Wherever there’s Alberta unite-the-right chatter, Preston Manning’s name keeps popping up

Posted on February 29, 2016, 12:41 am
8 mins

PHOTOS: Preston Manning, looking right as usual, photo taken at the 2013 Manning Conference in Ottawa. Below: Alberta PC leader Ric McIver, Wildrose Party Leader Brian Jean Wildrose Party photo), federal Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose (CBC photo) and Wildrose Finance Critic Derek Fildebrandt.

He’s really sorry about the last time, but it sure seems as if Preston Manning just can’t keep away from that Alberta unite-the-right thing.

McIverConsider these recently noted items in which the former Reform Party leader, now 73, has had a part:

  • His annual market-fundamentalist bunfest in the nation’s capital last week was backdrop for a matchmaking effort for Alberta’s disunited conservatives, complete with a sleepover at Stornoway
  • Breakfast at the Palliser with a well known Wildrose politician, courtesy the Alberta taxpayer, made headlines – topic not specified, but we can guess
  • The Alberta Prosperity Fund, the self-described “Super PAC” set up to get around election financing laws and unite the right, turns out to have offices in the building that houses Mr. Manning’s Calgary headquarters

We’ll get to the details in a minute, but first, let’s rewind.

Alert readers will recall the effort back in December 2014 to roll the suddenly inconvenient Wildrose Opposition led by Danielle Smith into the Progressive Conservative government led by Jim Prentice, Big Business’s guy in Edmonton.

JEAN-MUGWhen supporters of both parties actually got wind of the back-room deal that saw nine Opposition MLAs cross the floor to the government in a single day, they were furious. But at first blush on Dec. 17, it seemed like a stroke of political genius. Mr. Manning’s fingerprints were all over it.

As the National Post, official voice of the Canadian 1%, a figure that also approximates the newspaper’s readership share, explained it a few days after the mass defection, Mr. Manning was brought in to close the deal with Wildrosers who were wavering. His pep talk in an Edmonton hotel room “was the moment that turned the tide,” the Post said.

A day later, he was apologizing and backtracking.

“My failure to strongly recommend (grassroots discussions and a membership vote) to the Wildrose caucus was a mistake on my part,” Mr. Manning said in a Facebook post on Dec. 22. “It was a disservice to those who sought my counsel and to those who have placed their trust in my commitment to democracy – a mistake for which I now sincerely apologize to all concerned.”

AmbroseThat was then. On Friday, interim federal Opposition Leader Rona Ambrose, an Edmonton-area Conservative MP, used Mr. Manning’s eponymous Ottawa conference as the opportunity to invite the leaders of Alberta’s disunited right over to her official residence for canapés and unity talk.

Indeed, Ms. Ambrose told participants in the annual con-flab she’d asked PC Leader Ric McIver and Wildrose Leader Brian Jean to a sleepover at Stornoway, although according to the Post only Mr. McIver accepted.

Well, perhaps Mr. Jean – who has shown some impatience with any unite-the-right idea that can’t be executed on Wildrose terms – had to rise early with a clear head to deliver his “report from the provincial front lines” to the con-conferees. Mr. McIver sounded a little fuzzy in his doubly negative explanation to the conference of why he thinks public employees shouldn’t have the right to strike.

Then there was Mr. Manning’s friendly breakfast with the Wildrose Party’s Finance Critic at Calgary’s chichi Palliser Hotel last fall, which came to light last week thanks to the Legislature’s policy of publishing MLA expense claims.

A reporter for Progress Alberta’s blog cheekily revealed Derek Fildebrandt had expensed a $2.50 parking chit and left a 6-per-cent gratuity on the bill for the server. The chintzy tip, the tiny parking claim and a mathematical error totting up the bill – Mr. Fildebrandt is the “shadow minister of finance,” after all – were all probably more embarrassing than the fact taxpayers were picking up the tab.

Fildebrandt1At any rate, Mr. Fildebrandt reacted huffily in an interview with the CBC, suggesting the NDP was behind the report, insisting he’d left more cash on the table for the waitron and grumbling darkly about libel and slander. He couldn’t recall if he and Mr. Manning talked about uniting the right, Mr. Fildebrandt added, but conceded they might have.

Then there’s the matter of where the Alberta Prosperity Fund, the self-described “Super PAC” set up to encourage right wing Alberta parties to unite and also to allow their supporters to skirt election financing laws, does business.

On it’s Facebook page, the Alberta Prosperity Fund gives as its business address 514 – 11th Avenue S.W. in Calgary. That, as it turns out, is also the address of the Manning Centre for Building Democracy, sponsor of the Manning Conference and epicentre of Mr. Manning’s strivings nowadays.

I know nothing of the ownership and leasing arrangements at this address, and this could be nothing but an evocative coincidence. The Manning Centre’s spokesperson did not respond to my query about it.

Still, nothing here makes it sound as if anything much has changed in the way insiders on the right are going about trying to reunite Alberta’s right-wing political parties.

It does suggest, however, that Mr. Manning and other right-wing leaders take the re-election chances of Alberta’s NDP government considerably more seriously than the prevailing narrative in the mainstream media is designed to make you think.

Perhaps you should think about that.

NOTE: A staff member at the Manning Centre responded yesterday to the question noted in this post, saying the Alberta Prosperity Fund does not rent from the Manning Centre, but from the building’s owner, Ken Carter. The Manning Centre did not respond to an additional query about whether this is the same Ken Carter who sits on the Centre’s Board. This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

10 Comments to: Wherever there’s Alberta unite-the-right chatter, Preston Manning’s name keeps popping up

  1. anonymous

    February 29th, 2016

    I’m sure if Mr Manning had not been brought up in an authoritarian evangelical household he might now be a successful lion tamer or even a game show host.


  2. Bob Raynard

    February 29th, 2016

    Great column, again, David.

    Mr. Fildebrandt’s expensing of his $52 or $53 breakfast (depending on which school of math you believe in) reminds me of the neo-con mantra with regards to government spending:



  3. Maria

    February 29th, 2016

    So are we paying for a hotel room for Ric McIver while he is having a sleepover at Rona’s place? I am also curious what Mr. Fildebrandt’s $50+ breakfast consisted of – $16 orange juice perhaps ! These right wingers sure know how to look after taxpayer money.

    • David Climenhaga

      February 29th, 2016

      Maria: My assumption is that either Mr. McIver himself or his party paid for the hotel room. DJC

  4. Dave

    February 29th, 2016

    No one can say that Mr. Fildebrandt is wasting tax payers money on government paid tips from his expense account as an MLA. I suppose that as a former and maybe still member of the six member Canadian Taxpayers Foundation he is just remaining true to his roots.

    Regarding Preston Manning and any concern for ‘democracy’, his concern is a far distance from the concern that progressives have for the survival of democracy.

    In regard to his orchestrating the uniting of the PCs and Wild Rose in the fall of 2014, he may have had better insight into the future that the May 2015 election would have on the 79 year rule of the oil companies in Alberta than he has been given credit for.

  5. February 29th, 2016

    “Mr. McIver sounded a little fuzzy in his doubly negative explanation to the conference of why he thinks public employees shouldn’t have the right to strike.” I followed the link and read the article but didn’t watch the videos.

    Penticton, BC firefighters have been negotiating with the city for YEARS… it went to binding arbitration (think ‘wage board’) and the city didn’t like the result so they are in court trying to overturn the board’s decision.

    Judges in BC regularly have their salaries set by ‘wage boards’ and just as regularly the BC Liberals fight them tooth-and-nail through the courts (and lose) to drive the wages down. This would be the same BC Liberal government that paid a rookie $1,000,000 to helm BC Ferries while his experienced counterpart in Washington state was making about 10% of that.

    The Vancouver based Fraser Institute of course knows all this, but chooses to ignore facts that don’t fit their ideological narrative.

  6. Athabascan

    February 29th, 2016

    Manning should do us all a favour and just retire quietly and with dignity, instead of wasting his time trying to seem relevant. Who listens to him anymore?

    The plain fact, to anyone who follows trends in the recent Alberta and federal elections, is that the future belongs to youth and not the Reformacon’s precious aging, cranky, and dying base.

    It’s time for Manning to take his one trick pony and go away. It’s like watching a sad over the hill athlete trying to regain his past glories. He’s long past his best before date – if he ever had one.

  7. Expat Albertan

    February 29th, 2016

    Hold the phone, central. Did I read correctly that the Alberta Prosperity Fund, a political fundraising organization, has the same address as the “non-partisan” (and tax supported, due to their charitable status) Manning Centre? And further, isn’t the Manning Centre’s tax-deferred status dependent on their being non-partisan? I smell a rat – perhaps a complaint should be lodged with the Canada Revenue Agency; I’m sure the Koch…er…Manning Centre is overdue for an audit of their books.

  8. David

    March 1st, 2016

    Manning seems like the political godfather he is here, using his power and influence to try and force a deal whether the parties (or their members) want it or not. So much for the grassroots. When was the last time he was elected? I believe Ralph Klein was still Premier then.

    I am sure they are working over time at the Manning Foundation/Koch Centre and the Alberta Prosperity Fund (a three headed beast?) to try come up with some merger plan for the PC’s and the Wildrose that wont look like it was imposed from above. This is probably the tricky part they are having trouble with.

    I suspect this 3 headed beast’s actions are remarkable well coordinated. For their sake, I hope they can keep straight (and properly document) who is doing what for when the Canada Revenue Agency comes to call as the Foundation does seem to veer towards the political more than it probably should.

  9. March 3rd, 2016

    There’s a young Buck from west of the Rockies just chompin’ at the bit for another bite at the apple… his name is…

    Stockwell Day

    He’s done it once and he can Unite-the-Rights again!


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