Preston Manning, a founder of the Reform Party of Canada, which was a precursor to the current Conservative Party, says the country could use a new batch of politicians with updated skills.

Manning spoke in Saskatoon Tuesday to an audience of University of Saskatchewan students who are interested in politics.

According to Manning, support for — and interest in — political parties and Parliament is on the decline in Canada, especially among young people.

He suggests reforming not only the institutions but the calibre of people engaged in politics.

"Redesign the participants, not just the chambers," Manning said. "Raise the skill and inspirational capacity [of] the people that are visible — particularly candidates for elected office."

He said improvements in politicians could "revitalize interest in democratic processes."

Manning was leader of the official Opposition from 1997 to 2000.

He is currently a senior fellow of the Fraser Institute,  and runs the Manning Centre for Building Democracy.

With files from CBC's Steve Pasqualotto