Former Reform Party leader Preston Manning talks Western alienation in Calgary

WATCH ABOVE: Global News interviews with Preston Manning from 2016 and 2017.

Former Calgary Southwest MP and Official Opposition leader Preston Manning discussed Western alienation during a talk in Calgary on Tuesday, on the heels of his book’s release last week.

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“I do worry in this age of social media and where people can substitute discussing it, blogging about it, tweeting about it — but are you actually going to do something, join an interest group, join a party to do something more than just talk about it if some of these problems are going to be resolved?” Manning said.

Western alienation

Manning was the founder and leader of the Reform Party of Canada, which formed in 1987 “as a populist and conservative expression of Western Canadian frustration with the governing Progressive Conservative Party and previous governments led by the Liberal Party,” according to Encyclopædia Britannica.

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The Reform Party was replaced by the conservative Canadian Alliance, which evolved to become the Conservative Party of Canada.

The 77-year-old was a keynote speaker at the President’s Breakfast Club ATB Speaker Series event at the Webber Academy Performing Arts Centre in Calgary.

Manning said Albertans need to figure out what constitutes a fair deal for the province, referencing a panel in which he has been involved.

“Some of the obvious things are: we need unobstructed transportation corridors to the Atlantic, Pacific and the Arctic to move our resources to tidewater and world markets,” he said. “We need a federal government that’s supportive of these kinds of measures rather than one that obstructs.”

Manning said he believes Western alienation was broader during his political career, but today, the unrest is more concentrated in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

“I don’t think it’s as broad — this sentiment — that maybe we should look at secession, but where it does exist, it’s more concentrated and intense,” he said.

WATCH (Nov. 9, 2019): While speaking to conservative supporters at a Manning Centre conference in Red Deer, Premier Jason Kenney revealed his Fair Deal Panel. As Sarah Ryan explains, the panel features several high profile political players — including Preston Manning himself — and will be tasked with defending the province’s interests.

Click to play video: 'Kenney announces ‘fair deal’ panel while speaking to conservative core in Red Deer'
Kenney announces ‘fair deal’ panel while speaking to conservative core in Red Deer

The Edmonton-born politician said the threat of secession can’t be ignored by the federal government.

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“Even worse is to disparage the people that are talking that way, to say, ‘Well, they’re ignorant and uneducated, don’t know what’s best for them.’ I think that’s the wrong approach. I think it should be taken seriously. But I think if you’re a federalist, you’ve got to [say], ‘Is there not a better alternative than that?’ And I believe there is,” Manning said.

Manning said it is not realistic to think that Alberta could be its own country.

“That’s something that the people that are advocating secession really haven’t thought through. At least I’ve never been presented with a thorough case for that. No one has presented, for example, the constitution of this new country. People aren’t going to vote to create a new country. They can see what kind of country it is going to be,” he said with a chuckle.

“Some of the big questions have not been answered: how does being a separate country get you better pipeline access, east or west? There’s a whole bunch of questions that, if that option is to be seriously presented to Albertans, have to be answered, which in my judgment have not yet been answered.”

Alberta advantage

Manning said it would make a difference if there was a federal Conservative government instead of a Liberal one.

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“If you had an ally… then you could make substantive amendments to the Constitution. The formula is you’ve got to have seven provinces with 50 per cent of the population plus the federal Parliament. If you ever had those conditions, then you could make substantive changes.”

WATCH (April 27, 2017): Preston Manning sat down with Global News’ Linda Olsen to discuss his father’s legacy and the honour of naming a school after the former Premier of Alberta.

Click to play video: 'Preston Manning sits down to discuss his father Ernest'
Preston Manning sits down to discuss his father Ernest

Manning, a son of former Alberta premier Ernest Manning, said there needs to be changes to address the “growing unrest in the province.” Alberta constantly contributes more to equalization payments than any other province, he said.

“There’s equalization formula, there [are] federal-provincial transfers and there [are] federal-provincial programs where the federal government can allocate more money one direction than the other. The combination of those have not worked to Alberta’s advantage,” he said.
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Reform Party Leader Preston Manning flashes a thumbs-up sign after hearing more results on the constitutional question in Calgary on Monday, Oct. 26, 1992. CP PHOTO/Dave Buston

A referendum and coalitions

What’s the best thing for Albertans to do right now? Manning said holding a referendum and forming coalitions.

“The premiers talked about the use of a referendum to show that there [are] millions of people in Alberta that want some of these changes so that you can say to Ottawa, ‘This isn’t just a government. This isn’t just a bunch of interest groups. This isn’t just the oil patch. This is hundreds of thousands of people demanding these changes,'” he said.

“There are other provincial governments that actually would support some of the things that Alberta is talking about: constraining federal intervention in areas of provincial jurisdiction or joint jurisdiction unless you get the consent of the province and forming coalitions of other groups, provinces, industries that would support our positions.”


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