A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada
Ernest Manning always had a fear that Communism would take hold in Canada, and declared war on the perceived evils, with as much determination as the Social Credit had taken up the fight against banks and the notion of a Jewish conspiracy.
It consumed him, and he often spoke of the need to intensify a right-wing front against an attack from the left.
Because of this, a group of people from the corporate world, seeing an ally, approached Manning about creating just such a party. According to one of his cabinet minsters, Alfe Hooke:
The book he was referring to, was written with Preston, and called Political Realignment. It became the framework for a party of the right-wing, that would be based on pure ideology and the 'will of God'. It spoke of individual freedoms, and the need for a two party system, with clearly laid out and completely opposite, ideologies. Only then would Canadians be given a clear choice at election time. (2)
"On at least two occasions Mr. Manning told me in his office that he had been approached by several very influential and wealthy Canadians and that they wanted him to head up a party of the right with a view to preventing the onslaught of socialism these men could see developing in Canada. They had apparently indicated to him that money was no object and they were prepared to spend any amount of money to stop the socialist tide ... "Mr. Manning indicated to me that he was also working on a book which he would hope to publish ... In which he would endeavour to outline the views these men represented and recommendations he would make in keeping with their views." (1)
"The Mannings' free-market ideology was not rooted in any expressed community sentiment or shared vision: it was inspired by an imagined threat of a left-wing conspiracy and supported almost exclusively by corporate interests whose principal goal was less government interference. Their aspiration to govern was not driven by new ideas about how government could be more responsive to its citizens but by a negative view of government; a vision of dismantling government, not reforming it." (3)The Mannings' little book also caught the attention of another wealthy Canadian, Colin Brown. Brown had read Political Realignment and arranged a meeting with the Mannings. They soon learned that they had a shared enemy: Tommy Douglas.
When Douglas was pushing for free health care, Manning stated that; "Giving to the individual societal benefits such as free medical care ... breeds idleness... causing a break down in his relationship with God ... where the state imposed a monopoly on a service ... the sinful philosophy of state collectivism scored a victory." (4)
Fortunately for Canadians, not everyone saw it that way, and with the collective efforts of Tommy Douglas, John Diefenbaker and Lester Pearson, Canadians were given Medicare in 1966. As founder of London Life, Colin Brown saw this as a direct threat on his business, and took out full page ads to denounce such a measure.
However, what Ernest Manning suggested was something more permanent. Why not establish an organization that could draw in financial support from the corporate world, and act as an advocacy group that would stop the spread of government intervention into 'socialist schemes'. Hence, the National Citizens Coalition* was born, and Ernest would be given a position on their advisory board.
"The connections between the National Citizens Coalition and the Reform party go back a long way. Their political agendas are virtually identical: deficit reduction, restriction of immigration, ending universal social programs, lowering taxes for corporations and high-income earners, and ending national medicare. Colin Brown, the founder of the NCC, began his conservative crusade in 1967with a full page ad in the Globe and Mail, attacking the federal Liberal government's plan for a national medicare scheme.However, despite the fact that they now had a behind the scenes corporate network that would solicit funds and act as a 'grassroots' voice for change, Manning still felt that the idea of a new party was a bit too risky. So instead, he suggested merging the current conservative party with his social credit, thereby establishing a single right-wing offense.
"At the same time, Ernest Manning and his son were launching Ernest's book, Political Realignment, calling for a social conservative party. According to Norm Ovenden of the Edmonton Journal, Ernest was one of the 'moving forces behind the creation of the NCC ..." (5)
So he showed up at the conservative national convention, hoping to use his influence to create such a merger, but he had overestimated his importance. The people who knew him, knew exactly what the Social Credit Party stood for and wanted none of it. Besides, Robert Stanfield had been named the new federal Conservative leader, and Stanfield was a Red Tory! Just one step away from a communist in Manning's mind.
His next strategy was to have his best man, Robert Thompson, run as a PC for the next election, hoping to influence the Conservative party from the inside. Thompson won, but was unable to do much to sell social credit, even though Manning had just been named senator.
So they put the idea on the back burner, and waited for the next wave.
*Stephen Harper would join the NCC in 1980, just as they were launching their anti 'Boat People' campaign. He said he liked what they stood for. He would later go on to become their vice-president and then president. In 2004, he was awarded their 'Medal of Freedom', which means freedom from government interference. The medal is given each year to the person who has best been able to tear down Canada's social safety net. The holy grail is scrapping the Canada Health Act.(6)
1. 30+5 I know, I was There, A first-hand account of the workings and history of the Social Credit Government in Alberta, Canada 1935-68, by Alfred J Hooke, Douglas Social Credit Secretariat.
2. Political Realignment: Challenge to Thoughtful Canadians, By Hon, E. C. Manning, McClelland & Stewart Limited, 1967, Kingston Public Library call no. 320.971 M31
3. Preston Manning and the Reform Party. Author: Murray Dobbin Goodread Biographies/Formac Publishing 1992 ISBN: 0-88780-161-7, Pg. 66
4. Dobbin, 1992, Pg. 9
5. Dobbin, 1992, Pg. 95
6. The National Citizens' Coalition loves you - ha! ha! ha!, 35 years of fighting for fat cats while posing as ordinary citizens, NUPGE: November 8, 2002