Politicians must respond properly to populist sentiment, Manning tells conference – Politics

Preston Manning. Doug Ford. The architect of the campaign that saw Britain vote to leave the EU.

Lions of populism addressed a gathering of conservative thinkers in Ottawa on Friday, seeking the tactics and tools to rejuvenate Canada’s right amid global political instability that’s seen traditional approaches swept aside.

For Manning, who tapped into a well of Western alienation in the late 1980s to form the Reform party, politicians who ignore the undercurrent of disenchantment with the traditional political establishment do so at their peril.

“The answer is to manifestations of Trumpomania is not Trumpophobia, but political leadership that addresses the root causes of voter alienation and redirects negative political energy into positive ends,” Manning said Friday at the annual conservative conference that bears his name.

The impact of President Donald Trump’s victory loomed large over the gathering, scheduled the same week as conservatives gather in the U.S. to fete Trump’s first weeks in office.

In Ottawa, a few people sported red hats bearing Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan, and two panels were devoted to the themes which got him elected.

At $500 for the conference fee, discounted for students, the gathering is less rank-and-file grassroots of the conservative movement in Canada and more the party’s intelligentsia and operators gathered to debate the way forward.

But Manning said the point is to give the disparate elements of the movement the opportunity to meet, network and develop tools and strategies necessary to take the lead in federal and provincial politics in the future.

“The greatest challenge facing us will be reconnecting with citizens and voters who are becoming increasingly alienated and disenchanted from virtually every component of the political process,” Manning said.

Leadership candidates debate

The more carefully watched portion of the conference is likely to be the debate among the 14 candidates for leadership

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