Preston Manning to speak at Justice Institute

For 15 years Preston Manning was the face of Canada’s ultra right-wing conservatives. On Friday, Jan. 31, he’ll be dropping into New Westminster, an NDP stronghold since 2004, to speak at the Justice Institute.

Manning, who retired from federal politics in 2002, will be speaking about the realities of running for and holding political office.

It’s a subject one of the city’s sitting Members of Parliament knows well.

Peter Julian says ideology should never trump a candidate’s desire to serve their community. After all, an MP is nothing more than a contract worker whose job security depends on the people casting ballots.

“It’s just the reality of being a public representative,” says Julian, who will be out of town and can’t attend Manning’s talk. “You should never take it for granted, you have to work hard. The expectations can be very hard.”

Manning was pretty much born into politics. He’s the son of Ernest Manning who was the Social Credit Party premier of Alberta from 1943-68. A year after he graduated from the University of Alberta with a degree in economics in 1964, Manning decided to try his hand at the family business by running as a candidate for the federal Social Credit Party in Edmonton East but he was defeated.

In 1987, Manning, along with colleagues Stan Roberts and Francis Winspear, formed the Reform Party as a voice for fiscal and social conservatism. The party’s chief policy advisor was a student from the University of Calgary, Stephen Harper. None of Reform’s 72 candidates  were successful in the 1988 federal election and the party won just 2.09 per cent of the popular vote.

But in 1989, Deborah Grey became Reform’s first parliamentarian when she won a by-election in Beaver River, Alta.

In 1993, the Reform party was able to ride a wave of disenchantment with the incumbent Progressive Conservative government over its imposition of the Goods and Services Tax, its failure to reform the Senate and its ongoing inability to reduce Canada’s deficit and national debt to elect 52 members to Parliament, including Manning, who became the representative for Calgary Southwest.

Four years later, Reform won 60 seats, enough to usurp the Bloc Québécois as Canada’s Official Opposition to the victorious Liberals under Jean Chretien.

But much of Reform’s success at the polls had come at the expense of the more established Progressive Conservatives. And as long as the right remained divided, Manning knew his party would never win a federal election. So he started to look at ways to bring Canada’s conservatives together, eventually creating the Canadian Alliance.

The move proved to be Manning’s undoing and ultimately his party’s Waterloo. Stockwell Day became the leader of the new party that never managed to win over traditional Progressive Conservatives who saw it as nothing more than a warmed-over Reform.

After taking some time to write his memoirs, Manning founded the Manning Centre for Building Democracy in 2005 to train conservatives for political life as well as advocate for conservative issues.

Manning’s talk begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 plus GST. For more information including a link to purchase tickets, go to and click on Events.


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