Manning: conservatism alive in Canada
Speaking to the Manning Centre Conference -- something of a CPAC north -- Preston Manning sought to sooth the jittery nerves of many Canadian conservatives by insisting that conservatism isn't dead in Canada.
"Conservatism took a hit in the United States. They lost the election, and you could argue the Republicans lost their way," noted Manning. "In Canada, they won the election — not with a majority, but with a strong minority."
Of course, there is a difference between a conservative party governing -- as currently remains the case in Canada -- and an actual conservative government.
Conservative governance has to be reflected in its policies. And while Hugh Segal recently noted that there is, traditionally, room for flexibility within the Canadian Conservative party, the National Post's Terence Corcoran notes that conservative commentators such as Terence Corcoran disagree with him.
Manning, for one, is under no delusion regarding the debate between market intervention and free market principles taking place within Canadian conservative circles right now, although he believes that Canada will emerge from the current economic crisis favouring less government.
But Manning, for one, also knows that having a conservative party in power doesn't necessarily mean conservative governance. After all, he was able to build his Reform party out of (primarily) western Canadians who judged the then-governing Progressive Conservative party as not conservative enough.
Canadian Alliance party founder and Mike Harris right-hand man Tom Long seem to invoke the political lesson of the 1993 PC collapse when he noted the inherent danger in the Conservative party attempting to push policies that are too far removed from the beliefs of the party faithful.
"Conservatives are often their own worst enemies. We have an internal debate going on in our heads, where we basically self-censor," Long said. "We've tried going out and selling things we don't believe in. How's that working?"
Long, it would seem, is much closer to Terence Corcoran's line of thought -- that the Conservative party needs to pull further to the political right -- as opposed to Hugh Segal's call for moderation, which is actually the camp that Preston Manning has historically fallen into.
That the Manning conference could even manage to put together a conference such as this, and attract speakers from as far off as the British Conservative party, is itself testament to the fact that conservatism, as a political philosophy, is not dead in Canada.
But Canadian conservatives need to re-imagine the ties that bind their diverse movement together. Debates such as the Segal-Manning/Corcoran-Long debate currently unfolding at the conference are going to be important steps toward that.