Could the Con­ser­va­tive es­tab­lish­ment be at risk?


There were “Make Amer­ica Great Again’’ hats, there were signs with Don­ald Trump’s name.

There was a panel de­voted ex­clu­sively to the topic of whether Trumpism could be ex­ported to Canada, and more than one other ses­sion made men­tion of the Trump ef­fect.

It’s clear that con­ser­va­tives at the Man­ning Cen­tre con­fer­ence were think­ing about the po­lit­i­cal ram­i­fi­ca­tions of the seis­mic po­lit­i­cal shift in the U.S. in re­cent months.

But does it mat­ter what those par­tic­u­lar con­ser­va­tives think?

In the Pop­ulism Project, The Cana­dian Press is ex­plor­ing the fac­tors that led to Trump’s vic­tory, how it is chang­ing pol­i­tics in Canada and test­ing them against the cur­rent eco­nomic, so­cial and po­lit­i­cal cli­mate of Canada to see whether the po­ten­tial ex­ists for the same kind of po­lit­i­cal up­heaval here.

Held in Ot­tawa every year, the Man­ning Con­fer­ence at­tracts a par­tic­u­lar swath of the con­ser­va­tive move­ment _ the self­de­scribed pol­icy and pol­i­tics junkies ea­ger to chew on the is­sues of the day. Put an­other way, sug­gested Toronto politi­cian Doug Ford, not ex­actly the av­er­age voter.

“Com­mon folk don’t come to events like this,’’ he told a panel at the con­fer­ence called “Down with The Elites?’’

It’s the so-called com­mon folk un­der­stood to have pro­pelled Trump to vic­tory, not just in the gen­eral pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

What put him in the run­ning for that at all was his com­plete over­throw of the Amer­i­can Repub­li­can es­tab­lish­ment to win the U.S. state pri­maries and get the nom­i­na­tion in the first place.

The Cana­dian con­ser­va­tive es­tab­lish­ment also hasn’t been im­mune to up­set.

The Re­form move­ment of the 1980s and 1990s rose up in re­sponse to a be­lief the fed­eral Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives had lost their way.

Then there was Rob Ford’s may­oral vic­tory in Toronto, ar­gued his brother.

In that cam­paign, the con­ser­va­tive es­tab­lish­ment sup­ported the pro­vin­cial lib­eral run­ning against Rob, Doug told the panel, but Ford tri­umphed any­way thanks to his con­nec­tion di­rectly with vot­ers.

No one should be naive enough to think the es­tab­lish­ment won’t turn again, he said.

“Don’t kid your­self, they are all good bud­dies at the end of the day,’’ he said.

Frus­tra­tion with the con­ser­va­tive es­tab­lish­ment in Al­berta is also what led to the splin­ter­ing of the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive party there, ar­gued Derek Filde­brandt, the fi­nance critic for the Wil­drose party that was the re­sult of that splin­ter.

“The old, left lib­eral clique drove the PC party into the ditch,’’ he told a panel on Al­berta con­ser­vatism.

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