Alberta Politics
Manning Centre founder and former Reform Party Leader Preston Manning (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Stephen Harper and Preston Manning, joined at the hip by history and not particularly liking it, make changes

Posted on January 17, 2020, 2:13 am
9 mins

On Wednesday, former prime minister Stephen Harper abruptly quit the Conservative Party of Canada’s fund-raising board, supposedly to give himself time to prevent Jean Charest from becoming leader of Canada’s Conservatives or prime minister of Canada.

Yesterday, we learned that Preston Manning would quit his eponymous market-fundamentalist call centre in Calgary, and what’s more the folks now at the helm of the Manning Centre are in a big fat hurry to change its name.

Former Conservative Party prime minister Stephen Harper (Photo: Conservative Party of Canada).

Coincidence? Or what?

Coincidences happen, of course. But in politics, they are always suspect.

Mr. Harper and Mr. Manning do not have an entirely comfortable history together. Mr. Harper quit the Reform Party in a huff under Mr. Manning’s leadership in 1997 and purged the successor Canadian Alliance Party of staffers loyal to Mr. Manning after returning to politics and becoming leader in 2002.

But having worked together to destroy the old federal Progressive Conservative Party and turn it into the Conservative-Reform-Alliance replicant, the pair resembles incompatible Siamese twins, not necessarily buddies, but joined at the hip just the same.

Former Progressive Conservative Party of Canada leader and Quebec Liberal Premier Jean Charest (Photo: Wikipedia, Creative Commons).

So does this indicate tectonic change in the ranks of the federal Conservative Party, embittered by its loss in the election it expected to win and troubled by the inevitable risks of a new leadership campaign when they expected to be ordering new curtains for 24 Sussex Drive, whenever it’s made habitable?

One of those risks from Mr. Harper’s perspective is surely a moderate and electable old-style Red Tory like Mr. Charest emerging as Conservative leader after all the work he and Mr. Manning did to destroy the old PCs.

What could be the only thing from Mr. Harper’s perspective worse than a Trudeau as prime minister? Quite possibly a Tory like Mr. Charest as Conservative leader!

After all, in addition to being the former leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, Mr. Charest is moderate, urbane, comfortably bilingual and as a former (Liberal!) Quebec premier fully aware of that unique province’s place in Confederation. In other words, the antithesis of the modern Western-dominated Canadian Conservative Party.

Manning Centre CEO Troy Lanigan (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Mr. Harper might well be worried the election of an old-style Tory might tear the current party apart — and even more worried it might not!

As for Mr. Manning, at 77 you might think it’s time for him to retire anyway.

Not to worry, Mr. Manning will be writing a book and going on a seven-city tour to flog it, assured someone at the nowadays somewhat-diminished Manning Centre in an email to supporters.

Quickly pivoting to the real news, the email continued: “Preston is not all that is going into retirement. The Manning name will be coming off the Centre and its networking conferences.”

Former B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Perhaps the author was recently appointed Manning Centre President and CEO Troy Lanigan, a hardy perennial of the right-wing propaganda infrastructure late of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and sundry other such outfits. His name was on the bottom of the email along with some others.

Whoever it was, the author of the note asked supporters for a little help answering four questions, which I’m happy to share with readers of this blog, although I cannot, alas, provide a link to the on-line survey:

  • What new (future) name should the Manning Centre adopt?
  • Are there any names or themes that the Manning Centre should avoid?
  • What new (future) name should the Manning Networking Conferences be called?
  • Are their any (future) networking activities or related ideas a re-branding organization should consider?

While the Manning Centre is probably not all that interested in the responses of readers of this blog, we at AlbertaPolitics.ca most certainly are. Use the comments section below.

Whether or not anything more profound is going on, all this leaves at least one immediate question unanswered: Did Mr. Manning want his name removed from the outfit he founded, or is it the Manning Centre staff or its donors who are driving the re-branding?

File all this under Unsolved Political Mysteries.

Meanwhile, over on the Left Coast …

Meanwhile, out on Canada’s West Coast, a similar political mystery is emerging:

B.C. Premier John Horgan (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver has revealed he has pulled the plug on his own three-member caucus and will sit as an Independent in the B.C. Legislature in Victoria.

Mr. Weaver has been facing health challenges in his family, so his earlier announcement he was stepping down as party leader was less of a surprise. Still, this makes him seem like a one-man parade who can’t lead and won’t follow.

What the decision means for the willingness of tiny Green Caucus, which holds the balance of power in the B.C. Legislature, to continue to prop up the surprisingly stable government of NDP Premier John Horgan remains to be seen.

This is interesting in light of yesterday’s unanimous decision by the Supreme Court of Canada to reject B.C.’s appeal of a lower court decision that quashed its effort to regulate what can flow through the Trans Mountain Pipeline.

Alberta Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

While on its face this is a victory both for Alberta’s United Conservative Party Government and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, which while far from allies have both been working hard to see the project completed, it may also create opportunities for B.C.’s Greens — thereby creating an incentive for them to pull the props out from under the NDP and try to incite an election.

Alberta Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer, naturally, took the opportunity to crow about the ruling, claiming tendentiously “the Supreme Court of Canada has upheld the rule of law and put an end to the British Columbia government’s campaign of obstruction against Alberta energy.”

What was upheld, of course, was the federal government’s argument Ottawa clearly has the authority to approve and regulate any pipeline that crosses provincial borders, which was pretty close to a legal slam-dunk, whatever you happen to think of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project.

It will be interesting to see if Mr. Schweitzer is as enthusiastic when the Supreme Court also dismisses for similar reasons the arguments against the federal carbon tax being made by Alberta and other Conservative-run provinces, as also seems quite likely.

Of course, Mr. Schweitzer’s claim completing the TMX Project will ensure a fair price for Alberta bitumen and put thousands of people to work will be decided by the market, and not the courts. So the rule of law will have nothing at all to do with it.

17 Comments to: Stephen Harper and Preston Manning, joined at the hip by history and not particularly liking it, make changes

  1. ronmac

    January 17th, 2020

    Why not rename the Manning Center the Harper Center for the Demolition of Democracy.

    Reply
  2. J.E. Molnar

    January 17th, 2020

    “While the Manning Centre is probably not all that interested in the responses of readers of this blog, we at AlbertaPolitics.ca most certainly are.”

    I highly recommend: “The Kochland Centre Foundation North”

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      January 18th, 2020

      J.E. MOLNAR Or how about the Fraser Institute Frenzies?

      Reply
  3. Abs

    January 17th, 2020

    Changing of the guard. Wasn’t Troy Lanigan in league with Jason Kenney at the taxpayer thing? And we know that Señor Harper is on board the Kenney train. And all Twiiter can talk about is his missing wedding ring. People, don’t get didtracted when someone says, “Squirrel”.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      January 17th, 2020

      Mr.Kenney and Mr. Lanigan both ran the CTF at much different times. I’m sure they share essentially the same goals. DJC

      Reply
        • David Climenhaga

          January 18th, 2020

          My goodness! I stand corrected. I’d missed that. That said, I am always astonished at just how tight a little group it is that runs these right-wing boiler rooms, think tanks, fake institutes, unfederated federations and the like in this country. DJC

          Reply
  4. Bob Raynard

    January 17th, 2020

    The irony, of course, is that Jean Charest is probably the most electable of all the names we hear when possible CPC leaders are mentioned. Jean Charest’s greatest asset, in my mind, and his greatest liability in Stephen Harper’s, is that he is not a Stephen Harper disciple. Andrew Scheer described himself as Stephen Harper with a smile, and he couldn’t even beat a significantly compromised Justin Trudeau.

    I expect Justin Trudeau will be more difficult to beat in 2023. He will have hopefully learned from the rookie mistakes he made in his first term, and I think it is pretty unlikely anymore embarrassing photos of him will surface – if they were out there the well financed conservative organizers would have found them in time for last fall’s election.

    At the same time, the Stephen Harper brand of conservatism, that includes refusing to do anything meaningful on the climate change file, will become less appealing as we start to experience more and more consequences of climate change.

    Reply
    • Jerrymacgp

      January 19th, 2020

      The biggest hit against Mr Charest’s eligibility for the CPC leadership, IMHO, isn’t his prior stint as Quebec Liberal Party Leader (PLQ, for Parti Libéral du Québec) & Premier … at the time, and in fact for much of the province’s recent history, Liberal was simply what every federalist in Quebec had to be. It’s only in the past few years that there has been a non-Liberal, non-separatist alternative to the PQ.

      No, the issue with Mr Charest is his political baggage, which doesn’t really smell very attractive: https://www.thestar.com/politics/federal/2020/01/18/claims-of-illegal-party-financing-could-damage-jean-charests-hopes-of-political-comeback.html

      While it is entirely possible that he was completely unaware of and uninvolved in the fundraising shenanigans that were prevalent during his tenure at PLQ leader, such a thesis should also cause one to seriously question his competence as party leader. If he didn’t know what was going on, how oblivious was he? Was Jason Kenney equally oblivious to the “kamikaze campaign” and illegal donations scandal surrounding it?

      Both strain our credulity.

      Reply
  5. Abs

    January 17th, 2020

    And a note to Global-TV Calgary, stop running Jason Kenney’s Twitter feed as if it is an interview with him. I understand you may want to curry favor for whatever Con-consolidation is happening down the road, but a one-sided Twitter post is not a press conference. This isn’t the first time. Stop it.

    Reply
  6. Death and Gravity

    January 17th, 2020

    Looks like the funders (whoever they really are) are having a hissy fit.

    Reply
  7. Dave

    January 17th, 2020

    It is a mystery. Who killed the Manning Centre and why. Did it just really retire, or succumb to old age? I like to be helpful, so here is a (perhaps mischievous) thought – How about the Manning Centre becoming the Harper Centre? After all, being a PM trumps being an opposition leader and perhaps Mr. Harper has a bit of free time on his hands now that he stepped down from the Conservative fund raising board. Surely, opposing Mr. Charest and trotting around the globe can’t keep him busy all the time. Here is a thought, I also hope they invite Mr. Manning to the rebranding celebration, so we can see his pasted on smile, while he struggles to say something nice and perhaps likewise with Mr. Harper. It would kind of be like watching two porcupines trying to dance – awkward.

    It probably doesn’t matter that much what happens to the Manning Centre, it will likely try to keep on doing what it did before, but just under a new name. Now on to something more relevant – the future. It is kind of odd that one of the possible leading contenders for the Conservative leadership and who seems to have so energized Mr. Harper’s emnity, is also someone from the past, whose elected political career goes back further even than Mr. Harper’s or Mr. Manning’s. I am not sure what that says about the current state of teh Conservative party and its grand experiment of the last 25 years..

    Of course, Mr. Charest is not the only former PC pursuing the leadership. There does seem to be a fork in the road for the Conservative party now. One way may lead them back to the centre and eventual power with likely an eastern leader – oh the horror! Another way may allow the Liberals who have had some serious stumbles of their own in the last decade to firmly reclaim their mantle of naturally governing party. I’m not sure the party will choose wisely. In the spirit of their last leadership race, I suspect they might chose a compromise candidate, someone with a bit more charm and not all the hard edges of Poilievre, but reassuring enough to the large western and social conservative base.

    On that note, perhaps Mr. Kenney imagines one day that centre will be named after him. After all, he did occasionally spend time in the city it is located in and his mom lives in the area, so he probably did go there from time to time.

    Reply
  8. Just Me

    January 17th, 2020

    I recall, before he was unceremoniously bounced from his riding association’s nomination for another CPC candidate, Rod Anders declares he would make war on all Red Tories. His rationale for such purge had a lot to do with moral and ideological purity, because Red Tories are just that – red. Lefties. Conservatives in Name Only (CINO) and dedicated to maintain the globalist agenda against the socon vision of Canada.

    Anders may not have been such a crackpot after all, as was echoing the sentiment maintained by Harper, Manning, and other Alberta CONs. When Peter MacKay was the last leader of the ole PC party, he claimed he was determined to never see progressive-conservative values trampled on by the Reform Party and their socon fellow-travellers. And then he gave up the fight, merged and dissolved the PCs, and assured Harpo’s reign of meh. MacKay is back and he’s already saying it was the ReformCONs that lost the last election, because on their obsession with women’s choice, the Christian god not being everywhere, not enough white protestants being born, and man-on-man sex. (But lesbians are alright)

    Harpo and Manny are determined to prevent the globalists from bringing their war against the fossil fuel industry to the CPC leadership, and Kenney is their angry midget.

    Civil wars are fun, especially when they happen to the CONs.

    Reply
    • CovKid

      January 18th, 2020

      Isn’t Rob Anders due for a “Where Are They Now” segment somewhere?

      Reply
  9. Bill Malcolm

    January 17th, 2020

    Well, at my age I’m jealous of Preston’s full head of hair, if not his ostrich neck. He was always an hypnotic or put-you-to-sleep speaker depending on your personal brain alpha waves, making nonsense sound like wonderfulness; he always struck me as an earnest fellow who got led down the garden path at an early age, and struggled always thereafter to make bad medicine sound like elixir of the gods. Like many Alberta politicians, he was always mystified that their interpretation of the wishes of a few million Albertans weren’t somehow so commonsense that the rest of Canada didn’t jump on the bandwagon and emulate them at once. A man of scant imagination or grounding in reality in some ways, then.

    Reading that departing email, I sense a few misty eyes as Preston sacrifices any remembrance of his name for the Centre. I will leave it to staffers and those who care to come up with a suitably gaudy name for it. Perhaps they truly believe conservatives in general, who were called reactionaries in history texts when I went to school, have written weighty tomes of closely-argued political philosophy over the centuries, but I cannot think of one, not even Preston’s.

    For me Manning’s major sin was inflicting harper on the country. Stephen’s wolf-like personal portrait shown here is appropriate for his consultancy, which apparently is helping politicians elect right wing governments around the world. Inflicting pain on the proles doesn’t strike me as much to be proud of, but for an entirely unempathetic human with his head screwed on backwards, perhaps it all makes sense. No doubt he advises PM Morrison of Oz how to chummily greet exhausted unpaid volunteer bushfire-fighters, and to bring a lump of coal to their House of Representatives and eulogize over its benefits. We can expect harper to stick his oar in politics to preserve the horse manure policies he inflicted on our country; since Trudeau as merely the other side of neoliberalism and free trade has rescinded few despite much arm-waving to the contrary, I see little chance that even the scandal-plagued Charest as CPC leader would do much to relieve us of their burden.

    Reply
  10. Scotty on Denman

    January 18th, 2020

    “Rule of law,” you say?

    One would think a justice minister of the Crown would not confuse “rule of law” ( or, ‘government and jurisprudence by way of laws applied impartially’) with any statute of the day or any constructional law. But nobody should have felt relieved that the court “upheld the rule of law” as if it might not have, or frequently does not, depending on its mood.

    What the court upheld was the plaintiff’s right to challenge a lower court decision—which of course is precisely the upholding of the rule of law, Minister Schweitzer’s opinion about it notwithstanding.

    That said, I’ve been saying the CPC is in deep, existential trouble for some time, now, and for an even longer time that BC politics is sort of crazy. But it might be that MLA Weaver, the former BC Green Party leader, wants to avoid having to endorse either of the two remaining Green caucus members over the other—or anybody else, for that matter—by sitting for the remainder of the four-year term (with about fifteen months left) as an Independent MLA. His confessed family health problems might be overriding his willingness to be distracted by party politics. He can perform his perfunctory parliamentary task just as well by voting on bills as an Independent—without all the hoopla of a party leadership contest, even though he wasn’t a candidate. At any rate, we have to thank him for remaining in the Assembly in order to keep the perfidious BC Liberals from regaining power by toppling the minority NDP government, even though he would probably prefer to be at home with his loved ones. Now that’s dedication and a sense of public duty. Thank you, Andrew Weaver!

    Reply
  11. Keith McClary

    January 19th, 2020

    The U of A had very few people who wanted to talk about politics, so the politically ambitious of various stripes were a little clique. When Preston ran for office, Chrystia’s (future) dad phoned him. :
    “Hey Preston, what are you doing?”
    “Watching TV.”
    “Shouldn’t you be campaigning?”
    “Oh, no, the party does all that.”
    So he persuaded Preston to go out door-knocking.

    Reply

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