Preston Manning

Preston Manning
Preston Manning
Leader of the Opposition
In office
June 2, 1997 – March 26, 2000
Monarch Elizabeth II
Preceded by Gilles Duceppe
Succeeded by Deborah Grey
Leader of the Reform Party of Canada
In office
October 31, 1987 – March 25, 2000
Preceded by party created
Succeeded by Deborah Grey
(as Interim leader of the Canadian Alliance)
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Calgary Southwest
In office
1993 – January 31, 2002
Preceded by Bobbie Sparrow
Succeeded by Stephen Harper
Personal details
Born June 10, 1942 (1942-06-10) (age 69)
Edmonton, Alberta
Political party Reform
Other political
Canadian Alliance (2000-2002)
Residence Calgary, Alberta
Religion Alliance Church

Ernest Preston Manning, CC (born June 10, 1942) is a Canadian politician. He was the only leader of the Reform Party of Canada, a Canadian federal political party that evolved into the Canadian Alliance. He sat in Parliament for the Canadian Alliance until his retirement from federal politics in 2002, after which it in turn merged with the Progressive Conservative Party to form today's Conservative Party of Canada.


Early life and career

Manning was born in Edmonton, Alberta. He came from a political background: he was the son of Ernest Manning, Social Credit Party Premier of Alberta between 1943 and 1968. In 1964, Preston Manning graduated from the University of Alberta with a B.A. in Economics. He sought election to the Canadian House of Commons in the 1965 federal election as a candidate of the federal Social Credit Party, but was defeated. Manning identifies himself as an evangelical Christian and attends the First Alliance Church in Calgary.[1]

Reform Party

Together with Stan Roberts and Francis Winspear, Manning formed the Reform Party in 1987. Intellectual influences included journalist Peter Brimelow and foreign aid critic Paul Fromm.[2] (Fromm was expelled from the party in 1988). Manning's chief policy adviser was Stephen Harper, a student at the University of Calgary and now the Prime Minister of Canada. Harper designed the Reform Party's 1988 campaign platform. The Reform Party was a combination of fiscal conservatism and populism, though aspects of social conservatism grew, branding the party as "very right-wing." All of the Reform Party's candidates were defeated in the 1988 federal election. However, the first Reform Member of Parliament, Deborah Grey was elected in a federal by-election in 1989 at Beaver River, Alberta. Manning's lack of fluency in French was very nearly a sticking point as attempts were made by the leaders of other parties to block his participation in the Leaders' Debate in 1993, demanding that the leaders should participate fully in both debates. Manning called the move partisan, saying it interfered "with basic freedom of speech." The Reform leader gave an opening and closing statement in the French debate and answered a few (translated) questions. In 1997 Manning also participated in the French Debate with the aid of an earpiece interpreter and answered the questions in English.

Manning was elected to the House of Commons in the 1993 federal election as the MP for Calgary Southwest. Reform had a major breakthrough in this election, winning 52 seats. It did especially well in Western Canada, largely because the Progressive Conservatives' support in that region transferred almost en masse to Reform. Literally overnight, Manning found himself as the leader of the major right-wing party in Canada.

Despite finishing second in the popular vote, however, Reform came up three seats short of becoming the Official Opposition (Canada), largely because the sovereigntist Bloc Québécois' concentration of support in Quebec was slightly larger than Reform's concentration of support in the West. However, the Liberal government under Jean Chrétien characterized Manning and Reform as their main opponent on non-Quebec matters. In 1995 when Bloc leader Lucien Bouchard's position as Opposition Leader granted him a meeting with visiting US President Bill Clinton, Manning was also given a meeting with Clinton in order to diffuse Bouchard's separatist leverage.[3]

In the 1997 election, the party won the second-most seats in the Commons, with Manning becoming the Leader of the Opposition.


With Reform's emergence, however, Manning fragmented the conservative vote into two parts - Reform and the weakened PC Party. Additionally, Reform was seen as too extreme for the liking of many voters east of Manitoba. As it is nearly impossible to form a government without substantial support in both Ontario and Quebec, the result was political domination by the Liberal Party.

Manning knew there was little hope of dislodging the Liberals as long as the right remained divided. He turned his attention to reuniting the two conservative parties under his leadership, and he launched the United Alternative movement to examine ways for the parties to cooperate. The movement resulted in the formation of a new party, the Canadian Alliance, which as its full name (Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance) shows, was intended to supplant both parties. However, the new party was dominated by former Reform members; indeed, the Reform caucus essentially became the Alliance caucus. Most of the Tories refused to cooperate, and critics claimed the new party was little more than an image makeover for the Reform Party.

With the formation of the new party, Manning opened the door for rival leadership bids in the Canadian Alliance leadership election. After a fiercely close campaign, Manning was succeeded as leader by the younger and more flamboyant Stockwell Day in 2000. Manning remained as a Canadian Alliance backbencher until his retirement from politics in January 2002.


Most commentary on Manning and his Reform Party ignores his political thinking and portrays him in terms of traditional western-based political protest movements. Sigurdson (1994) argues that Manning should be regarded instead as a postmodern conservative: his politics are a response to the process of postmodernization that has characterized Canada in recent years. Sigurdson looks at the emergence of postmodern politics in the Western world, with special attention to Canadian manifestations. He analyzes the Reform Party in the context of the cultural tension driving Canada's recent political debates, and concludes with a commentary on Manning's contribution to the fragmentation of Canada's traditional party system.[4]

Post federal politics

In 2003, Manning published his memoirs of political life, Think Big: Adventures in Life and Democracy.[5] Since this time Manning has continued to write on policy. In particular he has sought to connect conservatism and conservation, and has advocated for a shift to green conservatism in Canada.[6] On the regulation of natural resources, Manning suggested to environmentalist David Suzuki that "there’s a more powerful, far faster mechanism than government regulations: the market itself."[7]

In 2005, Manning founded the Manning Centre for Building Democracy[8] to train conservatives for active political life, as well as to provide a research and advocacy forum for conservative issues.[9] Also in 2005, Manning received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Tyndale University College and Seminary.[10]

Following the 2006 Alberta Progressive Conservative Party's leadership review vote in which Ralph Klein received the support of only 55% of delegates, Manning told Canadian Press that he was "leaving the door open" for a possible bid in the Progressive Conservative of Alberta leadership election being held to choose a successor to Klein.[11] Manning announced on May 18, 2006, that he would not be a candidate in the leadership election, citing a desire to remain close to family and to influence politics by generating new policy ideas through The Manning Centre.

In 2007, Manning was appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada.[12] In that year, he also received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from York University,[13] and was appointed to the Council of Canadian Academies.[14]

Manning is also a senior fellow with the Fraser Institute[15] and the Canada West Foundation.[16] He has also served as Governor General for the British Columbia Universities' Model Parliament Society (2006).

In 2007, Manning hosted a Canadian adaptation of the radio series This I Believe on CBC Radio One.

When Manning was Leader of the Opposition, he was featured in a skit on the Canadian TV show, Royal Canadian Air Farce on December 31, 1997. This skit was one of three contenders for the Viewer's Choice "Flashback" for the episode airing on December 5, 2008.[17]

Order of Canada Citation

Manning was appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada in 2007. His citation reads:[18]

Preston Manning has devoted his life to public service. Rising to prominence as founder of the Reform Party and leader of the Official Opposition, he steadfastly worked to give voice to the concerns of many Canadians and has tirelessly championed the cause of democratic and political reform. Since his retirement from politics, he has continued his contribution to public policy dialogue through his involvement with numerous research and consulting organizations, including the Fraser Institute, the Canada West Foundation, and the Manning Centre for Building Democracy, which he founded in 2005.


  1. ^ Manning, Preston
  2. ^ "Vancouver Gave Us A Party," Vancouver magazine, July 1987, p. 14.
  3. ^ WARREN CARAGATA in Ottawa with CARL MOLLINS in Washington. "Clinton Visits Chrétien". Retrieved 2009-09-09. 
  4. ^ Richard Sigurdson, "Preston Manning and the Politics of Postmodernism in Canada." Canadian Journal of Political Science 1994 27(2): 249-276.
  5. ^ Preston Manning, Think Big: Adventures in Life and Democracy (McClelland & Stewart, 2003).
  6. ^ Saskatoon Star-Phoenix.
  7. ^ Dan Rubenstein, Preston Manning on his first foray into politics, and green conservatism, Unlimited.
  8. ^ Manning Centre for Building Democracy, official website
  9. ^ See Mission and Values of The Manning Centre: "Who We Are",
  10. ^ Press Release, Tyndale University College and Seminary (May 2005).
  11. ^ | Article
  12. ^ "Governor General Announces New Appointments to the Order of Canada". Retrieved 2007-06-29. 
  13. ^ Honorary Degree Recipients, York University.
  14. ^ Board of Governors, Council of Canadian Academies.
  15. ^ Fraser Institute Senior and Visiting Fellows, Official Website
  16. ^ Canada West Foundation, official website.
  17. ^ "Royal Canadian Air Farce (Flashbacks)". Retrieved 2008-11-30. 
  18. ^

Other sources


Recollections, commentary and analysis

  • Cody, Howard. "Captive Three Times Over: Preston Manning and the Dilemmas of the Reform Party." American Review of Canadian Studies. Volume: 28. Issue: 4. 1998. pp 445–67. online edition
  • Dabbs, Frank. Preston Manning: The Roots of Reform (2000)
  • Dobbin, Murray. Preston Manning and the Reform Party (1991), unsympathetic
  • Flanagan, Tom. Waiting for the Wave: The Reform Party and Preston Manning. Toronto: Stoddart, 1995. 245 pp., favourable study by former official of reform Party
  • Manning, Preston. The New Canada (1992), Manning's manifesto; a primary source
  • Manning, Preston. Think Big: Adventures in Life and Democracy, (2003), his memoir; a primary source
  • Sharpe, Sydney and Don Braid. Storming Babylon: Preston Manning and the Rise of the Reform Party (1992)
  • Sigurdson, Richard (1994). "Preston Manning and the Politics of Postmodernism in Canada". Canadian Journal of Political Science 27 (2): 249–276. doi:10.1017/S0008423900017352. 
  • Think Big: Adventures in Life and Democracy by Preston Manning
  • Like Father, Like Son by Lloyd MacKey
  • 2006 Maclean's interview with Manning

External links

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