POLITICS

Newfoundland and Labrador premier shuffles cabinet, unelected member out

03/12/2015 07:43 EDT | Updated 05/12/2015 05:59 EDT
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Newfoundland and Labrador's premier burned up precious political capital last fall when he appointed an unelected neophyte to cabinet only to cut her loose Thursday.

Paul Davis thanked Judy Manning for serving as justice and public safety minister as he trimmed his cabinet to 14 from 16 members.

Manning, a lawyer and niece of Conservative Sen. Fabian Manning, was a surprise addition when Davis announced his first cabinet Sept. 30 four days after becoming premier.

Things have changed since, he said Thursday. A dramatic drop in Brent crude prices has blown a huge hole in the oil-dependent treasury as Davis stares down a $916-million deficit.

He is reviewing all government services ahead of a spring budget that's expected to include job and spending cuts.

"We're taking a different approach to government and I think that it's important ... to lead by example."

Along with Manning, former advanced education minister Kevin O'Brien and Tony Cornect, responsible for Service Newfoundland and Labrador, are out.

O'Brien announced Thursday he wants to run federally against Liberal MP Scott Simms in the riding of Bonavista-Gander-Windsor.

Cornect said he offered to give up his cabinet post as "a team player."

Davis thanked all three and said he hopes Manning would seek the nomination to run for the Progressive Conservatives in an election expected this fall.

He said it would have helped if she had agreed to run in one of three byelections held in the weeks and months after her appointment. Manning became a lightning rod for opposition criticism when she said she would wait until the provincial campaign to run in her home district of Placentia-St. Mary's.

Davis said Thursday he thought last fall that he'd be hitting the campaign trail this spring. His government's push to cut eight of 48 seats in the house of assembly, a move supported by the Opposition Liberals that's expected to save $2.5 million a year, has delayed that timetable.

Manning said in a statement that she is disappointed her public service has ended "for now."

She did not commit to running in the next election and could not be reached for comment.

Darin King will take over Manning's roles, in addition to serving as minister of business, tourism and culture.

The cabinet cuts are expected to save $250,000.

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