A dark road beckons Canada's Conservatives and the Manning Conference is speeding their way - 2017-02-24
During the Harper years, the annual Manning Conference — convened by the Manning Centre, founded by former Reform Party leader Preston Manning — served as a kind of Conservative party in exile: a haven for decency and thoughtfulness amid the brain-dead thuggery of the time. If the conference has grown increasingly partisan over the years, it has generally been an enlightened partisanship.
This year's conference is particularly well timed. A number of coincident events have combined to put the party, and the movement, at something of a crossroads: Donald Trump's election, and the rise of far-right populist parties elsewhere; the insurgent campaign by similar forces — anti-Muslim, anti-refugee, anti-elite, crudely nationalist — in Canada, culminating in the current hysteria over, of all things, a parliamentary motion; the rise and sudden fall of Milo Yiannopoulos, the leading voice of the nihilistic, say-anything "alt-right" in the United States; and of course, the federal Conservative leadership race, now entering its final months.
The campaign has featured some of the best and worst of the Conservative party. There are candidates championing exciting economic ideas to raise national productivity and make life more affordable for average people; candidates defending important principles with candour, even in the face of party orthodoxy; candidates representing, at the least, agreeability, pragmatism and outreach.