Justice and Public Safety Minister Judy Manning says she is the victim of “character assassination” in press reports and in social media, and is suggesting that the scrutiny she has endured since entering politics is tied to her gender.
“We have lots of precedent for unelected ministers within Canada and within our own jurisdiction of Newfoundland and Labrador,” Manning said during a taping of On Point with David Cochrane.
'What we don’t have in Newfoundland and Labrador as far as I know is a precedent for an unelected female minister. I don’t know if that’s what’s garnered so much attention here.' - Justice and Public Safety Minister Judy Manning
“What we don’t have in Newfoundland and Labrador as far as I know is a precedent for an unelected female minister. I don’t know if that’s what’s garnered so much attention here.”
In 2011, the last time Newfoundland and Labrador voters went to the polls in a general election, Tory Kathy Dunderdale won a strong majority mandate.
Manning acknowledged that victory, but criticized “social media commentators” and others with “political agendas” for a lack of such support.
On Wednesday, CBC Investigates reported on Manning’s track record in her last provincial government appointment, as a part-time review commissioner for workers compensation appeals.
Manning said her comments on VOCM Thursday morning about “character assassination” were in reference to both that CBC Investigates story, and a broader pattern of other media coverage.
She said the CBC Investigates story “called into question my integrity.”
Manning also questioned whether previous unelected ministers have received similar scrutiny.
Watch the full episode of On Point with David Cochrane on Saturday, Nov. 1, at 7:30 p.m. NT.
“The level of investigation that’s been levied towards me, I guess it’s unusual,” she noted.
The last unelected minister in the province was Ed Roberts in 1992. At that time, Roberts had a political career spanning decades, including a stint as Liberal leader and Opposition leader.
Manning also referenced other politicians in the Smallwood era, including John Crosbie, who was deputy mayor of St. John’s when he took an unelected cabinet post in 1966.
Specific criticisms of story
Manning made a number of specific criticisms of the CBC Investigates story, saying it did not refer to her submission of a draft decision for one of her 19 workers compensation appeal cases in early August.
Manning did not disclose that information in the interview.
She also contended that she was surprised by the focus of the interview, thinking it would be about general delays in the system and not her role as review commissioner.
However, the Oct. 24 email from CBC asking for the interview stated this: “I am working on a story about Minister Manning's previous role with the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Review Division (WHSCRD). My specific areas of inquiry are the number of cases she handled in that role, the number of reports she filed, and what happens to cases she did not complete.”
Manning continues to feel she was unfairly targeted. She says she did not hear back from the chief review commissioner after submitting that early August report, and needed that response to use as a template for subsequent work.
'Did I break the system in the three months that I heard hearings? No. I have great empathy for the people that are going through this process, and I understand the frustration that’s emerged with the delays, but am I the author of those delays? Absolutely not.' - Justice and Public Safety Minister Judy Manning
And she says she continued to write draft decisions, in fact submitting a second one not long after becoming attorney general before it was determined that her cabinet position could present problems.
“Did I break the system in the three months that I heard hearings? No. I have great empathy for the people that are going through this process, and I understand the frustration that’s emerged with the delays, but am I the author of those delays? Absolutely not,” she said.
Manning acknowledged there has been pressure associated with the controversy her appointment has generated.
“I intend to do my very best to shine for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador,” she said.
“I understand that this is an incredible privilege that I have been granted.”