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Home builders’ donations to Manning Centre questioned

Former opposition leader Preston Manning is the founder of the Manning Centre, a right-wing think tank based in Calgary. Global News

The content of a video obtained by Global News is raising questions about political donations made by Calgary home builders to a right-wing think tank.

The Manning Centre, founded by former federal opposition leader Preston Manning, offers a program to train and support civic election candidates.

On a recording of an election strategy meeting of home builders in November, the founder of Shane Homes, Cal Wenzel, talks about big contributions made to the centre.

“In order to bring Preston on board, 11 of us put up $100,000, so $1,100,000,” says Wenzel. “So it’s not like we haven’t put up our money and we are going to be there to put up again, and we are also supporting candidates.”

Wenzel is referring to a plan he presented at the meeting to financially support candidates in the upcoming October civic election who are seen as “developer-friendly.”

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MRU political analyst Duane Bratt says the donations need to be explained.

“It doesn’t sound like they (the Manning Centre), are an impartial, non-partisan, not-for-profit think tank as they describe themselves,” says Bratt. “So if that is, in fact, party building, I think an investigation is warranted and I think Preston Manning has a lot of questions he needs to answer.”

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi is also questioning the Manning Centre’s mandate.

“What the Manning Centre is claiming is a movement to get conservative voices, seems to actually be to enrich corporate welfare for a certain set of developers.”

Preston Manning is out of the country. Speaking for the Manning Centre, Chuck Strahl, a former BC Reform MP and a Manning Centre director, says the centre has done nothing wrong.

Strahl says the centre’s purpose is to support and train future politicians and he defends donations from home builders or anyone else. He says the donations aren’t any different from those given to civic candidates.

“These people tend to be very involved in civic politics,” says Strahl. “I bet they gave to many candidates in the last election, including the mayor, but that’s as it should be. In our case, they gave more broadly to political education and training.”

“I don’t think there is anything wrong with it. In fact, we are quite proud of what we’re doing here.”

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