Here's a posting from Preston Manning in today's Globe and Mail. Mr. Manning discusses the issue of ethics (which can be legislated and then ignored) and personal integrity, something many of our politicians of all stripes seem to possess very little of. It's really hard to argue with anything that he says.
I was never a big Preston Manning fan when he was active in federal politics. Most likely, part of it was his unappealing image; once the Canadian media started covering him, they did very little to make him more palatable to all Canadians. As well, living in the West at the time, I was quite conscious of grassroots movements proposing western protest, alienation and separation. To me, he he seemed to be a western separatist wearing sheep's clothing with a very thinly disguised agenda of dividing Canada along the Manitoba/Ontario border.
In hindsight, the passage of time has been kinder to Mr. Manning. I realize that he tried his best to be a man of integrity, whether or not his views were popular with the electorate. He refused to accept the gold-plated MP pension and did not readily accept living at Stornoway when he was Opposition Leader. His grassroots Reform Party was very popular in Alberta and Saskatchewan, however, one of the unintended consequences of its formation was the fracturing of the vote on the right. This fracturing led to the demise of the Progressive Conservative Party after its defeat in the 1993 election. Mr. Manning's attempts to heal the right looked for ways to get the old Conservatives to co-operate with the Reformists and led to the formation of the Canadian Alliance. Mr. Manning willingly agreed to allow a leadership contest for the new Alliance Party and was defeated by Stockwell Day, who proved himself to be an inferior choice as leader.
I have found one most interesting quote from Mr. Manning about Stephen Harper. Mr. Manning strongly felt that the Reform Party should be grounded in its grassroots origins. Prior to the 1993 federal election, Mr. Manning and the Reform Party grassroots members had decided to fight a nation-wide election. Mr. Harper felt that the Party should concentrate its efforts on Western Canada. As well, Mr. Harper disagreed strongly with the selection of Rick Anderson (a former Liberal political strategist) as national campaign director. It was at that point that Mr. Harper no longer assisted with the national campaign, preferring to concentrate his efforts on getting elected in the riding of Calgary West. Preston Manning stated that:
“Stephen had difficulty accepting that there might be a few other people (not many, perhaps, but a few) who were as smart as he was with respect to policy and strategy. And Stephen, at this point, was not really prepared to be a team player or team builder.”
I think that we can see evidence of this character trait in Mr. Harper today.
Mr. Manning is now founder, President and CEO of the Manning Centre, a Canadian conservative think-tank developing political agendas for Canada's conservatives, training future conservative candidates and promoting conservative ideals to all Canadians.