Preston Manning, CEO of the Manning Centre for Building Democracy, in the Calgary Sun's studio during an interview with Michael Coren of Sun News network, talking about the report he released on the State of Canada's Conservative Movement. (Photo by AL CHAREST/QMI Agency)
CALGARY - The Alberta Tories' days could be numbered if a new leader doesn't frankly address major weaknesses and reinvigorate the party, says an Alberta conservative icon.
Former Reform Party leader Preston Manning told QMI Agency on Wednesday he's not convinced any of the six candidates vying for Alberta's top job are going to shake things up.
"I'm concerned that none of the candidates, to the extent that I would like to see, are addressing the greatest threat to the governing party, which is its own long time in office and its weakness in a number of important areas to Albertans," said Manning.
"I think it involves an analysis of where ... the government has been successful and where has it been less than successful and addressing those less than successful areas."
Among the issues that should be discussed are why, despite having the resources to do so, Alberta hasn't reformed health care, why the principle behind the Heritage Savings Trust Fund has not been properly put into practice, and how Alberta managed to wind up with a massive deficit, said Manning.
"The more that you ignore (weaknesses) or pretend that they're just outside criticisms, the greater the danger," he said.
Becoming too comfortable can be problematic, said Manning, noting the Tories are following in the footsteps of ousted governing parties after 40 years in power.
"(Social Credit) just did exactly the same things they'd always done but all of a sudden it was not enough," said Manning, whose father Ernest Manning served as Alberta's premier with the Social Credit Party for 25 years.
"It's exactly what the UFA government did in 1935, it's exactly what the Liberal government did in 1921 - they said, 'We don't have to change, it's the other guys,' and the public said, 'OK, you take that attitude, we'll change things.'”
He said all is not lost because the Progressive Conservatives have been salvaged from stagnation before.
“The track record in Alberta is that eventually the government is replaced, that Albertans give the first chance to the governing party to renew itself," he said.
"And that's how the Conservatives are 40 years in power - they did renew themselves under (former) premier (Ralph) Klein, they got a new lease in life after the (Peter) Lougheed/ (Don) Getty periods, Social Credit renewed itself about three times during its 35 years, but each time it becomes harder and harder to do.
"We'll see who the new leader is, whether they maybe address these concerns afterwards, but if they don't the days of the party are numbered."