PHOTOS: Preston Manning has every reason to feel pleased with himself as he moves toward his goal of uniting Alberta’s right on his own terms, with an extreme social conservative candidate like Jason Kenney in the vanguard. Below: Mr. Kenney; Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark; Danielle Smith, just before she became a Tory; and Richard Starke, the last faint hope of the Progressive Conservative Party. 

He haunts us Albertans still. Preston Manning, that is, the ghost of rightwing parties past, like Social Credit, the Reform Party, the Canadian Alliance and … you get the picture.

Oh, Mr. Manning’s still in the land of the living, but nonetheless he moves wraithlike in the shadows, manifesting the occasional ripple on the water, a breeze in the curtains on a still day, sudden chills in what should be warm corners of the house.

You hardly ever hear from the fellow officially, but for the occasional fund-raising email from his eponymous Manning Centre for whatever it is that it does, or the odd news story about the embarrassing guests who show up at his annual Ottawa clambake for members of the Ayn Rand Film Society and its ilk.

But give the old fellow his due, at 74 his projects still get results – and one of them will almost certainly come to fruition tonight with the election of Jason Kenney as titular leader of the Progressive Conservative Party and avatar of the Alberta right. The only questions are really how overwhelming Mr. Kenney’s victory will be today, and whether he can duplicate it in a timely fashion with the Wildrose Party.

The son of Alberta’s last successful Social Credit premier, Ernest Manning, been working on a unite-the-right project like Mr. Kenney’s anticipated PC coronation for quite some time now, at least since December 2014 when he was the man behind the scenes who orchestrated the long walk across the floor of the Alberta Legislature by then Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith and her eight faithful MLAs.

That did not go over well, but that was then, when Progress Conservative Jim Prentice was the premier of Alberta, and this is now, when New Democrat Rachel Notley is.

Like rust, Mr. Manning apparently never sleeps, so it seems Vermilion MLA Richard Starke, the last, best, most forlorn hope of the old PC Party will not be much more than a speed bump on Mr. Kenney’s road to the first step in his double reverse hostile takeover of the PCs and the Wildrose.

Mr. Manning was back in the news yesterday, according to a CBC report, wooing Greg Clark, leader of the hitherto pointless Alberta Party. Presumably Mr. Manning had hopes of sealing off that avenue of potential mischief for Red Tories like Thomas Lukaszuk, folks Mr. Kenney will soon be driving from the Progressive Conservative Party’s ranks. The party, in turn, will thereafter quickly be denuded of the “progressive” portion of its moniker.

Mr. Clark told the CBC that Mr. Manning recently called him with a message that he was careful to emphasize wasn’t made on behalf of Mr. Kenney … “per se.”

However, Mr. Clark told the CBC, cutting nicely to the chase, “when someone says, ‘I can’t promise you anything, but you’re the sort of person who would be well positioned to be in cabinet,’ well, that’s how that happens, apparently.”

Mr. Manning could not be reached for comment by the national broadcaster, although a Manning Centre flunky pointed out that his boss doesn’t have the ability to make cabinet appointments – which sounds to me like a backhanded way to count your chickens before they’ve hatched.

Of course, there would have been no need to deal with the loose-lipped Mr. Clark at all had only Alberta Can’t Wait, a group with which Mr. Manning is associated, been able to pull off its reported coup attempt against the Alberta Party last summer.

Mr. Manning remains on the list of Alberta Can’t Wait’s “ambassadors,” as reported in this space this time last year – even if the lad from the Manning Centre has it right and he is not yet quite Mr. Kenney’s ambassador plenipotentiary.

So while the CBC story is technically correct that the Manning Centre is not endorsing Mr. Kenney’s candidacy, it would certainly be a reach to suggest the same thing is true of the man after whom the centre is named.

Well, think what you may of all this, but Mr. Manning has put the floor-crossing imbroglio far behind him, and he has every reason to feel pleased with himself today.

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  1. When all this this shakes down Albertans are most likely going to witness a right-wing leadership apocalypse never seen before in the annals of the province’s history. The prime time players will certainly be in place.

    If you thought the federal Conservative leadership race has run amok, with illegal ballot stuffers, just wait until the red meat hits the fan between Brian Jean and Jason Kenney supporters. I’m predicting the vitriol, venom and internecine backstabbing will be jaw-dropping.

    Given media reports of what transpired with Kenney supporters during the PC leadership race, it’s hard not to fathom a similar occurrence playing itself out when the leadership bell clangs for the start of the race. Expect a sleaze-fest and be prepared to hold your nose because if the anticipated gong show manifests itself, Albertans will once again be cringing at the constant barrage of political embarrassment, if the PC leadership sh*tshow was any indication of what’s to come.

    Finally, look for Preston Manning, Stephen Harper and Rona Ambrose to be buried up to their elbows in this political brouhaha — after all; free market social conservatives believe Alberta’s survival is at stake (insert eye roll here).

    1. Well, and colourfully said. There is no way the big egos of the two (or three) Haters Party will accept relinquishing any ground to each other. Because, after all, what they are most apt at doing is to hate, and that, there is plenty of in each one of them towards each other.
      But it will be entertaining. Maybe they’ll get off Notley’s back for a spell while they go at each other. One can only hope.

  2. The selection of Kenney has been a bit of a head scratcher, he is such a divisive and unpalatable candidate. I guess no one else wanted the job and Manning and his financial backers needed someone they could control. Perhaps not wanting the right to descend into the chaos south of the border selecting an uncontrollable populist. So Manning and Harper get their obedient puppy in Kenney where does that leave the people of Alberta?

  3. Who cares what Preston Manning or does? He is yesterday new’s.

    Sure, he led the Reform Party. It proved itself to be unelectable as a Government. It’s social conservative thrust was unacceptable to Canadians.

    Sure he may have been the architect of Danielle Smith’s walk, with some of her team, across the aisle to the Prentice Conservatives. Look how successful that was. Wildrose’s social conservative thrust was and is unacceptable to the majority of Albertans.

    Preston Manning keeps trying to influence Calgary voters by putting forward strategies to unseat a very popular mayor. How successful has that been?

    This is about Preston Manning’s beliefs, not what is good for Canada, Alberta, or Calgary. If he feels so strongly perhaps he should come out from behind the curtain and run for office.

    Preston Manning keeps disguising his social conservative thrust by wrapping it up in a box that has progressive conservative wrapping. He appears to me to be a frustrated washed up politician rather that than a senior statesman. Fortunately Canadians and Albertans can see beyond the wrapping paper.

  4. I’m always amazed at the subtle changes in Mr. Manning’s physical appearance. Basically it is him but he looks, well, more massaged all the time. His face gets smoother, shaped somehow. Beneath it all, though, he’s still the same, old Preston. He cannot change that whiney voice and the extremist views, hidden somehow by carefully scripted pronouncements. He has made us all forget that the man has never held a real job or run a real business but has been bankrolled to play politics for his entire life. Murray Dobbin wrote a book about Manning many years ago but it’s time now for a new biography. Fascinating, but potentially lethal, political player in our contemporary history.

  5. How deep does Manning and the back room boys that recruit him get away with funding their chosen political compatriots with no public accounting of their large dollar funding not reported or accounted for under the laws of various electoral bodies, or to the CRA.?

    Calgary Builders came up with huge sums of money given to Manning to support candidates, presumably without legally required reporting and public disclosure, to promote and support Calgary City Council candidates friendly to the builders! At least one instance of this was caught on tape, yet nothing has come from this in way of even an investigation. So I wonder how those builders accounted for their ‘donations’ for this cause. Should there have been CRA investigations as well?

    No doubt either Manning has lined up the deep pockets to fund ‘Alberta Can’t Wait’ or they have lined up Manning to steer the PCAAA leadership contest to meet their desired ends with no oversight on the dollars and surreptitious campaigning.

    Manning has no compaction about pushing the limits of the law through his ‘Joined-At-The-Hip’ Manning FOUNDATION, the terms is eligible for income tax treatment as a charitable organization, and his Manning Institute that has stated objectives of recruiting the next generation so as to train them how the corridors of power operate and to form them into the right wing fighters formed in the image of far right political thinkers and operators. It is in no way clear whether or how much financial and in-kind support to candidates or slates in elections.

    Manning houses both operations in the same building, claiming separate staff (which is questionable) and not providing any public information on how these two organizations are funded or account for costs.

    Manning has stated, on tape during a speech, that the purpose of the Manning Foundation (which can issue tax receipts for donations and itself is not taxable) is to provide research for the Manning Institute (which can not issue tax receipts for donations but pays no taxes) that operates it’s right wing recruiting, training and support their potential political clones/drones, and substantial public dissemination of that research that supports the goals and purposes of the Manning Institute whose political activities and purpose are clearly stated on it’s website, which is shared with the “charitable ” Manning Foundation.

    Not too much evidence and implications as to the legitimacy of the tax treatment of both the Foundation and the Institute.

  6. The good news is that Albertans proved in 2015 to be pretty much regular Canadians. We all like our social programs and various other government services.

    The problem for the far right conservative people is that while they like government services too they only like those services for themselves. The oil companies like government tax breaks and subsidies as well as the rest of us like services that we use and need.

    In the run up to the 2015 election Jim Prentice told Albertans to look in the mirror to see how Alberta arrived at the sorry state in was in. Albertans rightly didn’t feel like they had done anything wrong and so they voted against the austerity that Prentice had in store for them.

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