Alberta Politics
Preston Manning, Godfather of the Canadian Right, at the 2013 Manning Networking Conference in Ottawa (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

So sorry to see you go so soon, Manning Centre … here’s your hat

Posted on July 25, 2018, 1:31 am
6 mins

Shed a tear for the Calgary-based Manning Centre, which Postmedia’s Cowtown website of record sadly reported yesterday is “stepping back from its advocacy work.”

Ron Paul, the batty uncle of the American Right at the same event (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Since polishing up Tiny Tories to make them acceptable for election door-knocking and serving as a launch pad for development-industry-financed attacks on Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi is about all the Manning crowd did most days of the year – in other words, partisan advocacy work – that sounds as if the end is nigh the 13-year-old right-wing boiler room.

There’s even a for-lease sign on the Manning Centre’s funkily old-timey headquarters on the stretch of Calgary’s 11th Avenue once known as “Electric Avenue.” Has the plug been pulled?

Well, not quite. There are still the Manning Networking Conference and its Alberta spin-offs, which the organization’s three remaining staff members will try to spin out for a little while longer.

Jason Kenney, ditto (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Back in the day, founder Preston Manning’s annual right-wing clambake in Ottawa was the neoliberal event of the season, attracting such iconic conservative celebs as Ron Paul, the batty uncle of the American Right. But that was when Stephen Harper was the king of Parliament Hill.

Nowadays, even that right-wing hootenanny apparently fails to attract the crowds of fresh-faced young conservatives it did back in the day when it looked as if Jason Kenney might be the next Ontario-born Alberta Conservative to run the country.

Corporate head office big shots were generous with cash, although they weren’t always quite as enthusiastic about showing up themselves for more than a few moments of homage from the vassals, leaving the job of riotously applauding speeches by disagreeable second stringers like alt-right publisher Ezra Levant and British anti-EU demagogue Nigel Farage to mid-level flunkies. And even they mostly ignored the Ayn Rand Film Society booth and the like.

Far-right British politician and Brexit advocate Nigel Farage (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Whatever. The Calgary Herald noted yesterday that in addition to the for-lease sign on the Centre’s gentrified southwest Calgary offices (soon to be trendy loft condos, I’d wager) its website had disappeared. Well, the website at least was back yesterday afternoon, and according to Manning Centre Vice-President John Whittaker the temporary disappearance was merely the result of an unfortunately timed server breakdown.

Still, I doubt if anyone will breathe a deep sigh of relief to hear that.

Time will tell, presumably, if the increasingly offensive alt-right newsletter published by the Manning Foundation, the Centre’s charitable fund-raising arm set up in 2007, continues to turn up in email inboxes. With recent stories mocking problems faced by LGBTQ seniors, still whining about “Harper Derangement Syndrome,” and touting the “male resurgence” in Ontario politics, I doubt C2C Journal would be missed very much by anyone, even conservative readers.

Except, perhaps, the sort of conservatives who gave it money when the Manning Centre joked about Somali refugee camps in a bizarrely partisan fund-raising letter for the publication soon after the 2015 Alberta election that brought an NDP government to power.

Alt-right publisher Ezra Levant (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

What happened? Well, we grow old and slow down. Mr. Manning, once the leader of the Reform Party in Parliament and still the Godfather of the Canadian Right, is now 76. He has “stepped away” from his direct role in managing the effort, the Herald quoted Mr. Whittaker explaining.

One suspects, however, that it’s also getting a little harder for an outfit like the Manning Centre to raise money in Calgary, or anywhere else in Canada, what with all the competition for right-wing dollars nowadays from election PAC slush funds and the like.

In all the marketing commotion, it must have been easy for the Manning Centre to be forgotten, even if it’s not quite gone.

This was likely especially true in light of the Centre’s notable lack of success, despite the generosity of some members of Calgary’s “Sprawl Cabal,” in its effort to knock off Mayor Nenshi in last year’s municipal election.

Well, we’re sorry to see you go so soon, Manning Centre … Here’s your hat!

5 Comments to: So sorry to see you go so soon, Manning Centre … here’s your hat

  1. Edwin Mundt

    July 25th, 2018

    Johnnie Whittaker was spectacular as Jody in “Family Affair.”

    Reply
  2. David

    July 25th, 2018

    It seems like interesting times behind the scenes in Mr. Manning’s potemkin village on 11th Ave. I am not sure what Potemkin would make of that nice old building if he was actually around still, but I bet he would not approve of those For Lease signs in the windows. I think part of the cause of the retreat or possible demise of Mr. Manning’s Centre was being spread too thin.

    It must have been quite the journey for Mr. Manning, who at one time may have aspired to be Prime Minister. Unfortunately the Reformers like many others underestimated Chretien and the Liberals. So Mr. Manning retreated to Alberta to regroup and fight smaller battles. Who can forget his best supporting role in the Prentice-Smith affair? Ooops, that didn’t go well. I suppose there was always local politics in conservative bedrock Calgary where the progressive Nenshi was starting to get on a lot of peoples nerves. That might have seemed like an easy play, but the Conservatives swung and somehow missed again.

    One might imagine Mr. Manning in a Sunset Boulevard moment saying “its the politics that got small”, although I think Mr. Manning is too much of a straight man for that particular role. Perhaps its better suited for Jason Kenney.

    Yes, the building will make lovely condo’s and I am confident they will be quite pleasant perhaps after a smudging ceremony to remove any bad spirits. Although the new owners may have to put up with the occasional Ayn Rand historical bus tour groups dropping by.

    Reply
  3. brett

    July 25th, 2018

    I suspect that they shot their bolt after that attempt to have Bill Smith elected Mayor of Calgary.

    No doubt Mr. Smith is a fine man. It is however, difficult to run a campaign against a successful incumbent when your only policy platform appears to be that it is time for a change.

    Alas, the combination of the Manning Centre, Calgary Sports and Entertainment (Flames), Garry Bettman (NHL) , and the local UCP MLA’s could not disguise this obvious ‘hole’ in the campaign.

    Reply
  4. Scotty on Denman

    July 25th, 2018

    “…here’s your hat…” Some hat, a hat like magicians pull rabbits out of. Just like when Manning effectively smashed the holistic Toryism of Brian Mulroney—along with his nemesis buddy Bouchard who neatly formed a whipping boy for Manning’s “West-Wants-In” crowd—and then presumed to “unite the right” while practicing his mangled, grade school french in the Commons. It reminds of magicians who relieve audience volunteers of their underclothes without dishevelling their outer garments.

    Manning’s supposed counter to left-wing intellectualism which had, he said, done a better job of organizing voters than the right had—except that the counter was not intelligent Toryism—was anti-intellectual, period.

    Naturally looks were everything. The de facto anti-intellectual movement had to adopt the trappings of academia by way of right-wing ‘think tanks’ whose primary purpose was to compile and manipulate what Twain referred to as the third kind of lie, statistics, but also play the pouch-pipe that the movement was, nevertheless, the justifiable rival to, not complement of, the usual denizens of intelligentsia, universities, democratic political parties, scientists—dismal and otherwise—and the arts. We see this more starkly today as Donald L(ame in November) Duck reminds, “I love the undereducated.” Manning was made-over from folksy to foxy, with a new doo and contact lenses, his message being that the right had to look as smart as the left—but only look like it.
    It was always for show. Manning had whipped up sectarian and racist sentiment to aggregate and aggravate his Western base (the former against french-speaking Catholics, the latter against Aboriginal nations, torching the dry hay neo-right tank-thinkers gleaned from the dust of the Northwest Rebellion which neatly amalgamated both for propaganda purposes and an ostensible ‘academic’ feel). Keeping up appearances to this end required the SoCon and racist sentiments of the so-called “grassroots” be tempered and made more palatable by couching these perversions in constitutional arguments—replete with buzzwords like “Indian Veto” and “Christian Right to Worship”. True believers followed the pouch-piper down this rabbit hole —as long as they could hear the whistle the legitimacy of ostentation permitted the new, smartphoney look.

    The explosion of old Tory parties is now all but complete; from here we can ascertain Mannings success: he did smash the federal Progressive Conservatives; and his failure: he did not reassemble it to his own liking and, as time revealed, the abandonment of neo-right chimeras by moderate conservatives has left virtually all nominal conservative parties moribund orgies of extremism, xenophobia and white supremacism.

    It’s about right: the expiration of the Manning Centre matches neatly the throes of the neo-right we see everywhere in the Western world today. And Preston Manning did it so neatly.

    It’s now back to cowboys and Indians, and circled wagons, praise the Lord and pass the ammo.

    Here’s your hat, Preston, it came back to ground full of holes.

    Reply
  5. Farmer Dave

    July 26th, 2018

    Manning did take down the former Federal Tory Party and destroyed it and that was bad for Canada. Now we don’t have a creditable alternate political party to vote for. And I wonder who will Jason Kenney take his marching orders from now that the Manning Centre will be gone. Looks like Kenney will be lost without his mentor.

    Reply

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