Guest Commentary

Preston Manning

The Reformers

(Editor’s note: In 1993 Preston Manning led the fledgling Reform Party to one of the most stunning breakthroughs in federal politics. Founded in 1987 on the motto “The West Wants In,” the Party gained 100,000 members and won 52 seats in the Commons. By 1997 Reformers were the Official Opposition. Manning recounted those tumultuous years in a May 29, 2011 interview with Blacklock’s publisher Holly Doan. Following is a transcription of his remarks)

Why did the Canadian cross the road? To get to the middle. I think you can get up to maybe 10 or 15 percent that would describe themselves as right wing. About the same, maybe a little more, would describe themselves as left wing. But the vast majority say they’re in the centre and if you ask what the centre is, it’s a default position. No content, other than neither left nor right. This is so typically Canadian.

Rapid disillusionment with the traditional options, that’s really what gave birth to the Reform Party: “You politician, you said this but the opposite happened.” The more that happens on more issues, the more people say you can’t trust these politicians. Then it goes even further and they say you can’t trust these governments.

It’s a growing disillusionment with government itself, a feeling these big government schemes just don’t work. You find less public interest in giving the government a big mandate to do anything.

We went on a huge crusade to try to make deficits a priority issue. It wasn’t in the late 1980s.  The first thing was to get it on the radar, that this is something that’s serious and it is going to hurt. We created pressure. We were starting to get traction. The public was saying, “It’s a big problem, somebody should do something.”

You have to live within your means. Governments were culpable themselves. They told people you can grow your way out of debt, don’t worry about it.

What’s your moral authority? If you’re going to ask people to make sacrifices with regard to budget balancing and accepting cuts in government spending, where’s your moral authority for doing that if you’re not prepared to make any kind of sacrifices yourself?  You’ve got no moral credibility.

We basically put pressure on the Liberals. We couldn’t deliver but we created pressure. We achieved the goal, though not exactly in the form we would have liked.

Eventually we got a Reform-Conservative government twelve years later than we would have liked. My regret? It takes so long. But we finally got to that goal.

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