It is worth paying attention to Preston Manning.  His impact on Canada over the last twenty-five years is profound.  He created a political movement from scratch and founded two political parties (Reform Party and the Reform-Conservative Alliance ) which became the official Opposition and smoothed the way to the current Conservative majority government. 

In between he influenced the Canadian political discourse forcing all political parties to adjust, adapt and react to his policies and principles.  And he is still doing so. Major accomplishments by everyone's standards.

Since leaving politics he has become the President and CEO of the Manning Centre for Building Democracy.  The Centre describes itself as a leading Canadian conservative ‘do-tank,’ believing that “Canadians and Canada’s purpose are best served by timeless conservative principles rooted first in liberty, dignity, responsibility, and tradition.” 

 Their focus is moving ideas into action about some of our toughest challenges including market based solutions for environmental conservation and science technology and innovation.  They believe political parties, including the Conservative party, have mainly become marketing mechanisms for fighting elections; they do very little in terms of idea development.  So they've stepped into the vacuum.

Their latest publication is the  Manning Centre Barometer an annual look at Canadian’s attitudes towards values and policies generally ascribed as conservative.

The survey conducted by Allan Greg, Decima and André Turcotte, Carleton School of Journalism will enhance your understanding of the Canadian policy making context.  Here are a few of the findings that jumped out at me:

  • Canadians are more likely to turn to government for crime and personal safety – which may explain why this was a key campaign issue for the Conservatives
  • There is decreasing confidence in government’s ability to tackle moral challenges (euthanasia, stem-cell research)
  • 3 in 10 Canadians think large corporations should play a larger role in tackling our big social challenges
  • Almost half want corporations involved in tackling big environmental challenges
  • The vast majority want government to help rather than 'do it for them'
  • 69% want a focus on creating equality of opportunity rather than equality of results
  • 2 in 3 Canadians want government to get smaller so they (individuals, families, communities) can do more
  • Two thirds want government to focus on today’s problems not tomorrow’s challenges and to be more careful (rather than bolder) in making change

The survey points to a shifting role for government.  To no longer pursue ‘grand visions’ or force ‘grand designs’ on the electorate.  Instead to serve as facilitator of individual and community initiatives and as a partner with other stakeholders to respond to citizen and community demands.

There are a number of conclusions that belie the stereotype of conservatives as hard on crime and expecting everyone to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.  For example, the majority of people disagree with the statement, “Often people who are poor have no one to blame but themselves.”  And the majority agree that, “we all have a responsibility to look after those less fortunate than ourselves.” 

This shouldn’t be surprising – no political philosophy has a monopoly on caring.  In fact the survey concludes with the following statement:

Traditional ideological differences across partisan lines, on most big questions of the day, have virtually disappeared and a broad societal consensus has emerged…that government should be getting smaller rather than bigger…and facilitate – or get out of the way – of individual and community enterprise.

 There’s much more to ponder – 60 slides along with accompanying media commentaries.

If you are looking for clues on what may be motivating our current government(s) or what might appeal to them, have a look at the survey.  We may have more in common than we think.  Something to think about and investigate in your/our quest to leave no stone unturned in tackling our toughest societal challenges.

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