak of humiliation forever and a day because of the genesis of her own appointment, or the questionable machinations of the Ball administration.
It stands to reason to assume there would never, ever be a need for the lieutenant-governor to engage in the kind of narcissism you’d associate with so-called “honourable” members.
Well, you’d have to revisit that assumption if you happened to come across (as I did) a slick and surely not inexpensive brochure making the rounds in and around St. John’s (and elsewhere in the province, I would presume) these days that sells Foote’s wares through a cheerful and colourful montage of photographs taken as she carried out her duties as Queen Elizabeth’s lady in Newfoundland and Labrador over the past year.
It’s a 16-page, public relations buffet; a Judy Foote menu.
Now it’s not as if we’re not made aware, week in and week out, of the activities of the lieutenant-governor. For as long as I can remember there’s been a corner of the Weekend Telegram set aside to outline where and when a particular holder of that position would be sharing his or her countenance with plain, ordinary Newfs. Believe me, if a lieutenant-governor was to so much as flip a pancake in a senior citizens home in Timbucktoo Cove, it was included in the weekly synopsis of His Honour or Her Honour’s agenda.
And it’s innocuous enough, and relatively cheap (one would think) — just a reminder of where you might get a chance to meet and greet the lieutenant-governor, if you so desired.
But this brochure, this annual report — the “first publication of its kind to be produced by Government House,” according to Foote’s introductory message, takes the appraisal of the lieutenant-governor’s job performance to a level that has to be seen to be believed. It’s a 16-page, public relations buffet; a Judy Foote menu.
There are no less than 101 (that’s right, 101) perfectly reproduced photos of Foote in this glossy brochure, documenting her appearances here, there and everywhere, from hockey games to the Government House Garden Party, an extremely polished piece of work you might ordinarily associate with a promo for a television show, “Places to Go With Sharon Snow,” or, in this case, “Underfoot With Judy Foote.”
It is the rare picture in which Foote is not front and centre, although I couldn’t spot Her Honour in a photograph of dozens of mostly women taking part in a fitness session on the Government House lawn. (Given the stature of the unabashed star of the booklet, the participants could have been chanting: “JUUDEE, JUUDEE, JUUDEE!!”)
Sarcasm or satire aside, there’s something decidedly off-putting, in my estimation, about this piece of flackery; it smacks of self-aggrandizement, and provides one more reason why this outdated and costly remnant of colonialism, the lieutenant-governor’s position — with all of its expensive trappings — should not be allowed to survive at all in a place like Newfoundland.
Bob Wakeham has spent more than 40 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at email@example.com
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