Conservatives gather for Manning Conference

Conference is ’a combination professional convention and high school reunion’
Preston Manning, former Leader of the Reform Party and CEO of the Manning Foundation Preston Manning speaks during a news conference Wednesday January 22, 2014 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Libertarians and social conservatives, campus right-wingers and corner-office business Tories, powerful federal Conservative cabinet ministers and striving provincial Conservative opposition leaders—they’re all converging on Ottawa today in a horde straight out of a Council of Canadians nightmare.

It’s time for the annual Manning Networking Conference. Last year’s drew 850 activists, ideologues and others with rightward leanings to the capital. Now in its sixth year, the showcase event of Calgary-based Manning Centre for Building Democracy is firmly established as a big deal on the political calendar.

For an insider’s sense of what it’s all about, we turn to Jim Armour, vice-president at the Ottawa consulting firm Summa Strategies, who has worked in the past for Preston Manning (eponymous founder and presiding sage of the Manning centre) and Stephen Harper (whose political strategy and policy preferences preoccupy many attending the conference).  Armour called the confab “a combination of a professional convention and a high-school reunion,” and sets the stage for us here: