The so-called “National Citizens Inquiry” established last fall by Preston Manning complained on Easter Sunday that TikTok has joined YouTube in suspending its account, presumably for spreading misinformation about COVID-19.

Mr. Manning in Ottawa in 2013 when he was still talking about the need for “Green Conservatism” and warning his fellow travellers at the annual Manning Centre clambake that if they didn’t get on board they might make conservatism irrelevant with voters (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Never mind the moral panic about China using TikTok to spy on us all, the social media platforms’ bans are a darned shame, according to whoever’s running the official-sounding unofficial inquiry dreamed up by the 80-year-old former godfather of the Canadian right, because it’s “preventing us from sharing valuable information about our citizen-led and citizen-funded initiative investigating the government’s #COVID-19 policies.”

Whether or not the information being spread by the NCI is all that valuable is another question entirely, as the obviously well-funded “citizen led inquiry” appears to have been created only to undermine the Trudeau Government in Ottawa and give a platform to cranks pushing various COVID conspiracy theories. 

“By suspending our account, TikTok is silencing the voices of citizens who want to participate in this critical inquiry,” huffed the NCI Twitter account, which given the decaying social media platform’s current ownership is presumably nowadays safe from a similar suspension there.

The whole idea of the NCI is so lame even Postmedia hardly has had anything to say about it in its news columns since January, when the National Post last devoted some ink to it, including a boring screed by Mr. Manning himself. Other major media outfits seem to have ignored it almost completely, which seems reasonable under the circumstances.

Still, this got me thinking about Alberta’s equally ridiculous but actually official inquiry into COVID-19 public health measures and what it’s been up to lately. 

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

Mr. Manning abandoned the NCI ship in November last year when Premier Danielle Smith had the Alberta government advance him $235,000 to head a “panel” on this province’s response to COVID-19 – which shouldn’t be a problem since he’d already written a piece of “bizarre speculative fiction” about a report by an imaginary federal inquiry that, among other things, saw public health officials being criminally charged for doing their jobs.

To call Mr. Manning’s turgid literary effort “fiction” does fiction a grave injustice. “Made up” and “virtually unreadable” would all be more accurate descriptions for the 46-page booklet published by Frontier Centre for Public Policy, a low-rent Winnipeg-based version of the Fraser Institute known for its climate change denialism and attacks on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Scuttlebutt at the time Alberta’s effort was announced suggested Mr. Manning was paid up front to run the “Public Health Emergencies Governance Review Panel,” which isn’t supposed to report until November this year, just in case the NDP won the election and sent the old coot packing. The panel has a total budget of about $2 million. 

In any event, since Ms. Smith is a well-known COVID skeptic and quack cure enthusiast who viewed COVID-19 mitigation measures by public health officials as part of a vast conspiracy to restrict our freedom to shop, it can be taken as given she’s not looking for a balanced report that will actually teach us anything useful about how to respond to future public health emergencies. 

Mr. Manning added five panel members in February, all of them likely to be sympathetic to Ms. Smith’s and Mr. Manning’s views on the topic at hand. 

University of Calgary law professor Lorian Hardcastle (Photo: University of Calgary).

University of Calgary law professor Lorian Hardcastle told the CBC at the time of the appointments that “the panel seems like it’s been designed to reach the conclusion that the government successfully balanced lives and livelihoods. I don’t think this panel is going to result in any meaningful improvements whatsoever.”

That may be an optimistic take, though, if the UCP gets a chance to use its conclusions to seek revenge on public health officials for requiring health care workers, for example, to be vaccinated against COVID-19. 

According to the Alberta Government’s website, the panel is now busy examining contributions from the public to its online questionnaire and whatever experts it deigned to contact. 

With Ms. Smith mired in the Pastorgate Scandal of her own making, which is also related to her screwy ideas about COVID-19 and public health measures, I suppose it’s unlikely she’ll decide to use the Public Health Emergencies Governance Review Panel to distract from her current troubles.

But readers will have to admit that, given the nature of her efforts to minimize the significance of her telephone conversation with the criminally charged pastor in question, such a development is not entirely out of the question. 

As an aside, at least one worthy pundit as objected to the term Pastorgate.

“We do not have to ‘-gate’ everything, Episode 452,” complained CBC’s Jason Markusoff on Twitter Sunday

One of the nice things about writing your own blog, of course, is that one can say whatever one wants (subject to the usual legal restrictions) without having to answer to the petty strictures of newsocrats. 

Of course, if I may say so myself, my coinage is the perfect shorthand to telegraph the meaning of Ms. Smith’s phone conversation with Artur Pawlowski and its implication of the breadth and gravity of Premier Smith’s interference with the administration of justice. 

That said, I am grateful to Mr. Markusoff for helping to ensure widespread use of the #Pastorgate hashtag. 

Join the Conversation


  1. Yes, Manning seems suspiciously quiet now. Perhaps he senses a potential disaster in the making this time and does not want to get burned again like he did by getting too close to Kenney at one time. Maybe he is just too busy taking all those cheques to the bank before the end of May. Or maybe he is busy learning how to TikTok or YouTube. In any event, it is probably best for him to keep a low profile. I agree his inquiry will probably not help the UCP get reelected, as it will only remind people of how kooky some of their leaders are.

    I do get that putting gate after everything is not that imaginative any more, but it has become the thing to do over the years. In that tradition, I lean towards call-gate myself, but perhaps that is too generic, so maybe pardon-gate or pastor-gate is better. Artur-gate or Dani-gate is perhaps even more distinctive. In the spirit of the times, perhaps some Alberts political commentator, although presumably not Mr. Markusoff, could do an on line poll of some of good choices.

  2. I suppose the NCI could move their social media screeds to platforms that are more accommodating.

    I hear and the are very friendly to the conspiracy rumour monger type of content producer. Although they would have to share those platforms with the likes of Christian Nationalists and white-supremacists of various shades, I say go for it.

    Presto! And it’s done.

  3. Pastorgate, Pastorgate, Pastorgate. Say it in the woods at night and he will appear. Or maybe I’m mixing him up with Slender Man.

  4. Here’s a question. The perception is most of the anti-vax crowd are right wing conspiracy nuts and are horrible, horrible people. But a question worth asking are there a NDP constituency out there who are also anti-vax? These would be people who are into personal wellness, organic food, alternative medicines and homeopathic therapy etc. Most of all they are anti-Big Pharma and are certainly aren’t going let somebody inject them with an experimental vaccine that is going to…well let’s count the problems.

    1. Ronmac: This is actually a worthwhile point, although you rather spoil it by throwing in the nonsensical talking point about the vaccine being “experimental.” However, it is true that historically there has been a certain amount of electoral fluidity between Conservatives and New Democrats, something both political streams probably need to pay more attention to than they do. It is my belief – and apparently mine alone – that if the NDP had chosen Dave Barrett as leader in 1989 instead of the unfortunately not very effective Audrey McLaughlin the Reform Party never would have formed the Opposition, engineered its hostile takeover of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, and gone on to be such a negative force in Canadian politics. Most importantly, we would probably just think of Preston Manning as a nice old man and a historical footnote, which would have been better for him and for our Dominion, in my opinion. DJC

    2. The simple answer to your question is they are no longer welcome in the latest version of the NDP. I once helped a federal NDP candidate based almost entirely on the fact that as a city councillor he tried for get hydrofluosilicic acid out of the drinking water. These views are now called conspiracy theories by the NDP. Seems they have gone the same route with big pharma, once an enemy now a friend. I don’t know if Notley and crew realize or even care how much they have angered this once loyal voting block.
      The other point worth noting is the close relationship Notley seems to have with a former central banker. Again showing this isn’t the party of her still well respected father.

      1. It’s telling the only people who showed any spunk and pushback against the public health authorities during the pandemic. What it really boils down to is are these various regulatory agencies like the FAA and the WHO honest brokers or have they been captured by vested interests given the fact there seems to be a revolving door between the people who sit on these boards and pharma execs.

    3. There may be people who are not alt-right who may be hessitant about vaccines. But they are not the ones trying to force their views on others, like alt-rights and you.

    4. It’s possible, even likely there is a contingent of these folks in alberta; After all folks on albertans middling left are people too. The difference is, they’re a very tiny (if they even exist) and non vocal minority of folks. The difference being (obviously) that it is a LARGE VOCAL contingent on the right that is literally trying to upend our democracy.

      Do you see a difference in these two things, or do your ideological blinders keep you from doing so?

      What strikes me about NDP voters is they seem to be folks who realize, like most grown ups, and unlike UCP voters, sometimes you gotta do things you don’t like for the good of the society. Like paying taxes. Or participating in immunization campaigns. Or actually getting projects completed. Or forcing the polluter to pay to clean up their wells. Etc.

  5. Preston Manning may have been the darling of the right years ago. But now? No doubt he has a following but that following will allow themselves to be led by anyone who agrees with their view. Reality does not enter into it.

    Manning is a washed up has been who was never really successful. That is about the sum of it. Perhaps he is trying to replay his youth. He needs a little press to bring attention to his new role and to stroke his ego and his reputation. Press attention was always his forte.

    You do have to give the old fox credit for scoring a $235K hit from the Government of Alberta as an advance on his consulting fees for leading the ‘Panel’. It would seem that old dogs never do forget their tricks.

    I do admire him for one thing though. Of all the Reform MP’s who pledged not to accept their MP pensions, my understanding is that Manning is the ONLY one who stuck to that commitment. No surprise there. The rest of the Reform MP’s quietly lobbied Jean Chretien to pass an order in council bringing them back into the plan. Well away from public view of course. It would seem that the Reform MP’s were not really different from any of the other MP’s.

  6. How did Danielle Smith dig up Reform Party founder Preston Manning to head her official inquiry into the UCP’s mishandling of the Covid pandemic? Wouldn’t the reiteration of the facts—you know, Alberta being the worst Covid-hit jurisdiction in North America that threw the province’s healthcare system into an ongoing operational crisis; the Alberto-genesistic Freedumbite Convoy, resulting E-Act, arrests and convictions; the UCP Anti-vaxxers and the UCP’s ongoing existential crisis; and, speaking of which, Danielle Smith herself and her batshit crazy “Sovereignty Act” that could very likely cost her party power in 46 days from today—a litany of astoundingly embarrassing facts, be something the UCP would want to avoid?

    Enter alternative facts, otherwise known as fiction—which is the centrepiece of Mannings 46-page job-application resume. Aside from the perennially delicious irony of a polity looking more ridiculous the harder it tries to look serious, I bet Preston’s “smouldering grassroots fire” is what clinched it for Danielle.

    I mean, from the UCP’s perspective, anything’s gotta be better ‘n’ the facts.

    1. Respectfully, as bad as covid was in alberta, we share a continent with places like Florida, New York, and California. They had mass graves in New York for those who don’t remember. Did the UCP delay, defer responsibility and let people die, absolutely, and it was criminal but let’s be rational about this.

      1. I think he was referring to Covid infections/deaths on a per capita basis and in that regard (without researching old stats), if I remember correctly, I believe he is correct.

        Alberta’s #1 !

  7. This UCP government with all the scandals and idiotic statements of the last three years is not anymore worth making comments about. What I think it is the real story here, unfortunately, is the level of uneducated, unethical and even immoral half of Alberta’s citizens. To be honest, despite the 43 years of Conservative rule, I am still trying to deal with the fact that this province has never seen any good management since Peter Lougheed left. If not for the easy oil money we would certainly be the Canadian weirdos.

    I have only seen anything close to this circus, this lack of vision and lack of competence in the very third world countries in Africa.

    Mr. Manning, as far as I am concerned, has never said anything of any value for the last 40 years.

  8. “…just in case the NDP won the election and sent the old coot packing.”
    Now, David, the old coot and I are roughly the same age and your use of the word “old” cuts me to the quick.

  9. Mr. Manning in Ottawa in 2013 when he was still talking about the need “Green Conservatism”…
    There’s a word missing in there, I believe.

  10. This briefest of brief overviews suggests that:

    The Manning screed is much more than “a piece of “bizarre speculative fiction””.
    The alleged “elder statesman” is still a highly influential and dominant individual among the subset of mangy partisan, tribal mongrels that are always highly attuned to both dog whistling and the crude bell ringing of classical conditioning.

    “By way of introduction”, Mr. Manning confirms, in his own words, that he indeed belongs to “a group or class of people seen as having the greatest power and influence within a society, especially because of their wealth or privilege.” That trivial observation is as undeniable as it is conspicuous. The effete affectations of a highly suspect class treason [acted out as virtue signaling for the tribal mob, where; “Virtue signaling is designed to communicate specifically to one partisan tribe and to affirm its moral superiority.”] seems to have roots in some particular type of messiah complex.

    In any case, the ‘bizarre speculative fiction” is both a manifesto, a blueprint, and it is wish-fulfillment writ large and the followers of the “elder statesman” are always more than accommodating, for example:

    (i.) “Establishment of the COVID Commission”—-Page 15—-DONE!!

    (ii.) “The Common Sense Movement came to be headed by a charismatic,
    antiestablishment female leader named Leah Wahlstrom. Her father’s
    small independent trucking firm had been forced into bankruptcy by the
    vaccine mandate and Leah emerged as a shrewd and gifted spokesperson
    for the Freedom Convoy and its growing contingent of political activists.”—-Page 11, compare with

    (iii.) “The Canadian public appear to be coming around to a belief in ‘limited government’—not out of ideological persuasion or conviction—but due to the failures of politician-led government institutions and programs to deliver results on so many fronts. This view does not exclude a meaningful role for governments, but it tends to mean that often the best things governments can do is to ‘get out of the way’ to facilitate positive action by others, and to participate in public-private partnerships as the junior rather than the senior partner.”—Page 13—-The old ideological ideals remain and the true focus also remains unchanged, i.e.: “Grover Norquist, who founded Americans for Tax Reform in 1985 at the urging of President Reagan, declared in 2001: “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”” Casting aside all of the disingenuous duplicity by the acolyte, Danielle Smith, her ideological focus remains as it ever was also.

    Finally, “But this commendation was accompanied by a strong advisory—that in the future, members of the science community should be much more involved in communicating their findings and recommendations directly to the pubic rather than allowing the relevant findings to be communicated by bureaucrats, politicians, and media who tended to interpret the science in accordance with their own agendas, biases, and un-scientific perspectives.”—-Page 33—-Everyone, excepting Mr. Manning, of course—-“Why did the federal government initially engage in what appeared to be a deliberate smear campaign to discredit the use of pharmaceutical interventions (i.e. drugs) to treat COVID-19 and its mutations, even prohibiting physicians from using them, when scientific evidence as to the safety and efficacy of such treatments was already available?”—-Page 18

    1. Sigh. Vaccines and public health measures, with few exceptions, have been the prevention/treatment of choice for viral illnesses since Jenner, at least… If I squint real hard I can imagine the premises (valid or not) behind this last pronouncement:
      i) pharmaceutical companies just want our money
      ii) pharmaceutical companies are willing to cut corners on safety testing
      iii) pharmaceutical companies have captured government through lobbying
      iv) I am a coward and can’t stand the thought of the vaccine’s painful jab
      v) there are hundreds of really cheap old ORAL drugs out there, surely one of THEM will work against this virus
      Ergo, the vaccine was the conspiracy, now give me my ivermectin/HCQ and my blankie and go away!

  11. DJC, so slightly off topic ,but also “created to undermine the Trudeau gov”….
    A rather disconcerting thought occurred to me, given the new BCUP, and as far as I understood, they are keeping the “Liberal ” name under wraps. So what does this mean to/for the current sitting MP’s ??? which party do they belong to?? and is Skippy planning on a “coalition ” attack using the BCUPs ,since he’s gotten chummy with the sparrow -hawk..who kicked out one of the members/ now running as a ‘conservative ‘ , in I believe the Prince George area ??
    This I find as baffling as Dani crossing the floor. When the person you voted for from a certain party, decides to switch parties, I think that an election should be called, because that’s not the representative that was voted in. So how do all the voters whom voted Liberal feel, now that their votes have been used to form a new party.
    Bamboozled in BC …
    And hope you have the exLg industrial fan ready for the fumigation….
    My B-in-L, sent me a pic of an empty box, on a store shelf, with the word “Chucky” on it, with the caption ” well that’s not good “….I told him, that’s because it was in Edmonton…..careful out there!!

  12. It seems to me that Preston Manning has a very small, but dedicated following. And a huge ego that needs constant feeding and attention.

    He continues to pontificate on all things leaning to the far right. That, and his seemingly senseless and endless anti Trudeau everything stance seems to be the magnet for his followers. Perhaps he falls short when comparing his own political success to that of the late PET or current PT.

    It would seem that Canada has endured, moved forward, and prospered despite Manning’s entreaties over the years. Just think back to the reasons why Harper bounced him all those years ago. Harper, if anything, was a political realist.

    Danielle Smith is clearing using Manning to appeal to and to appease her very narrow group of TBA supporters. The people who made her UCP Leader (and can undo that just as quickly).

    Manning is no fool. No doubt he his happy to be used in this manner for this task. Good compensation , more self importance, more media exposure. Certainly works for him.

    The ‘Panel Leadership’ opportunity for Manning, at the current juncture, happens to be the perfect intersection for both Smith and for Manning. A match made in…????

  13. I just watched Pierre Poilievre , on the news, shooting his face off in Edmonton claiming the rise in crime and gun violence is the fault of the Liberals and NDP, yet when he was asked why then did the UCP cut funding to Edmonton’s police force he switched his tune to calling mayors and councillors Woks and blaming them. This is the same fool who bashed Trudeau for wanting to curb gun violence by taking assault rifles and handguns out of the hands of criminals and found it smart to praise the stupid convoy trucker criminals for the $65 million cost to taxpayers, that they created, and didn’t give a damn that they were stock piling rifles at Coutts to try to kill police officers. Can you be any dumber than this fool? Yet the weak minded fools who sport them will be believing every word of it, won’t they? In true Reform Party Fashion, just like the former conservative MLAs taught me , they have no solution for any problem , just blame it all on someone else, and the dumb Albertans still support them.

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