Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, Dr. Andrew Furey, and wife Dr. Allison Furey, talk family, love, and keeping it real
When any Newfoundlander’s yarn begins “Well, we were on our way for a bit of Mary’s (Mary Browns Chicken) and on our way back we stopped at the Irving…” then you know you’re face-to-face with a family that keeps it real and that the tale they are about to spin will be a good one.
In this particular case, this Big Mary followed by a bit of gas yarn just happens to belong to the Furey’s and Dad Andrew Furey is the Premier of Newfoundland Labrador and Mom Allison Furey is an emergency physician at the Janeway Children’s Hospital in St. John’s.
Dr. Premier continued. “There was a gentleman (at the Irving) changing his tire and he was struggling a little bit, so we offered help.”
Dr. Allison picked up the tale, ‘cause as many hubbies tend to do, the tale got all tangled.
“Sorry to interrupt, but it was actually our daughter, Maggie, that noticed that he was struggling with his tire change. And she said, ‘Mom, we need to do something.”
‘You’re the Premier’
Corrected, the Premier continued. “Right. Yes. I was in the Irving and when I came back out Maggie said, ‘You should help that guy over there.’ So I went over and helped him. And his wife asked what do I do for a living, and I think Allison said I was a surgeon and they were getting ready to leave and the guy turns and says, ‘Hey, you’re the Premier.’”
We ask the two how their relationship has changed or evolved over the past year and a bit since combining politics with a pandemic. “I think everybody’s relationship has changed because COVID happened. You know, when we started this adventure, I put my hand up for the leadership before COVID had really impacted us all. Before shutdowns happened,” the Premier began.
How have those challenges, combined with turning into such a public figure, changed their lives?
“If anything those things have strengthened the relationship, made us more cognizant of each other and for me, made me realize how important it is to have Allison and the family around.”
While he tries hard “not to bring the office home,” that’s not always an easy endeavour.
“Always the responsibility of the province and working through the pandemic is large and I wear that so sometimes at home it can be a challenge so having an understanding partner and family has allowed me to navigate all that easier on a personal level.”
The family Furey
Mrs. Premier agrees. “From the start, Andrew becoming Premier and simultaneously the pandemic striking has really highlighted for me the importance of stability at home for everyone. We’ve always had the attitude that anything we get involved in we do as a team. That could be the Premiership or as a surgeon or doing volunteer work overseas. Whatever it is, partnership is really important and our relationship has become much stronger from an emotional and supportive standpoint since March 2020.”
The family Furey is made up of Mom, Dad and children, Maggie, Rachael and Mark. Like most families in the province, they struggle with balancing busy schedules and children who – when we spoke at least – were attending school at home. How do they do it? Very carefully, they shared.
“Allison is able to work at home a little bit, but we focus on that sense of responsibility where we have to make sure the kids are being educated. Always, hats off to the hardworking teachers out there who are teaching online. That’s not fun for them, either. I’m sure, like every parent, we’re balancing screen time and trying to make sure that the kids are physically active. COVID means that I get to do more from home, too, but when I can’t, when I get home, I try to make sure that the kids are doing something outside of the confines of the kitchen table or their desk in their room,” he shared.
The Premier and his wife have moved beyond their usual daily duties during the pandemic as well. Dr. Allison has lent a hand in Ontario during the worst of the crisis and the Premier/Dr. has administered vaccinations throughout Labrador. Don’t they have enough on their plate, we ask.
“I always felt that you had a responsibility to give back with the talents that you had, some of which were natural and some of which were built on the backs of opportunities like having a solid medical education,” the Premier said. He’s long felt a “responsibility to give back to our own community and communities around the world,” he added.
“If a call comes for vaccinators, for example, that’s something I can do. Knowing the demand is there, knowing that was a natural fit and just to be able to do it and to be contributing and learning was good.”
We ask if such things, like heading to Labrador or flying with a medical contingent to Ontario, were tough decisions to make.
“I don’t think it was a difficult family decision at all. The kids are pretty used to one of us going away to help the greater community in some way or another. Andrew’s been to Haiti several times. I’ve gone to Bangladesh. It isn’t outside the realm of normality in our household, so I don’t think it was a difficult family decision. It was a natural decision to go. I had a skill set and the opportunity presented itself.”
Not going would have been the harder family conversation to have, the Premier added. “If we didn’t do something, we’d be answering questions over ‘why didn’t you do something?’ The kids are used to us traveling around the world to provide medical care and education and here’s an at home crisis.”
The children would have been left wondering why they didn’t do anything, they added. Thinking of the paths they’ve taken in life, the Premier reflected.
“I think as an individual, you’re the combination of your past, present, and your future. The trajectory that my life has taken has largely been built on the shoulders of my family,” he said.
His father, Senator George Furey, made politics and service a passion and a priority for the family. But beyond “growing up in a political family,” he also says he feels “responsible to ensure that we’re not subscribers to cynicism, but dreaming of the possibilities and solutions.”
“I hope that we are setting the right example for the children. I feel the responsibility of having those eyes on me at home. The call to public service is a noble one and I can only hope my children take something positive from the experience of me being Premier, and from my time with Team Broken Earth,” he said.
It would have been so easy, he continued, to simply say; there’s nothing we can do.
“It could be said easily, ‘what can we do? We are from St. John’s, Newfoundland Labrador.’ I don’t believe in that cynicism. I don’t believe in that philosophy and approach to life. And I hope my kids can really dream of the possibilities and then execute those possibilities.”
A typical family
Allison feels equally as strong, she shared. When it comes to setting good examples for their family, that’s number one. “I don’t think (our efforts to help others) goes unnoticed in the household. They’re conscientious kids and I hope that our example is one of possibility for them and their future.”
Having spent time with the Furey family in the past, it’s obvious they try and keep things real. From sports to music and mealtimes to video game championships, theirs is pretty much a typical family on most days.
That the two share that family keeps it real is no huge surprise. “There’s a silver lining in this (pandemic) time for me and that’s as Premier, there’s less travel by mandate, and there’s less social gatherings, and obviously less political gatherings so as a result, I’m able to sit home and watch the news or Mandalorian or Harry Potter with the kids and that keeps me grounded and humble. My kids don’t mind telling me when I’m an idiot,” he said laughing.
Since Valentine’s Day is pending, how do they keep the romance alive? There’s some joking about hesitancy to answer and about who fell in love first, but they agree theirs is a strong bond.
“Romance is a dynamic notion and concept that changes with the changing phases of your life and I’m still growing in love with Allison every day,” the Premier shared sweetly, evoking a chorus of ‘awwww,’ from his wife and the interviewer.
‘I love you’
“When it comes to romance, we definitely celebrate each other and our relationship in small ways and I think it’s a constant that we work on,” Allison shared.
We ask them to describe their love for one another. Is their long term relationship more like the Titanic theme song My Heart Will Go On, or is it like a Dolly Parton love song? Is there a song that causes them to instantly gaze into each other’s eyes if it’s heard?
Allison is quick to respond. “I would have to say that our wedding song probably would be the song and that’s The Beatles, In My Life.”
And how did the Premier respond to that? By using a simple one-word quote from perhaps one of the most romantic movies of all time, Ghost. Like Patrick Swayze’s charter said as he responded to Demi Moore’s character’s “I love you,” the Premier eloquently responded a very romantic; “Ditto.”
There is one more message from the Premier. No matter how it’s celebrated this year with COVID restrictions in place, make sure we celebrate love.
“I’d like to wish all of the other couples throughout Newfoundland and Labrador a very happy Valentine’s Day.”