Former Newfoundland and Labrador senator Fabian Manning is defending the prime minister's decision to send him back to the upper house.

Manning was among three failed candidates who were named to the Senate by Stephen Harper on Wednesday. Larry Smith, another returning senator, and Manning both resigned to run for election at the end of March, but both lost. Josée Verner, who also lost her riding on election day, is also getting a Senate seat.

The move has prompted outrage among voters and opposition parties in Newfoundland and Labrador and across the country.

On Thursday, at his home in St. Bride's, N.L., Manning told CBC News the prime minister's decision caught him off-guard.

"I was very surprised," said Manning. "You know, we had an election a few weeks ago, I felt that there may be some opportunity with a majority government to serve in some capacity, but I was absolutely delighted when the prime minister called and invited me back to the Senate."

Manning disputes comments from pundits that voters rejected him on election day.

"I get a charge out of some of the people that are complaining. I resigned my Senate seat on March 28. My plan at that time was to seek election in the riding of Avalon. We did that, we fought a good campaign — close to 15,000 people voted for us, but we came up short," he said. "If it had of been the other way around on May 2, we wouldn't be having this conversation — I'd be the member of Parliament for Avalon."

Supports reforming Senate, says Manning

Manning said his priority upon returning to the Senate is to push for reform — something he said Harper and the Progressive Conservative party have been trying to do for years, but have been snagged by the Liberals.

"We tried on two occasions to bring reform to the Senate, to bring legislation to the Senate, and the Liberals that dominated the Senate at that time rejected our overtures," said Manning. "We look forward now to bringing in legislation to the House of Commons and to the Senate to make some needed reforms."

Manning said he would have rather been the elected representative for the Avalon riding, but this is his second chance.

"I strongly believe that the people that make the decisions that affect the day to day lives of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are not those that sit in opposition, are not those that sit in the third party in Parliament and are not those that sit in the Senate. They are the people that are elected to the House of Commons in the government of Canada," he said.

"I tried to do that on May the second with the campaign team that I had. That opportunity wasn't there. The second part of that now is the opportunity to sit in the Senate."