Lions of pop­ulism in­spire con­ser­va­tive thinkers

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - STEPHANIE LEVITZ

OT­TAWA — Pre­ston Man­ning. Doug Ford. The ar­chi­tect of the cam­paign that saw Bri­tain vote to leave the EU.

Lions of pop­ulism ad­dressed a gath­er­ing of con­ser­va­tive thinkers in Ot­tawa on Fri­day, seek­ing the tac­tics and tools to re­ju­ve­nate Canada’s right amid global po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity that’s seen tra­di­tional ap­proaches swept aside.

For Man­ning, who tapped into a well of Western alien­ation in the late 1980s to form the Re­form party, politi­cians who ig­nore the un­der­cur­rent of dis­en­chant­ment with the tra­di­tional po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment do so at their peril.

“The an­swer to man­i­fes­ta­tions of Trumpo­ma­nia is not Trumpopho­bia, but po­lit­i­cal leadership that ad­dresses the root causes of voter alien­ation and redi­rects neg­a­tive po­lit­i­cal en­ergy into pos­i­tive ends,” Man­ning said Fri­day at the an­nual con­ser­va­tive con­fer­ence that bears his name.

The i mpact of U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s vic­tory loomed large over the gath­er­ing, sched­uled the same week as con­ser­va­tives gather in the United States to fete Trump’s first weeks in of­fice.

In Ot­tawa, a few peo­ple sported red hats bear­ing Trump’s Make Amer­ica Great Again slo­gan, and two pan­els were de­voted to the themes which got him elected.

At $500 for the con­fer­ence fee, dis­counted for stu­dents, the gath­er­ing is less rank-and-file grass­roots of the con­ser­va­tive move­ment in Canada and more the party’s in­tel­li­gentsia and op­er­a­tors gath­ered to de­bate the way for­ward.

But Man­ning said the point is to give the dis­parate el­e­ments of the move­ment the op­por­tu­nity to meet, net­work and de­velop tools and strate­gies nec­es­sary to take the lead in fed­eral and pro­vin­cial pol­i­tics.

“The great­est chal­lenge fac­ing us will be re­con­nect­ing with cit­i­zens and vot­ers who are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly alien­ated and dis­en­chanted from vir­tu­ally ev­ery com­po­nent of the po­lit­i­cal process.”

The more care­fully watched por­tion of the con­fer­ence is likely to be the de­bate among the 14 can­di­dates for leadership of the fed­eral Con­ser­va­tive party.

Sev­eral have in­for­ma­tion tables in the hall­ways at the con­fer­ence, where 900 peo­ple have re­port­edly reg­is­tered for the two-day event.

The party will se­lect its new leader in May.

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