Preston Manning in 2014 at his eponymous Ottawa Conservative beanfest (Photo: Mark Blevis, Creative Commons).

In case you were looking for another reason to want Preston Manning’s preposterous politicized pandemic panel report to be spiked, there’s this …

Calgary Skyview Liberal MP George Chahal (Photo: Mahmoud Alshall, Creative Commons).

Yesterday morning, George Chahal, the Liberal Member of Parliament for the Calgary Skyview riding, took to social media to share an email he’d received on Nov. 15 from Mr. Manning, the leader of the Reform Party Opposition in Parliament in the late 1990s and a pious right-wing nuisance in Canadian politics ever since.

“Last week, I received a very candid email from Preston Manning about his Alberta taxpayer-funded COVID-19 review panel,” Mr. Chahal tweeted. “Take a look.”

The attached copy of Mr. Manning’s e-pistle to his “Dear CPC Friends” is indeed interesting. It was sent the day the report of the six-member “Public Health Emergencies Governance Review Panel” chaired by Mr. Manning was dropped on the Alberta public. 

The email was addressed to the long list of Conservative MPs in Alberta. However, the superannuated godfather of the Canadian right, now 81, seems to have momentarily forgotten that there was a Liberal MP in Calgary too. Or, at least, someone did. 

“Things are certainly looking up in the polls and with any luck and some hard work you should be in government next year,” Mr. Manning began cheerfully. 

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith at yesterday’s news conference (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

“As you may know, for the past year I have been chairing this Panel for Alberta’s Premier Smith to examine the legislation authorizing the Orders and Regulation whereby the government of Alberta responded to the COVID-19 crisis and to suggest amendments or additional legislation that would better prepare the province to manage future public emergencies,” he continued. 

This is a bit misleading, although since Mr. Manning was addressing his fellow Conservatives, I don’t think we need to suspect he was trying to hoodwink anyone. It’s just that it’s hard to stop gaslighting once you get rolling. 

In fact, it is reasonable to conclude that the true purpose of the report’s recommendations was to make it virtually impossible for the Alberta Government to respond to any public health emergency in a timely fashion – thereby privileging commerce over public health. 

Coming to the point of his missive, Mr. Manning advised that “if the response of the Liberal/NDP coalition to the 2020-2023 COVID crisis should become an election issue in 2024, there may be some material in this Report that could be used by the CPC to say ‘what should have been done to cope with the COVID crisis and what should be done to cope with future public emergencies.’” (Emphasis added.)

Mr. Manning, who will hereinafter be referred to as the Alberta Government’s best-paid political strategist, went on to explain that he had forwarded a copy of his news release, containing a link to the doorstopper report, with “a special note to Edmonton area CPC MPs that it is the area of the province where the Premier and the UCP need extra support for the Report and politically.”

CBC journalist Janet French (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Mr. Manning was given a $2-million budget to cook up the politically motivated report, which is based more on opinion and political tribalism than serious research and advises giving more time to “alternative scientific narratives,” as well as being paid $253,000 for his own scribblings. 

But he’s right about the UCP needing help in Edmonton, it must be admitted. Provincially, Edmonton is solid orange, with an NDP MLA holding every single riding in the city and a couple more in the surrounding suburbs. Federally, Conservative MPs may still prevail, but there are cracks in that wall too, and more NDP and Liberal MPs may be elected eventually. 

“It seems to me there would be real merit in developing a close practical relationship here in Alberta between the UCP and the CPC,” Mr. Manning advised the federal Conservatives, although in fact there is very little light between the two right-wing parties. 

“They need your support for some of their initiatives – such as promoting and implementing the recommendations of this Report – and you could use their active support for your re-election in 2024,” he continued. “What I’m wondering is whether a small task force composed of interested CPC MPs and UCP folks could be put together to jointly pursue this objective? Everybody benefits, especially Alberta.”

I’m sure most Liberals and New Democrats would heartily endorse this thought, although I’m not so sure Conservative MPs would benefit from too much association with the Take Back Alberta lunacy that nowadays drives the UPC. But fill your boots!

Alert readers will recall that the last time Mr. Manning suggested a grand alliance like this was in 2014, when Danielle Smith, then the leader of the Wildrose Opposition, was persuaded to cross the floor of the provoncial Legislature with several of her MLAs to join the Progressive Conservatives led by Jim Prentice. 

What did Premier Danielle Smith herself make of this accidental admission that the report is nothing more than a publicly funded partisan campaign document?

At a news conference yesterday on another topic, the CBC’s Janet French asked: “How do you explain why Alberta taxpayers paid $2 million for this non-partisan report that the panel chair suggests should be used as a political cudgel?”

Ms. Smith responded: “Well, Preston Manning as I understand it sent that out from his own personal email and so you can ask him about that.”

“He used his personal email to do it, so I think that there’s nothing more to really say on it,” she told another reporter. 

Well, OK then! As I’ve said before, you really can’t make this stuff up. 

Mr. Manning ended his now-notorious email with a request: “Please confirm receipt of this email.”

Mr. Chahal has now done so. 

Join the Conversation


  1. Making COVID an issue in the next Federal election? Really? Someone might accuse Manning of living in the past.

    While he seems to be saner than many on the Smith wrecking crew, you have to wonder if he has now become the Conservative version of the crazy uncle. You know, putting out things publicly that others are too politically astute to say. Or this could be like how cell phone videos did in Romney, that darn send all e-mail feature did Manning in. Perhaps he forgot, that unlike back in his days as a Federal Conservative leader, not all Calgary MPs are now conservatives.

    Now its one thing for the Federal Conservatives to use party funds to attack their political opponents, that happens all the time. But maybe we should expect our provincial government to be not quite so partisan in spending Albertans taxpayer dollars.

    So, as Desi often said to Lucy, Smith now “has some splainin’ to do”.

  2. You cannot trust Reformers at all, and Peter Lougheed was right about that. In fact, during the 1960s, Preston Manning tried to persuade Peter Lougheed and his fledgling Alberta PCs to unite with Ernest Manning and the Social Credit Party. Peter Lougheed wisely declined. The Covid-19 pandemic report by Preston Manning is an absolute farce, and Danielle Smith and the UCP paid him $253,000, and an additional $2 million for expenses to write this gobbledygook. There is no medical background, or credibility with Preston Manning, yet he was chosen to produce this report. Outside of being in politics, since the 1960s, Preston Manning has never had any other type of a job. Because he was in politics for a long time, he happens to be receiving a very large political pension. He’s never going to be lacking money, like many Albertans are. Furthermore, Preston Manning is a failed politician, who was never able to obtain power. He was the mastermind behind Danielle Smith and many of her Wildrose MLAs taking an exodus from the Wildrose party to the Alberta PCs, under the rule of Jim Prentice. Danielle Smith ended up being dumped by her constituents in 2015. This is the reward Danielle Smith gives him. Lyle Oberg was an Alberta PC MLA, and cabinet minister, who happened to sack Danielle Smith from her position as a public school trustee. Danielle Smith is giving him a nice payout to reorganize AHS. In addition, Lyle Oberg had to sit as an independent MLA, for a time, because he irked the Alberta PCs, by saying he knew where the skeletons in the closet were. What exactly were those? Has anyone actually come to regret voting for Danielle Smith and the UCP? It was a similar situation to Ralph Klein, and look at the horrific mess he made. Under Ralph Klein’s abysmal leadership, a whole bunch of nurses and teachers were laid off. The public healthcare and education systems were left in a shambles. Imagine nurses having to relocate, and leave their families and friends behind, and the emotional grief this would cause them. Hardship would also occur when nurses have to take early retirement. The same thing would apply to the teachers in Alberta. Ralph Klein’s foolish cutbacks to the public healthcare system in Alberta endangered many lives. He didn’t care, and he wanted to get private for profit healthcare in this province. Danielle Smith, who admires Ralph Klein, has the same intent. I recall reading about someone who knew Ralph Klein and his family since the early 1960s, and they knew he was a jerk then. This person mentioned that his mother Flo, was skeptical about Ralph Klein’s venture into politics. They also said that his father Phil, told him that he was upset at what Ralph Klein was doing to the public healthcare system in Alberta. Don Getty even told this individual that he had remorse for allowing Ralph Klein to be in his government. Peter Lougheed was very disenfranchised with Ralph Klein too. So much so, that he refused to appear with him in public. The same individual also said that Ralph Klein’s daughter, Angie, also wanted the Alberta PCs gone, and she supported the NDP. There have been people who warned Albertans that the UCP would be very bad, just as Ralph Klein was, but it fell on deaf ears, or they were mocked and ridiculed. I even remember someone who spoke out against the UCP in a newspaper comment section being called a communist. Also, I recall reading about an individual who wasn’t interested in becoming a politician, but they were very disappointed with the Alberta PCs leadership. They were asked to join the Wildrose party and become an MLA there. As soon as they heard Danielle Smith give accolades to Ralph Klein, they didn’t accept the offer. I have to wonder how long will it be before Albertans wake up?

  3. DC, excellent column, as always. Just one comment. When you write “Mr. Manning, the leader of the Reform Party Opposition in Parliament in the late 1990s and a pious right-wing nuisance in Canadian politics ever since,” you overlook the decades before the 1990s when Mr Manning honed his career as a pious right wing nuisance. As a Social Credit dead-ender before and during the Lougheed era Manning endeavoured to be a constant presence. Son of a former Social Credit premier, Ernest Manning, Preston ran federally for the Social Credit party in 1965. In 1967 he was engaged as a researcher for his father’s book, Political Realignment: A Challenge to Thoughtful Canadians. In the 1970s he advocated for merger of Lougheed’s PCs with Social Credit (both sides declined).

    1. Thanks, Simon (and Anonymous) for the information about Mr. Manning’s Socred-PC merger plan, which I had managed to miss. But then, I spent most of the 1970s in another province, one with tidewater and a better climate, political and meteorological. I have heard that as a young man, when his pop was the premier, he and his wife used to travel around attending various Protestant churches on Sundays, where they were treated like the Prince and Princess of Wales. Those days, at least, are mercifully gone. DJC

  4. Slow clap for the octogenarian failing upwards for his entire damn life. Go away forever Preston Manning.

  5. It’s always good to ask questions even in hindsight. The questions being asked by Mr. Manning are being asked elsewhere in the world. It seems in the last few years elected politicians in western liberal democracies have given up their authority and have been happy to follow the dictates handed down by centralized unelected global institutions like the UN, WHO, the EU and NATO. Anyone who raises questions are ganged up by a chorus of voices spouting jargon about the “public good.”

    1. Buddy give it a rest. Yes many people are still asking questions about SARS-COV2 but like, no one is pretending it isn’t serious, that even a single infection can alter the course of your entire life, or that it didn’t kill MILLIONS of workers as now evidenced by a global shortage of labour. Shut up.

      Just shut up. Good god I am sick of this topic, and ANYONE expressing a high degree about it these days is a complete charlatan. NO ONE, either then highly charged egomaniacs high on their own supply is certain of anything.

      I know at least four people w covid RIGHT NOW, in my tiny little insular social group.

      Just shut up already, we get it, it’s beyond your mental capacity to comprehend.

      1. Got it. Must not ask questions. Must not ask questions. Must not ask questions. Must not ask questions. Must not ask questions…

        1. You’re not asking questions, you repeat the same inane talking points over and over like you’re some sort of exalted saint of covid who is the only one of the folks who comment on this blog that really understands. THE PROBLEM IS some of us are well aware that you’re not expression novel ideas, but just repeating things you’ve seen other folks post, in the hopes we will think you are some sort of intellectual. Guess what Ron, after what,2 years ? It’s gotten very repetitive and annoying. You have alleged over and over that the pandemic was not actually a pandemic, the real harm was social and economic, while roundly ignoring the MILLIONS OF WORKERS who died the world over. What do you think that was ? They all died from wearing masks ? They were so lonely they died ? The societies most prone to masking as a social grace when they are sick had the lowest infections hospitalizations and deaths globally, what was that ?

          Do you want to talk vaccines ? Because again there are what at least half a dozen different varieties & the Russian and Cuban vaccine (wow one of the worlds tiniest and embargoed economies made their own vaccine, what a triumph of socialized healthcare) both reportedly work quite well despite not being eh MRNA type.

          I want to be clear , I truly think this is beyond your ability to comprehend and you should probably get a dog, start taking him for walks and get the hell off the internet, it’s breaking your brain.

  6. “Officer, I can explain why I was speeding. I was rushing home to use my private email account to take advantage of Black Friday sales and order ivermectin for my fellow cabinet members.”

    1. It seems oddly out of step for a bunch of Trumpers like the UCP to think that using a personal email account is fine for government business. Government and political party business seems to be the same thing these days. Should Preston Manning’s actions be considered merely “extremely careless”, or something more? Perhaps with all the skullduggery of changing political alliances of his past, he forgot who’s who. A little memory loss is to be expected over 80, which raises more questions.

      If anything goes when it comes to personal email accounts for government business, what about personal phones, Signal and Snapchat accounts? I’m pretty sure any 12-year-old knows how to navigate secret messaging. Maybe someone at the other end of the age spectrum consulted with Danielle Smith on this thorny problem:

      1. I do think it’s more telling the octogenarian loser that’s been failing upwards his whole life was so completely vacant he didn’t realize he was cc’ing a LITERAL MP of the party he was trying to do skullduggery on.

        Preston Manning is an idiot, that much is certain, and he’s obviously a fail son.

        I don’t think it has much of anything to do with Trump. These chumps wish they had the gravitas of that mobbed up, racist, tacky, pos. Which makes them worse.

        DS has been on her grind since Trump was a Democrat ffs.

  7. Hello DJC and fellow commenters,
    This report by someone who knows nothing about medical science is an inappropriate use of public money. The report writer has not provided value for the public, but has suggested ways that his report could be helpful for one political party. I don’t think that that is the intent of a non-partisan report.
    As I have said, the Medical officer, the Mayor of Halifax (also a medical doctor) and other officials closed public venues including schools, and theatres during appropriate times during the flu epidemic 1918 -20. The loss of life was much less than in other locations where there were no closures. Also, masks were common during this flu epidemic. Even then, without vaccines, sensible public health measures decreased illness and death. One additional result was the increased emphasis on public health and disease prevention.
    This is a link to the Nova Scotia Museum information on this.

    1. Well Preston has been feasting on public money for a good chunk of his failson existence, while outrageous it’s certainly not new developments.

      Trash can Dani has been a supplicant for her entire career, what else is new ? They’re both dead eyed committed ideological warriors of the type they often accuse their opponents of being.

      What else is new

  8. So once more Albertans have been screwed out of another $2.2 million. This time by Reformer Preston Manning helping his Reform Party Pals try to win the next federal election. I bet he has been planning this for months, and Smith let him do it. Poilievre must be thrilled. These
    Reformers all stick together don’t they?

      1. Anonymous, Here is something interesting I learned today at coffee. These reformers are paying pharmacies 10 times more to give COVID and flu shots to Albertans than they are to Doctors doing the same thing. Once again they are treating doctors poorly and in other words privatization prices are being charged to taxpayers.

  9. Nice work if you can get it. Over $2M for a document which isn’t offering any scientific proof of anything.
    Smith’s lack of accountabilty or acceptance of her responsibility for the report , is just another e.g. of smith doing what smith does best: nothing and blame some one else.
    The document was paid for by Alberta taxpayers. Now Manning is suggesting it can be used for other purposes, more closely aliened with a re election campaign. The guy still doesn’t get it and neither does Smith and her UPC
    If I lived in Alberta I’d want my money back. $2M and change would certainly help the food bank. there is nothing to improve the quality of life for voters in Alberta, unless of course you’re one of those strange anti science/medical people.
    Guess Manning wanted one more run at “fame” before he exits stage right.

  10. Oh come now, DJC! You’re just being mean. This is just a simple case of our elderly statesman, Ol’ Preston of the Con Ways, being helpful. He’s just trying to lend a hand to his successors, his acolytes, his admiring masses, his fellow-travellers and his devoted followers.

    By the way; did Randy Boissonault, Heather McPherson and Blake Desjarlais get the email, too? Better let Preston know his mailing list isn’t complete.

    1. Mike: They’re in Edmonton. And he DID say he had a separate mailing list for Edmonton. DJC

  11. A nice piece of grubby conflict of interest by the pious Manning boy.
    But, isn’t there further recourse to pursue this matter, in civil. or even criminal court?

    1. Andy: Good question, but I doubt it’s illegal. And, as you know, I have long argued that Alberta’s motto, right on the coat of arms, should be “No Laws Were Broken.” (Nullae Leges Fracti Sunt.) The most offensive part of the deal, from my perspective, was that the UCP paid him the $253,000 up front, presumably in case the NDP won the election. Now that’s crooked! DJC

      1. Does anyone have a clip of Jason Kenney’s dad playing a good cover? I mean his Grand Dad is in the curriculum! Oh what a waste! The greatest Kazzoo player who ever lived! Lost to failure!

  12. I guess this is another reason why old people shouldn’t be allowed to do anything anymore. Grand-Pa Presto got confused with the that darn Gmail interface thingee and sent something to someone he shouldn’t have. $250K well spent. You’re welcome, Alberta.

    Now, wouldn’t it be interesting if Manning was — hear me out — a mole for PMJT? Manning is known to have not been a fan or either Jason Kenney or Stockwell Day, and likely considers Danielle Smith to be a complete idiot. So, let’s say he sits on a panel, nets a nice payday, but then creates an incident that reveals that (shockers) the UCP are using public funds for partisan purposes. Trudeau get another cache of ammo to use against the CONs and Skippy Pollivere has another heart attack.

    Mo popcorn.

    1. Pretty sure Preston manning would rather die than help the liberals.

      Pretty certain of that actually. Could be he’s just bad at politics, because he absolutely is ?

      There is a zero percent chance he dislikes Kenney or Day for ideological
      Reasons, more than likely it’s personal
      reasons probably not related to them stealing his thunder and (kenney) the party he founded.

      He’s a failson, the only reason we even know his first name is because of his last name.

  13. Some Albertans seem to fool themselves about Manning. He is a washed up has been. He has very little respect outside Alberta and what there is exists primarily in the social conservative ranks. These folks will always vote one way, one way only so Manning has no influence outside of this group.

    Besides, Alberta and right wing Alberta politicians have a well earned negative reputation in other parts of Canada. These people wonder aloud about what Albertans must be thinking to elect such people. They have collectively made our province something of a laughingstock. Prime among those is Manning who has zero credibility outside of Alberta where people view him as somewhat of a joke. Any report that Manning may attach himself is viewed as being the rantings of a one issue crackpot.

  14. People are so heartless and uncaring! I have a couple of concerns about elderly Preston, one being that seniors get targeted all the time through email scams and he seems a bit doddery. Good grief, he might inadvertently give someone his bank account number. And, they will steal his pension money! The other concern is, at his age he is also very vulnerable if he (God forbid) contracts one of the several nasty respiratory viruses that are coming into season now: influenza, RSV, and/or of course the new Covid variants. We should make sure we do all we can, prevention-wise, to keep this dear old gent from developing a terrible viral pneumonia- you know, what they used to call, “the old people’s friend.” I think it was Jason Kenney who said, in the Legislature, that most of the Albertans dying of Covid were really up there in age and the average life span is 82 or 83 so … But that attitude is so callous! He was speaking about his own mother, for crumb’s sake! Or what about a certain “godfather” of his own political party? Wouldn’t there be outcries, and keening across the land if he were to perish of a communicable disease that should have been kept in check? People would be saying, “Why, oh why, didn’t we take measures to prevent this terrible outcome?” Then someone would point to the Manning Report with a shaking finger,

  15. Out in the fields, late at night, old crazed wild eyed Manning can still be heard chanting,

    “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn”

    Or something like that.

      1. Á propos of nothing in particular, the closing track on Metallica’s second album, 1984’s ‘Ride the Lightning’, was an instrumental called ‘The Call of Ktulu’.

        1. Jerry: You don’t say! The gaps in my pop-cultural education are canyonic, to coin a word. DJC

  16. Fashionably late to the party here, but Lisa Young did a deep dive into M. Manning’s report and found:
    “The only Albertans deserving of empathy, or a public policy response, according to the report, are those who felt their freedoms were unduly restricted. A search for the words ‘dead,’ ‘deaths’ and ‘fatalities’ yields six mentions. A search for the word ‘freedom’ finds 262.”

    1. These “freedom” nutters are like the gun nuts south of the border: there’s no consideration of everyone else’s freedom to continue to live and breathe. Even the US, with its “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, gives short shrift to the first item in that list — life — when it comes to protecting its people from being shot.

      Similarly, the pandemic freedom nutters don’t think society can restrict our freedom even to the extent necessary to preserve lives. Gotta wonder how they feel about traffic laws and food safety regulations — oh, doesn’t anyone remember the Calgary day care E. coli outbreak of a couple months ago?

  17. Who wanted to stop Preston from performing his cross-country ‘citizens’ inquiry’ into Liberal Covid policy most? Was it Poilievre who, as DJC points out, probably doesn’t want to be associated with gong-shows like Manning’s or Danielle Smith’s?

    Or was it Danielle? One thing we do know: she did put up quite a bit of inducement to restrict Preston’s ‘inquiry’ to Alberta—I mean, if that’s what she intended. Musta been worth every penny—even if it was dropped AFTER the party which commissioned it had already baked the loaf.

    Seems that kinda dough also buys Preston the right to make his Alberta ‘inquiry’ as partisan as he wants. ‘PSSSsst!! Lookit this!—Could be good, eh, UCP and CPC get together. Whaddya think?—got all the dope right here!—could be good, right!’

    Good old “A+B Theorem” Preston: still knows how to untie the right.

    But oh, man! It’s like watching him trying to put the tooth-powder back in its tin —like when Manning tried to get Loughheed to merge his upstart ProgCon party with the flagging Socreds, way back.

    But I must say, Danielle’s grades are definitely improving: unlike K-Boy who promised to spend millions on an Inquiry if elected but failed to bury the project upon winning power, Danielle is doing her politic best to dump this load ASAP. The two-and-a-quarter million bucks of public money squandered? ‘I dunno—ask Preston.’

    Ain’t no Sasquatch musk on this gal!—no sirrrreeeee!!

    1. Scotty: Serious question: Does anyone, even the ghost of Major Douglas, understand what the A+B Theorem meant? DJC

      1. I read some books on social creditism and they all said “no,” it’s not comprehensible. One had an editorial cartoon of a pyramid balanced upside down on its point with two figures asking, if I recall correctly, “Yes, but how does it work?”

        But it’s an interesting vignette of public attitudes, expectations, and astonishingly popular economic ignorance.

        I think it was 1937 when Alberta’s attempt at implementing some of the system’s prescriptions was finally put to rest by the SCoC. Yet in 1952 WACKY Bennett was able to avail the Socred label, win a novel STV-like election in BC, reverting back to FPtP thereafter, and govern for the next two decades (as you know, Bill Jr’s Socreds governed for another 18 years —after a 3-year NDP hiatus ; his successor, Bill Vander Zalm, was defeated by the NDP and the Socred rump withered away over the next few years).

        About the time when Bill Sr was about to pass the torch to his son in BC, Albertans and Lougheed’s ProgCons virtually terminated the long Socred regime, the only one which actually tried to implement Socred policies—and, even then, picky Douglas did not approve).

        Weird how the name, if not Major Douglas’ whacky tenets, attracted so many voters in three provinces. I can understand Alberta’s attraction, coming, as it did, after the worst of the Great Depression. BC’s case, I dunno—just another of the partisan right’s perennial schisms, maybe? And I still haven’t quite figured out Quebec’s. But I am a “bloke,” or “tete carre” (sp? “Square-head” who keeps on trying to fit it into a round toilet, as Francophones like to joke about us anglophone blokes: Québécois like to keep us guessing, I guess . Social credit was probably in one way.

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