Preston Manning's prescription to recharge the Right

The former leader of the Reform Party and the man behind the Manning Conference joins The House to talk about the challenges ahead for the Conservatives if they want to regain power.
Preston Manning has a few ideas on how Canadian Conservatives can 'unite the right' after last fall's dismal election results for the party. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)
Listen10:28

Former Reform Party Leader Preston Manning has a few ideas on how the political Right in Canada can rejuvenate itself after last fall's federal election results.

"Conservatives have to look at applying conservative principles and values in other policy areas where they've not been strong in the past," he said in an interview with Chris Hall on CBC Radio's The House.

That means regaining the public trust, although Manning is quick to point out that's a goal all political parties need to tackle.

"I think that's true for the entire politicla class. If we don't have character traits that command trust, people won't even listen to what you've got to say. They won't believe what you've got to say," Manning said.

"I think the biggest thing in the last election was that the [Harper] administration had been in power for nine years,and the NDP – Liberal vote didn't split the way it did in the past," he added. 

"But, I think trust is an important factor."

Another way to revamp the right in Canada is to focus on traditional Conservative strengths, Manning said. 

"Conservatives have always been strong on the economy and fiscal issues," he said. 

The Liberal government's deficit spending — which has soared past its original promise of $10 billion deficits per year of their mandate — presents an opportunity for the Conservatives to seize, he said.

"It gives the Conservatives the opportunity to hammer away on the necessity of constraining and reversing that [deficit] policy," he said. 

"If the [Liberal] government continues to go down that line [of deficit spending], eventually the public will get disillusioned and they'll elect someone who will address that."

That's when the Conservatives need to be ready to step in, whether that's at the federal level or the provincial and territorial one, said Manning.

"If the fiscal policies of Liberal and NDP governments end up increasing deficits, increasing debts and increasing taxes, that will generate a search and demand for an alternative. 

"And it will be incumbent upon Conservatives to offer that alternative."

Governments impede economic diversification

Manning also cautioned politicians of all parties not to put too much faith in oil and gas as a dependably strong revenue source.

"I think the country is starting to realize it was the energy sector that was the one horse pulling the economic cart," he said. "And when that sector gets into difficulties, the impact that has on government revenues and the growth potential of the country is very negative, and very drastic."

Manning doesn't have much trust himself in the power of governments to diversify the economy, however.

"All my life, I've seen governments saying they can diversify the economy," he said. 

"I don't think they're capable of that. I think governments can impede diversification. I don't think there's a lot positively they can do to create it."

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