Next government will face 'challenge' of regional alienation, Preston Manning says
CALGARY -- The founder of what was the Reform Party of Canada is concerned that a pervasive level of alienation could leave the country more divided after next month's federal election.
Preston Manning, who channelled western alienation into the creation of the Reform party in 1987, told the Canadian Club of Calgary that there is a lot of anger across the country.
"Western alienation, fuelled by the downturn in the energy sector and political resistance to the free movement of petroleum across provincial boundaries to tidewater and world markets, is reviving western separatism, particularly in Saskatchewan and Alberta," Manning, 77, said Wednesday.
"Separatist sentiment is also reviving in Quebec. The Bloc Quebecois is doing better this election than last time. And if the federal courts declare Bill 21 to be unconstitutional, then they're going to have another uprising in Quebec on that basis."
Bill 21 bans some public-sector workers such as teachers from wearing religious symbols on the job.
Manning said there is also increasing evidence that millennials "of any and every political stripe" are increasingly alienated from politics. He doesn't expect things to get better after the Oct. 21 vote.
"That's going to be a challenge for the next Parliament, no matter who ends up winning the election. Recognize the validity of the concerns. Don't dismiss them. Don't tell people you've got no right to be angry or mad," he said.
"I'm worried that you're going to see somewhat of a revival of separatism in Quebec. I don't think western alienation's being addressed. I'm worried that it may end up with a more divided Parliament and a more divided country than we did before."
Manning served as a member of Parliament from 1993 to 2002. He was the only leader of the Reform party, which evolved into the Canadian Alliance, which in turn merged with the Progressive Conservative Party to form today's Conservative Party of Canada.
Manning suggested voters may have a wider knowledge of political issues these days from tweets and blogs, but their understanding is shallower. He said he's also disappointed that the level of civility seems to have been eroded by social media.
The high number of election promises during the campaign has also caught his attention.
"There's a tendency to promise things and not figure out the fiscal and economic consequences," he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2019.