Manitoba·Video

Judy Klassen named Manitoba Liberals' 1st female First Nation leader

The party announced Klassen as their temporary boss on Friday morning.

Klassen will lead the party until the permanent leader is chosen next fall

Rookie MLA Judy Klassen is the new interim leader of the Manitoba Liberals. (CBC)

Judy Klassen is the new interim leader of the Manitoba Liberals.

The party announced Klassen as their temporary boss on Friday morning, making her the first female First Nation leader in the party's history in Manitoba.

"I am truly honoured, truly humbled to be given this responsibility. I am just overwhelmed," Klassen said.

Klassen is the rookie MLA for Kewatinook. She ousted the long-time NDP incumbent and cabinet minister Eric Robinson with 49 per cent of the vote to his 39 per cent in the April provincial election. 

"There's not a lot of bridges built between a lot of the areas, and that's my goal, is to start building those bridges, start bringing in all Manitobans to the table to ensure every Manitoban has a voice," she said.

Lots of work to do

With less than a year of provincial politics under her belt, Klassen said there have been some pleasant surprises along the road.

"I didn't think it would be this fun," she said. 

Originally from St. Theresa Point, Klassen said she now lives in Steinbach.

'I know how to build bridges.' Judy Klassen ready to be Manitoba Liberal interim leader

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The Manitoba Liberals announced Judy Klassen as their temporary commander-in-chief on Friday morning. 3:01

"I think that I represent all of the Manitobans, because I can be a voice for everyone," she said. "There's a lot of heartbreaking issues, but at the same time, I'm the voice that was put (forward) for these people."

Klassen acknowledged that with only three MLAs in Legislature, her party has a tough slog ahead on funding and representation.

"We know that we're in a deficit position, but I'm an entrepreneur at heart," she said. "I don't see that as being in any way a detriment."

Former leader a strong advocate

Klassen will take over temporary leadership of the party, replacing former leader Rana Bokhari. Klassen said Bokhari is going to be "a very strong advocate."

"Ms. Bokhari gave me the chance no one else did, and so I owe a great deal to her," Klassen said.

Long-time Liberal MLA and former party leader Jon Gerrard said he's watched Klassen grow in her short time in provincial politics.

"I'm very excited that Judy has taken on this role as interim leader," he said. "I think she's ready for this role."

Klassen will lead the party until the permanent leader is chosen next fall.

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