Saturday, June 05, 2010

The Transformation That Never Happened

Manning experiencing predicted rehabilitation of his reputation

In The New Canada -- a book that was a combination of autobiography and political manifesto -- Preston Manning spoke of the rehabilitation of his father's, Ernest Manning's, reputation.

The public perception of the elder Manning was once that of an Evangelical fundamentalist who steered Alberta's political affairs as a theocracy. In more recent years, the elder Manning has been recognized as The Good Steward of Albertan politics -- leading the province in a more constructive and less reactionary decision than "Bible" Bill Aberhart, the man whom he replaced as Premier.

Manning -- who at the time was the target of one of the most pervasive campaigns of character assassination ever mounted by Canada's political left -- predicted that his own reputation would one day need to be rehabilitated.

When Manning received an honourary doctorate of law from the University of Toronto -- and from a former Liberal Premier of Ontario, no less -- it's become clear that Manning's teputation has received a well-deserved rehabilitation.

Oddly, writers like Joseph Brean seem to think that Manning has undergone some kind of a transformation.

But no such transformation has ever occurred. The Preston Manning of today is the same Preston Manning of 20 years ago -- even if 20 years older and 20 years wiser.

Sheila Copps did indeed once compare Manning to David Duke. But the comparison has always been ill-fitting. It was merely part of the character assassination campaign being waged against Manning because Copps, like so many other Liberals, recognized that Manning's ideas could in time become extremely influential in Canada:

Free market policies that would impart additional power (and responsibility) into the hands of ordinary Canadians. Fiscal responsibility that would preserve Canadian democracy from the vaguaries of financial insolvency. Language policy that would recognize all of Canada's lingual communities as equals.

Careful, deliberate stewardship of Canada predicated on an ethics of care and responsibility.

This is the real Preston Manning. Not the theocratic bogeyman Canada's left painted him as, and as the margins of Canada's far left continues to paint him as today.

As Brean points out, Marci McDonald -- whose book The Armageddon Factor has become the toast of Canada's far left (mostly because they want so badly for it to be true; the far left is not well-known for sound virtue epistemology) -- mischaracterizes Manning in her book.

She treats Manning as someone who is teaching Evangelicals who are politically active to be secretive about their religious beliefs. This despite the fact that Manning has never been secretive about his religious beliefs, or about the fact that his religious beliefs influence his political beliefs.

She treats Manning's religious beliefs as a malignant influence on Canadian politics. Yet the manner in which Manning has applied his religious beliefs to his politics has always been entirely benign.

It's his religious beliefs -- his belief that Christians are responsible to take care of the world, God's creation -- that turned him toward applying conservative ideals to environmentalism.

It's his religious beliefs -- his belief that human intelligence is a gift from God, and that science represents the divine mandate to explore the world and universe humanity inhabits -- that turned him toward his devotion to science.

The Canadian left demonized Manning because they were terrified of him -- not because they believed he would lead Canada to theocracy (they knew better) -- but because they knew so many Canadians would prefer his ideas to their own.

But it's clear that the days of this character assassination finding favour in the public eye has decisively ended. Preston Manning has finally assumed his rightful place as an elder statesman in Canadian politics.

It came 20 years too late for the second best Prime Minister Canada never had -- but it happened just as he predicted it would.

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