John Manley: "I'm keeping my hand in public policy. I guess it's kind of in my DNA, anyway."

"I'm keeping my hand in public policy. I guess it's kind of in my DNA, anyway."

My dad contracted tuberculosis when he was in the Second World War, and he spent a lot of my early years in hospital. Let's put it this way: I didn't know I was poor, but I probably was.

There was a lot of discussion about politics in my family–it was an Irish household, and if you didn't have an argument at dinner, then it was really pretty boring.

I'm keeping my hand in public policy. I guess it's kind of in my DNA, anyway.

Who: John Manley
Lives In: Ottawa
Born: January 5, 1950, in Ottawa, ON
Occupation: Politician; lawyer; corporate director
Career Highlights:
1976: Serves as law clerk to Chief Justice Bora Laskin after graduating from the University of Ottawa with a law degree.
1988: Begins a 15-year career in the House of Commons, where his portfolios include industry, foreign affairs and finance.
2001: Named Time Canada's newsmaker of the year for his quick action following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.
2003: Announces his retirement from politics after a failed bid for the Liberal leadership against Paul Martin and Sheila Copps.
2004: Joins law firm McCarthy Tétrault LLP as counsel; is appointed to the board of directors of Nortel Networks Corp.

Once I came to the realization that I was never going to play in the National Hockey League, then every other possibility was open to me.

I was law clerk to Chief Justice Bora Laskin at the Supreme Court of Canada. This was a wonderful experience–somewhat terrifying. People have asked me, “When you were meeting the president of the United States or heads of governments, were you ever nervous?” The truth is, after meeting Bora Laskin none of that made me nervous–he was far more formidable.

The party–the leader was John Turner at the time–they weren't exactly encouraging or overly welcoming [when I joined], given the prominence that I had later. I wasn't considered to be a star candidate or anything. I was some guy that just showed up one day and organized in the party and tried to run.

The leadership race? I don't consider that a low point. I was the right age, I had broad cabinet experience and I thought that the party wanted to have a contest. It didn't, as it turned out. Having to pull out, that was just facing reality.

I miss knowing what's really going on because what I read is not really what's going on–it's a reflection of it.

When you make decisions as a minister, all kinds of forces line up to make things happen, whereas now when I make a decision in my new life, I have to actually implement it.

I don't know anyone who thinks Paul Martin is corrupt, and if opposition parties peddle that idea, they risk tarring their own reputations.

I believe in Nortel. It's Canada's technology engine, and it's vitally important to Canada's success. I think that the board, in inviting me to join them, felt that my experience as industry minister and deputy prime minister was a profile they wanted associated with the company.

I think the company is very fortunate that Bill Owens was available to take it on when he did. Thank goodness somebody of his stature and credibility was available to step in. I think he's done a very good job over the past year.

We live in what will be known as the terrorist era, and, unfortunately, there are people that will do horrendous things to terrorize the civilian population. The only possible way that we can have any hope of stopping some of those events from occurring is by efforts related to intelligence.

It's not a matter of being pro-U.S. or agreeing with everything the U.S. does. It's just that they're our biggest customer, not by a small margin but by a gigantic margin. Until we find someone else that will buy 80% of what we export, I guess it's really important.

One of the great things about leaving government is that I have time to read books again. I've got Conrad Black's biography of FDR, which I think is going to take me longer to read that it took FDR to live it.

I ran my first marathon as my millennium project in 2000. I got an 18-week training program off the Internet, started into it, had an injury, had to go and get some physiotherapy, and came out the other side and resumed my program. I did the second one because if you've done one, you've run a marathon, and if you do two, you're a marathon runner.

I'm keeping my hand in public policy. I guess it's kind of in my DNA, anyway.