Writing in The New Canada, Preston Manning noted that former Alberta Premier William "Bible Bill" Aberhart was once a figure of some revulsion in Canada. Likewise for his father, Ernest Manning.
Yet by the time Manning was founding the Reform Party the reputations of Aberhart and the senior Manning had started to undergo a process of rehabilitation. Manning was even appointed a Senator in 1970 -- by Pierre Trudeau, no less.
Manning must have understood that one day his own reputation would need rehabilitation.
When Manning founded the Reform party, the denizens of Canada's far left essentially declared war upon him, and very few waged that war more ruthlessly than Murray Dobbin.
So it should be unsurprising that Dobbin would be chomping at the bit to take another shot at Manning. What's surprising is that he actually waited a month to do so.
In a recent column at Rabble.ca, Dobbin takes issue with a poll commissioned by the Manning Centre for Building Democracy. The poll concluded that the values of Canadians were subtly becoming more conservative.
Dobbin, naturally, takes exception to this, and complains that the poll allegedly asked the wrong questions:
"Rather than asking Canadians whether or not they thought abortion should be legal and that deciding on whether or not to have a child should be a woman's decision, the Harris Decima Manipulators asked whether people thought abortion was 'immoral.' Thus the poll claimed 75 per cent of respondents feel abortion is 'morally wrong.' Rather than ask the question about its legality directly they asked respondents if they though the government should 'regulate behaviour.' Only 21 per cent of the new centrists said yes."Of course what Dobbin fails to recognize is that the question of whether or not abortion is morally wrong and whether it should remain legal are two separate questions, providing a better sense of the nuances of Canadian attitudes toward this issue.
Dobbin offers up the results of another poll that concluded that a majority of Canadians are pro-choice. (There is such a thing as pro-choice on abortion, but ARCC director Joyce Arthur and her cohorts are decidedly not pro-choice -- they're pro-abortion.)
Yet it apparently doesn't occur to Dobbin that Canadians could consider abortion to be morally wrong but still believe it should remain legal for cases where it is direly needed -- and most Canadians recognize that such cases do exist.
In the end, Dobbin refers to a forthcoming poll that will reach different results based on different questions -- and somehow readers are supposed to believe this discredits the Manning Centre poll.
It's a ridiculous premise: Canadians disagree on politics, disagree on the extent to which they disagree, and even disagree on the questions that should be asked.
This is no great surprise to any politically astute Canadian. Understanding of this should be considered a prerequisite for being involved in political debate in Canada. That Dobbin doesn't seem to understand this only underscores his unsuitability to participation in that debate.
Fortunately for Dobbin, we don't exclude anyone from that debate in Canada on the basis of consideirng them "unsuitable" -- despite the extent to which Dobbin would prefer otherwise.
Dobbin has long considered Preston Manning (in fact, long considered all conservatives unsuitable, as indicated by his application of a genetic fallacy argument to Manning and polster Allan Gregg). This is the reason why he's worked so hard to maintain an elaborate political mythology centred around Manning: that of the far-right extremist.
In fact, Manning is a political centrist who started the Reform Party reaching out to disgruntled members of all Canada's political parties. His brand of social conservative was not one that would be prohibitive of personal and social freedoms, but rather more of a social-ized social conservatism wherein conservatives accepted responsibility for providing for the sick and the needy.
That is why Manning has always advocated conservative reforms for social programs, rather than outright abolition of them -- something that has long escaped far-left zealots like Dobbin.
The creation of that mythology was abetted by the attraction of far-right racists and ultra-conservative zealots to the Reform Party, and somehow unrelenting in the face of the expulsion of those individuals from the party.
More pointedly, there's a reason why fringe parties even further to the political right than the Reform Party -- parties like the Christian Heritage Party -- emerged on the political landscape. Even though the Reform Party was too conservative for Murray Dobbin, it wasn't nearly conservative enough for many others.
Ever so slowly, the rehabilitation of Preston Manning's reputation has begun. Far-left zealots like Murray Dobbin may not like this -- but it is happening nonetheless.
That Canadians are slowly becoming more receptive to many of Manning's conservative ideas -- a phenomenon also chronicled by writers such as Brian Lee Crowley -- is indicative of this.
Dobbin can preach to the choir at Rabble.ca to his heart's content. Even if Canadians aren't becoming more conservative, as the Manning Centre poll indicates, it's clear that the understanding of Canadians' actually highly-nuanced political views are becoming more advanced.
Murray Dobbin may not like it -- but the majority of Canadinas will like it just fine.