By: McKenzie Kibler
The Manning Centre Conference is at the top of the conservative social calendar.
Last year I led a contingent from McGill University to the Manning Centre Conference and will proudly be going again this year. Here’s why:
The organization behind the conference is the Manning Centre, named for its founder, Reform Party leader and Member of Parliament (1993-2002), the Hon. Preston Manning. Its focus is on research, training activists, and building a network of conservative and classical liberals to stand for a limited government.
Partisans speak, but the conference isn’t associated with any political party.
For example, last year I heard federal conservatives like James Moore and Joe Oliver speak to the previous government’s industrial policy and fiscal outlook.
And yet, in the next room over, economists freely debated whether the Conservative Party’s income-splitting proposal was a good idea. At the end of the panel I approached the economist advocating for the policy, Jack Mintz, whose columns in the Financial Post I closely follow, and was able to ask him questions one-on-one.
The Conference is a “big blue tent” of diversity. Literally. There’s a big blue tent in the middle of the convention hall. Check it out!
The Manning Centre Conference gets to the root of what it is that conservatives expect our government to do – and what we’d like it to stay away from.
There is also a focus on independent organizations and academics. This year, representatives from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Generation Screwed, the Institute for Liberal Studies, Canadians for Clean Prosperity (Environment), the C.D. Howe Institute, the Fraser Institute, the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies and others will be speaking on a wide range of topics.
The Conference is a welcoming and open environment; each group and individual brings a unique perspective that forms the milieu of conservatism in Canada.
Networking and campaigns
Network. Recharge. Network some more.
The theme of this year’s conference is recharging the Canadian right. Both the federal Conservative party and provincial parties – in Ontario, Alberta, and elsewhere – are looking at how they can regrow their organizations and capture the popular imagination.
The networking opportunities at the Manning Conference are incredible. Last year I met Rex Murphy, Susan Delacourt, and other notable journalists. My top moment came as I spoke to Preston Manning himself at the opening gala and got to ask about his own version of populism and conservatism.
This year the stakes are even higher. Nearly all of the rumoured Conservative Party leadership contenders will be at the Conference, speaking at the “If I Run, Here’s How I’d Do it” panels. Attendees can hear from them firsthand as well as ask questions. More to the point, we can connect with them and their teams and be an early part of an exciting and competitive leadership race, as well as effect change.
Come for the politics, stay for the community
In sum, the Manning Conference is an opportunity to hear about and discuss some of the most important issues of our day – electoral reform, the environment, deficits, and demographic changes affecting the welfare state.
More than that, it is a way to make friends. People from all walks of political life – including CJPAC Fellows, Conservative party interns, and campaign co-volunteers – have messaged me to ask if we can meet and grab a drink. And there I’ll be, to raise a glass to the diversity of conservative engagement and the Manning Centre Conference that makes it all possible.
McKenzie participated in the CJPAC Fellowship program in 2014-15 and is currently completing his degree at McGill University.
**We look forward to sharing stories about attending the Broadbent Institute Progress Summit and Canada 2020 Conference closer to those dates**