Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Preston Manning

I'm feeling a trifle under pressure here, since Dilexit Prior claimed that there was "intelligent blogging" going on over here. But rest assured, all intelligence is on hold until I have enough time to compose my thoughts.

Instead, I'll tell you what I've been up to. Aside from being in my last term, and getting into the class I wanted, I headed over to Victoria for Universities' Model Parliament, which sits in the Legislature itself. A wonderful institution, UMP melds serious political debate with a great deal of humour, a strong tutorial in parliamentary procedure (which is far more fun than it sounds), and a not a great deal of sleep. I was fortunate to be able to visit a friend one of the evenings, which led to musings over liturgy and U2 into the wee hours of the morning.

Every year UMP invites a notable Canadian to serve as Governor General. This year, the Tories on the board managed to procure the finest GG in the history of UMP- Preston Manning. Mr. Manning preformed his ceremonial office in an admirable manner, but was moreover extremely willing to chat with all of us, charming not only Tories, but Liberals and NDPers without exception. He even popped by two of the evening parties, joining us for appetizers and beer. With Saturday evening came the Governor General's banquet, which concludes with a speech from the Governor General.

Mr. Manning managed to turn advice to aspiring politicians into something a NDP friend termed "very inspiring". He first commended us on UMP, and reminisced about his Model Parliament days with Joe Clark and Ray Speaker in Edmonton in the sixties. Apparently Joe Clark made all the arrangements and coalitions necessary to defeat the government one year, but as the final night came on, the government got wind of the plan. So as Joe Clark was about to introduce a motion of non-confidence, a Liberal threw the power in the building, plunging the House into darkness, and bringing the Parliament to an abrupt end. According to Mr. Manning, the last thing he remembered of that Parliament was hearing Joe Clark scrambling across desks to try to get to the light switch.

Preston Manning then went on to give three pieces of advice to we Model Parliamentarians- firstly, that we ought to draw up a list of skills and knowledge we would need to perform at the highest level of political engagement, and a scheme of how to acquire them in the years ahead. He particularly emphasized communication skills, noting with some displeasure that the communicability of a policy position has become more important than its social or economic wisdom or its administrative feasibility.

Secondly, Mr. Manning advised us to challenge the orthodoxies not only of our opponents, but also of our own parties, suggesting that we advance reform within our own parties as well as the broader society. He particularly suggested Tories should look at the provision of services more, NDPers might improve their policies on economic growth, and Liberals might give a trifle more concern to ethical standards in government.

Thirdly, Preston urged us to adopt Democratic Reform as our own, encouraging us to examine the many ideas and champion the few which we feel would do the most good. A true believer in democracy, Mr. Manning recounted a night early in his Parliamentary career when he had left documents he needed for a breakfast meeting in his desk in the House. Gaining admittance to that Chamber at about midnight, with the lights dimmed, the Chamber silent and empty, Mr. Manning sat down in his seat for a few minutes, contemplating the majesty of that House, and imagining it as "the Temple of Democracy" it might be.

Preston answered questions in a remarkably honest and straightforward manner, including a partisan question, and spoke with many privately. The next day, at the prorogation of the House, he led the House in a minute of silence to contemplate the potential of democracy and the Parliament in which we sat.

I realize I do but little justice to the speech Mr. Manning gave, and his other conduct over the weekend. It was wonderful, and a priviledge to be a part of.


Blogger DilexitPrior said...

No pressure Gabriel...you easily live up to the expectations. :-)

which led to musings over liturgy and U2 into the wee hours of the morning

Interestingly enough, I myself was involved in a conversation that included musings over liturgy the other night, and though we were not musing over U2, Joshua Tree was playing in the background.

January 11, 2006 3:51 PM  

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