Nfld. & Labrador

Judy Manning 'surprised' by questions about PC party connections

An unelected member of the provincial cabinet with very little public profile prior to her controversial appointment this week is taking exception to questions about her close connections to the Progressive Conservative party.
In an excerpt from On Point with David Cochrane, Premier Paul Davis discusses the controversial choice 12:06

Judy Manning, who was appointed to cabinet this week with little political experience, is taking exception to questions about her close connections to the Progressive Conservative party.

During an interview with CBC News, Judy Manning, the new minister of public safety and attorney-general, bristled when asked if her unconventional and surprising appointment was influenced by the fact she is the partner of longtime PC supporter Leo Power.

"I'm a little surprised that has come up. Quite frankly, in terms of my predecessors, I don't recall the media ever approaching any of our previous cabinet ministers or our previous premiers about with whom they were sleeping," she stated in reply to a question from CBC reporter Chris O'Neill-Yates.

Meanwhile, Premier Paul Davis defended his appointing Manning to her new role in cabinet, stating that it was the right thing to do and had nothing to do with her connections.

"I saw her work ethic, I saw her organizational abilities. She's got a legal background, she's a young woman from rural Newfoundland and Labrador who I see to be very capable and fitting for this role," said Davis, who was interviewed by CBC's David Cochrane for the latest edition of On Point.

"I got to say, it is somewhat unfortunate that someone would discount her own capabilities, her own background, her own desire and her own abilities and try to make that connection."

Davis admitted there were other lawyers with more experience than Manning who could have been picked for the job, but it's not that simple.

"It's not always easy to find a senior lawyer who will take the job under the circumstances that exist at this time, as well," he said.

Criticism reaffirms need of her role

Power started attending PC conventions in the late 1970s, was an aide to former federal Tory minister John Crosbie, and has played senior roles in managing provincial PC election campaigns. While he has never sought office, he's well-known among party members.

Manning is also the niece of Senator Fabian Manning, a former high profile MHA. 

Quite frankly, in terms of my predecessors, I don't recall the media ever approaching any of our previous cabinet ministers or our previous premiers about with whom they were sleeping- Judy Manning

Manning is also the minister responsible for the status of women, and said such questions "reaffirm for me that I have a significant role also to play under the banner of the status of women."

She said she was a spirited supporter of Premier Paul Davis in the lead-up to last month's compelling PC leadership convention, and believes the new premier selected her because he thought she was best for the job, not because of her connections.

"I'd like to think Premier Davis saw in me a particular skill set that he saw appropriate for this portfolio," she said.

Manning emphasized that she is also taking a "significant" pay cut by agreeing to take on the job, pointing out that she will receive a ministerial salary of just over $54,000. 

She said that is less than half of what a lawyer of "my vintage" could earn.

"I'm doing this from a public service perspective, and certainly how strongly I believe in Premier Davis' leadership," she said.

Will watch legislature from gallery

During her introduction as minister, she was described in a news release as "a lawyer with extensive provincial, national and international experience."

She earned a bachelor of commerce (co-op) degree from Memorial University in 2001, and a bachelor of laws degree from Dalhousie University in 2004. She was called to the Newfoundland and Labrador bar in 2005 and to the Ontario bar in 2008, and works as a sole practitioner at a law firm in St. John's.

Manning said she realizes there is a lot for her to learn about her new role, but said she's appeared at the trial division of Supreme Court as well as before the Court of Appeal. 

"My participation I would say is on par with any litigator of my vintage in the province outside of the criminal sphere, because in criminal you do get a whole lot more exposure," she said.

The Opposition has been critical of having an unelected minister who won't be in the House of Assembly to answer questions, but Manning said she'll be sitting in the gallery and will be available to anyone who has questions for her.

"After that, I will be making myself available to the media. I will participate in any scrums that I'm invited to by the media."

Manning reiterated she will seek election in Placentia-St. Mary's in the next general election. She said she will not seek the Tory nomination in any of three upcoming byelections. 

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.