Conservative loyalists would "rather Ford on crack than Miller back"

Photo from Preston Manning Facebook

Preston Manning took to the stage Saturday afternoon in Ottawa to rally the troops at the Sixth Annual Manning Networking Conference, where delegates from across the country gathered to mobilize and organize the future of Canada’s conservative movement.

Absent was the hyper-partisan rabble rousing rhetoric expected from the former Reform Party leader, once boss and mentor to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Also absent were Conservative party heavyweights, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the PMO.

The only cabinet ministers present were those who were invited to speak: Kenny, Moore, Clement and Poilievre. To that end, Manning was one of 63 men who spoke at the two-day event. Only 12 women were represented in the speakers' line-up.

Manning’s “Next Steps” address was a homily befitting of an elder statesman, spoken from the pulpit of his namesake organization – one that is decidedly non-partisan, not-for-profit and “dedicated to building Canada’s conservative movement”. The political attacks were subtle, albeit present.

“When it comes to the economic concerns of Canadians, let us vigorously make the case that you can’t eat charisma. You can’t wear charisma. You can’t pay your mortgage with charisma. You can’t put it in the bank” said Manning, criticizing the Liberals for sacrificing substantive policies over style under leader Justin Trudeau.

“Personally, I have never been afflicted with charisma,” he said jokingly.

“Charisma has its place, particularly if the intention is to capture attention and entertain. This is especially true with the visual media who have always favored charisma over substance for obvious reasons."

“Let us vigorously argue the case that there is no website or blog that can create a sustainable pension for a senior. And there is no tweet nor YouTube video, no matter how viral, that can create a new sustainable job for a young person just entering the work force,” he said.

Ready to take his soft-spoken words and implement them into action was more activated and mostly male dominated audience who were adorned in the omnipresent political buttons. “I’d rather drink with Rob, than smoke with Justin” read some.

Photo by Matt Millar

“I’d rather Ford on Crack than Miller back” said others,  both touting the more right-wing conservative policies of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford over his predecessor David Miller, and federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.

Revealed in this messaging is the direction of golden opportunity for Canada’s conservative movement - that the municipal playing field is in their cross hairs.

“Left wing think tanks and interest groups, including public service unions are becoming increasingly active at the level and conservatives need to become so as well," said Manning.

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