Unsolicited Advice from A Conservative Pundit

This week Preston Manning, former leader of the Reform Party, offered some advice to the yet to be formed United Conservative Party (or whatever it’s going to call itself after the Wildrose and the Progressive Conservatives merge).

A vision of sorts  

Since neither Brian Jean nor Jason Kenney have offered a vision for the UCP Mr Manning created one for them.   (For the record, “Beat the NDP” is not a vision it’s a mission statement like Pepsi’s “Beat Coke” and Nike’s “Crush Reebok”, catchy but not enough to bet the farm for anyone but their base).


Preston Manning

Mr Manning says the old paradigm of left-centre-right political parties is outdated and should be replaced by a vision of a Sustainable Alberta.  This vision is founded on four sustainability “dimensions” (stop me if you’ve heard this one before).

  1. Financial and economic – cut costs, improve productivity, implement measures to ease budget balancing and develop an economic strategy to constrain spending in good times in order to save for the bad times. Ah yes, Ralph Klein with a dash of Peter Lougheed thrown in at the end.
  2. Environmental – create a market-based approach to environmental sustainability by identifying the negative environmental impacts of economic activity and devising measures to avoid or ameliorate them. Incorporate the costs of these measures into the price of the goods and services produced.  Economists say putting a price on carbon is the most effective market mechanism to reduce negative environmental impacts but given Mr Kenney’s views on climate change and Mr Kenney and Mr Jean’s promise to repeal the carbon levy, a market-based approach to environmental protection (in the true economic sense) is a non-starter.     
  3. Social services – the government’s rate of spending is growing faster than the economy. Implement measures to make social services financially sustainable.  This is a fancy way of saying increase the privatization of public services.  Mr Kenney and Mr Jean will love it.   
  4. Employment – create a job sustainability plan using job-focused education, training for future jobs, job sharing and improve labour force mobility. Good idea, that’s why the NDP is doing it;  Mr Jean and Mr Kenney just don’t like to admit it.

Sadly for Mr Jean and Mr Kenney, Mr Manning’s Sustainable Alberta vision is hardly a bold new vision that will drive voters (other than their base) into the arms of the UCP.

But wait, there’s more.

A new political paradigm?

Mr Manning says the “right wing’, “centrist”, “left wing” political paradigm is passé and a new political party that hopes to present a principled and competent alternative to the NDP could attract voters by helping them identify where they fall on eight political “axes” (the plural of “axis” but they read like nasty hatchet things).

None of these axes are new, they ask the voter to position himself/herself on a spectrum with individual choice and the free market at one end and big government at the other.  However, the language used to describe the axes dealing with social issues is deeply disturbing.

Abortion, same-sex marriage and euthanasia are lumped into a “lifestyle choice” axis.  The voter can position himself along a spectrum that ranges from “unrestricted freedom of choice at one end and freedom of choice limited by traditions, religious principles and cultural norms at the other”.

Access to the social safety net is buried in an axis called “responsibility for personal choices”.  This axis concerns people “whose lifestyle choices prove to be personally destructive” (presumably addicts, alcoholics, the homeless, and others on the fringes of society).  The voter is asked who should be responsible for these people, themselves and their families or the government and taxpayers.

Characterizing social issues as “choices” indicates a profound lack of understanding and empathy.  Suggesting that these axes are preferable to the admittedly broad brush but fairly accurate right-centre-left political paradigm perpetuates misconceptions and is not worthy of any political party let alone one that addresses social issues by ignoring them.

Over to you UCP

This week Mr Jean told Wildrose party members the party would not tolerate homophobia.

Next week Mr Jean and Mr Kenney should take a moment to distance themselves from everything Mr Manning has said about the merged Wildrose/Progressive Conservative party and its place in the political spectrum.

Failure to do will confirm what many Albertans fear–that Mr Manning got it right and Mr Jean and Kenney are simply saying what they need to say to broaden their base and get elected in 2019.

Over to you Brian and Jason…

Sources: http://calgaryherald.com/opinion/columnists/a-platform-for-creating-a-sustainable-alberta  and http://calgaryherald.com/opinion/columnists/a-platform-for-creating-a-sustainable-alberta


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30 Responses to Unsolicited Advice from A Conservative Pundit

  1. nandouglas says:

    Great post, Susan. Thank you for your insight and constant vigilance. Love all your posts.

    Sent from my iPhone

    • Thanks Nan. Your point about us needing to stay vigilant is a good one. For example not only is the “Lifestyle Choices” axis objectionable for the reasons I listed above, but abortion, same-sex marriage and euthanasia (also known as dying with dignity) are all legal in Canada. Manning’s “principled and competent alternative to the NDP” party would drag the province back into the dark ages. .

  2. Ted says:

    Mr. Manning’s advice continues to rely on failed neoliberal policies that have a painful tendency to visit austerity upon the most marginalized and defenseless of society. We should also recall how past advice rendered by Mr. Manning to the Wildrosers backfired so horribly in 2014. http://www.calgarysun.com/2014/12/22/preston-manning-apologizes-for-bad-advice-to-wildrose-caucus So it may be that the Laural and Hardy saga between the two leaders may continue unabated for some time.

    • Douglas Taylor says:

      So true, a clear indication this bubba is way past his stale date. It’s amazing he can still suck a load of neocons into his annual whingefest in central Canada.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        I think he has always been stale. I do not remember a time when his advice made any sense to me but then again I am just part of the ‘people’ – what do I know. I am not part of these elite groups with extremely important findings like ‘Kids living around Chernobyl show signs of radiation damage’.

  3. Douglas Taylor says:

    This old whiney reprobate still getting media time? Ugh and double ugh. “Sustainability” ??? What a passle of fuzzy cliche’s. His Financial & Economic comments are so empty and lacking some crisp points to look they would turn into anything “productive” .
    Just another sign the old farts time in charge of anything is withering as the next generation takes over.

    • Ted and Doug: excellent point about Mr Manning’s political acumen and how it almost destroyed the Wildrose 2 years ago…and yet he continues to get air time.
      Manning says he’s pushing for a different political paradigmn because a significant number (but not the majority) of the 2,200 millennials who answered the Manning survey said they don’t like the traditional right/centre/left axis. Given that feedback it’s bizarre that his axes set up the same right/centre/left choices and it’s even more bizarre that he doesn’t recognize it.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Well one can only recognize what one fully understands.
        It is fine to respect Manning as a political elder but gosh it is as hollow as a bamboo cane.
        It is not hard why he still gets people out to his conferences. It is all a bamboo garden.

      • GoinFawr says:

        “… a significant number…of the 2,200 millennials who answered the Manning survey said they don’t like the traditional right/centre/left axis.”

        I agree with those ‘millennials’ Susan, because of the way the choices are presented; politics and economics are intertwined, codependent, not standalone, so ‘left vs. right’ is woefully inadequate at describing them.

        In my opinion, the ‘political/economic spectrum’ is more of a ‘ring’ than a left/right paradigm. A ‘ring’ where on one side fascism meets totalitarianism and 180 degrees from that there is anarcho-whatever (eg. Kropotkin’s original definition of Communism, or the ‘pure’ libertarian’s capitalism). After all, a plutocracy or a monarchy can be every bit as ‘big government’ totalitarian as Stalin’s allegedly socialist soviet union, while Kropotkin’s communistic end-game is just as ‘stateless’ as the pure libertarian’s (not to mention just as much of a pipe-dream hinging on everyone being a good actor, all the time, without a single clever bad apple to spoil it for the rest of us). The spectrum in between the two extremes is effectively made up of blends of socialism and libertarianism, with ‘Goldilocks’ zones in both, where civil liberties balance with justice and social responsibility.

        And if that seems like complete twaddle to you then here are a couple of briefer metrics:

        Socialism seeks to empower labour, anyone who says otherwise is selling something.
        Capitalism is inherently amoral, and as such wants mitigating.
        Like public and private property, they are not mutually exclusive, and both are required for a just society.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        GoinFawr I agree with your last sentence. That hybrid between public and private was called Social Democracy which in most cases is now a neo-liberal dressed up as center left. When they are elected they do nothing because they are not sure where they want to go. They usually do not battle big money and they do little for the public good. I believe this is our NDP case.

        I fully agree that right versus left is not appropriate. Reality is right versus extreme right. This is this century goldilocks area. We are slowly trying to move left but the rich barons are offering strong resistance. The relentless attacks on Jeremy Corbyn are a clear example. In fact I was surprised that Bernie Sanders was less vilified in the US than Jeremy in the UK. The Republicans were so busy attacking each other and did not have enough time to recognize Bernie. They thought that he was going to fail right off the start. Then of course the Trump phenomenon just got them with their pants down.

        Politics just like everything else in our lives is pretty messed up.

        Susan for some reason two entries were created on the top right of the blog that go nowhere. I just entered a reply to you and that showed up. I apologize but it was accidental.

  4. Ed Henderson says:

    The problem we have with Mr Manning is that politicians that we would like to give a chance to do some good work are inclined to listen to him in the mistaken belief that he is a wise old sage. Well, I’m an old sage as well and I can spot a phoney.

    • Ed: you make an excellent point. Manning’s success in helping unite the Reform and federal PC parties has carried him a long way notwithstanding the fact that he eventually lost the leadership to Stockwell Day and was relegated to the backbench. You’d think his influence would have waned after that but I suspect his ensured his legacy when he founded the Manning Centre for Building Democracy.

  5. Claudette Whiting says:

    Thank you for your post Susan. Thank you for questioning/challening the thinking and type of governing that has spiralled so much of this world into instability and inequities and environmental instability.

    • You’re very welcome Claudette. Like you I look at the way Manning and crew want to govern and wonder how they explain the fact that their policies have created the opposite of what they promised, we’re seeing more instability, more inequity, and more crisis, not less.

  6. J.E. Molnar says:

    When you unpack Manning’s political dissertation on the evolution of Alberta politics it amounts to just another regurgitated conservative iteration. Featuring “back-to-the-future-conservatism” combined with “on-your-own” economics this is the platform that conservatives will serve up to voters in 2019. Progressive Albertans will likely be wise to the ways of Manning and those old stock power brokers like Ted Byfield, Rick Orman, Stephen Harper and Dave Rutherford who seek power for power’s sake. Will the strong social and fiscal track record of the NDP be enough to convince voters to re-elect? One can only hope.

    • J.E. your comments are bang on and reminded me of a comment made by Graeme Reid of Human Rights Watch. He said the backlash against LGBT rights is “a sort of shorthand for traditional values” or the idea of a “pristine past” that never existed, but is easy to appeal to. He concludes its a struggle for “the modern, the global, the individual against the past, the parochial, the collective.” It’s an interesting way to explain why people who are not impacted by the LGBT community make it their mission to destroy it.

  7. Carlos Beca says:

    Gosh politicians still have not understood the message. We are DONE with clone politics
    Manning is so outdated that his bait smells like rotten eggs. Please give us a bit more respect.

    New Paradigm? Wow where is this guy living? Prudhoe Bay? He packages and rebrands neo-liberal garbage and he expects good compost. That era is over and I do not find it that great to laugh about this type of rebranding. What a darn joke. Again I would like to understand how this man got to be the grand old savior of the right wing ideology.

    Albertans like fast food and this sounds like another try at the menu.
    These are the people that call the left wing ideology an utopia and a joke – seriously? To me everything this man spits out sounds like he is on magic mushrooms.

  8. Exactly right Carlos. What makes Manning’s new paradigm even more ludicrous is he’s under the misguided impression that the millennials will buy it. He’s going to meet with hundreds of millennials in 2017-18 to get their feedback. This reminds me of the soul-searching exercise the Republicans went through when they lost the 2012 election. They canvassed Republican youth who said they wanted a social safety net, gays should be allowed to marry, the defense budget should be cut and the education budget increased and the wealthy should pay higher taxes. Notwithstanding this feedback the Rupublicans didn’t change their policies, they got worse and now we’re stuck with Trump.

    • carlosbeca says:

      Susan sooner or later things will have to change.
      I like the Republican Party’s definition by Noam Chomsky – It is the most dangerous group of people in human history.

  9. GoinFawr says:

    Re: “GoinFawr I agree with your last sentence. That hybrid between public and private was called Social Democracy which in most cases is now a neo-liberal dressed up as center left. When they are elected they do nothing because they are not sure where they want to go. They usually do not battle big money and they do little for the public good. I believe this is our NDP case. ”

    Probably! But how can Canada really know, until it has tried it as a nation? Jack Layton came the closest.

    The pm may dress it up all he likes, in my opinion the neoliberal legacy is odious debt peonage, followed by public asset appropriation, followed by even more odious debt peonage.
    Sorry, not “legacy”, “M.O.”, pardon me.

    • Carlos Beca says:

      I agree. We have to try it. As much as I want to believe at National level it would be different I think it will be a repeat of what we are witnessing now. After all the ‘ ..because it is 2017..’ and ‘Canada is back …’ and other slogans, the PM is just Obama 2.0 and deserves the Oscar for the classiest con man. Hopefully we will not get to the level of Brazil where the whole House and Senate is under investigation. When Spin becomes entrenched in any system, the results are predictable and today there is not one party in our nation that does not use them. Their job is simply modify the truth to be acceptable to the public. When that level of deceit is the basis of any system we use to call it a ‘cul de sac’ now it is the basis of a successful political system. Who has any doubts about the future of such system?
      The issue is not climate change or pollution or sustainability, the real issue is greed and deceit. With manageable political and social systems I am sure we could resolve most of our major current problems including poverty. The countries with less corruption and spin will be the future power houses. The rest of us will be the future failed states.

    • Carlos Beca says:

      GoinFawr I forgot to mention that you should take a look at the new bill to reform the House of Commons. Your favorite PM just produced another worthless piece of paper.
      One wonders if Justin Trudeau decided for extreme reality shows. This bill is not even worth the time to read it. 90% spin and 10% of garbage.
      These politicians continue their push for a disastrous political crisis. They cannot stop their addiction to power and influence. Justin is starting to make Harper look acceptable.

      • GoinFawr says:

        Which bill do you mean Carlos? Not Michael Chong’s?
        “This bill is not even worth the time to read it.”
        Hehe, yet now that you’ve got me interested I really want to see it!

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Sorry GoinFawr I was away and did not reply to your comment.
        Justin Trudeau and the government presented a new bill to reform the House of Commons. I do not know the Bill number because I just read the paper about it and I realized that my time is much better spent reading real stuff.
        The bill is so good that I can see that even you did not hear about it. 🙂
        I will try to find the article I read

  10. carlosbeca says:

    Susan I apologize if I posted more than my fair share but I live in an unequal world and I have something else to share 🙂
    Remember when we talked about how fast things can change? Here is an article from one of the oldest and most stable democracies on the planet


  11. GoinFawr : I really enjoyed reading the exchange between you and Carlos. With respect to Jack Layton, he was an incredible politician who could have taken federal NDP far. I wondered what your take is on the complaint that Layton would have made too many concessions along the way. This article seems to say that Layton’s personal charm and intelligence carried him over some of the rough spots. http://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/the-real-jack/
    Carlos: you’re right about the speed at which things are changing. The Grenfell tower fire brought the inequity of life in a democratic society (dominated by capitalism) into sharp relief. It will change how we move forward more than anything else that’s happened so far, including everything that Trump has done to date.

    • GoinFawr says:

      ” I wondered what your take is on the complaint that Layton would have made too many concessions along the way.”

      I respect John Geddes’ writing, and while I have seen Mr.Layton play the pol game of “I know this fact, but I’ll only acknowledge it in certain company” that complaint, alas, can never really be anything but conjecture now.

      “I suppose it is best to hold fast when you can, and compromise when you need to.”-Hobbes

  12. GoinFawr says:

    Hahaha! Not Hobbes the man Susan, Hobbes the tiger (Bill Watterson’s)
    Both were wise though, agreed!

    • That was funny, GoinFawr. Perhaps Hobbes the tiger was named after Hobbes the man. In any event now that we’re trading Hobbes’ quotes, here’s one of my favourites from Hobbes the man: “It’s not the pace of life I mind. It’s the sudden stop at the end.” Indeed.

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