30 October 2014

Public Service and Bad Judgment #nlpoli

Shortly after she was appointed to cabinet,  Judy Manning told CBC that she was taking a significant cut in pay from her solo law practice to take the new job as an unelected minister.  “I'm doing this from a public service perspective,”  Manning said at the time.

That was part of her planned responses to questions about Paul Davis’ controversial decision to appoint an unelected minister and break the long-established political convention that unelected ministers seek a seat in the House at the earliest opportunity.

Manning portrayed herself as nobly taking on the job despite the financial hardship.  We should feel sorry for her, presumably, rather than question the arrogant fashion in which she and her boss were breaking the rules.

A couple of weeks later,  in another set of planned replies to questions, Manning blew that noble image to pieces.

As it turns out, Manning had a public service job before her cabinet one.  Manning’s Conservative friends appointed her earlier this year as a commissioner to review appeals on cases involving injured workers.  The workers’ compensation law states flatly that decisions on these appeals must be delivered within 60 days of the hearing.

Manning heard 19 cases from the time she began to hear appeals in June and the time she resigned the part-time job on September 25.  She didn’t deliver a decision on a single one of the cases.  It doesn’t matter how many cases she heard and should have decided within that period.  The thing is the law states flatly that she had 60 days to deliver a decision.  Manning broke the law not once, but presumably multiple times.

When asked about the fact she’d missed the deadline repeatedly, Manning gave a rather curious answer.  Lots of review commissioners missed the deadline.  It’s rather curious because the fact lots of people do something doesn’t make it right.  Lots of people speed but it’s still against the law.  A number of people cheat on their taxes.  Doesn’t make it okay, morally or legally.

manningIn a statement she issued later on Wednesday, Manning added a lengthy explanation of her actions. It’s worth reading if only for the wordiness of it, on top of the cumbersome wordiness of her comments to CBC in a 13 minute sit-down interview (linked above.)  In fact,  her written statement repeats what Manning said in the full interview that CBC posted in its entirety.

Manning’s statement includes mention of just how serious some of the review cases are.  They all involve some sort of personal injury and some can involve deaths.  It’s serious stuff.  And the legislature, in its wisdom, slapped a 60 day limit on the review commissioners because this is serious business.  The rest of the explanation that Manning offers for her failure to meet the deadline set by law even once amounts to little more than excuses.

They just don’t wash.

Not content with her self-serving rationale,  Manning went a step further. She quit the job a week or so before she was appointed to cabinet.  Then she complained about the amount paid to the review commissioners.  She was going to quit at some point anyway because she wasn’t making enough money. 

So much for public service.

So much for the law.

You can see the pattern of behaviour, too.  It’s like Manning’s  distressing habit of speaking in a way she believes lawyers and cabinet ministers should speak.  She uses bigger words than are necessary and she uses complicated ways of saying things. 

Take the bit about the pay she got as a review commissioner as a good example:

But I did resign certainly in the view of making myself available should that position arise. And also I was a private practice sole practitioner, and I don't apologize for one moment in saying that I had a profit-seeking motive at that time. …Often times that work is not undertaken by lawyers, and in the overall consideration of where my practice was going I didn't feel that it would be in my best interests from a profit-seeking perspective to continue on that front in any event.”

The result is that manning does not sound like someone important and knowledgeable. Instead, Manning sounds like someone who is trying to sound important or knowledgeable. People will inevitably compare this story with her earlier claims of nobility for taking on a job of public service  - as a cabinet minister - for less than she’d make as an “unmarried lady” lawyer of her “vintage”, as she described herself earlier in October.   In the case where she had a tough job to do on behalf of people in a genuinely tough spot,  Manning found that from a “profit-seeking perspective” this was not something she’d be doing for long anyway. 

Not only does her tortured way of speaking sound like she is putting on airs, Manning’s shifting perspectives make her sound as though she is not being sincere or candid.

Asked if she would have finished the work had she not gone into cabinet,  Manning told the CBC’s Rob Antle that she would “not usurp her professional obligations.”  Usurp means to take a position illegally or improperly. Manning used it wrongly here.  But notice that it sounds pretty impressive. Well, sounds impressive unless you speak English fairly well. 

Self-serving rationalizations delivered in ponderous language, coupled with a persistent disregard for established rules and the law, especially ones that cause Manning personal inconvenience. These  are hardly the qualities people look for in a cabinet minister, let alone the justice minister and attorney general.  As NTV’s latest poll has shown, people aren’t looking for Manning in the  job.  About 60% of them don’t approve of her appointment to cabinet or the fact that she is unelected. They also likely won;t be impressed by Paul Davis who, as Simon Lono noted on Wednesday,  picked Manning because he liked her work ethic.

The soundness of Davis’ judgement is obviously open to question.