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He was Western Canada - THE COMMENTARY

By Joseph Planta

Came across this assessment of Judy Garland. At least one of you out there will appreciate this. I’ve read much of the Garland career and life, but this sums it all up. Mary Birdsong, an actress on the CBS sitcom Welcome To New York, has created a one-woman show on Garland entitled, Judy Speaks!: “Today an icon of a similar stature is Madonna, but she rarely screws up. She doesn’t appear half-tanked and embarrass herself in front of an entire country and then sing and we forgive her because she’s so brilliant.”

VANCOUVER -- Last week, Canadian heads looked up to notice that Maclean’s magazine publisher Paul Jones made the announcement that Anthony Wilson-Smith has been tapped to replace the departed Bob Lewis as editor-in-chief of the venerable magazine. Last week’s Maclean’s (which has been edited by Managing Editor Geoffrey Stevens, since Lewis left) featured Wilson-Smith’s column, which has been in Maclean’s for a number of years. Wilson-Smith, a national affairs columnist was also an editor-at-large. Arguably Maclean’s biggest star, Allan Fotheringham was absent from his famous back page spot last week. The space was filled by Wilson-Smith with a column on the departing Preston Manning. Seems that Manning, casting an unflattering shadow on his successor Stockwell Day, has decided that he’ll step back to write his memoirs and take up a private sector glad-handling job.

Manning is perhaps the story of the 1990s in Canadian politics. His father Ernest Manning, governed Alberta as its Premier for a number of years. Born into politics, Manning began making noise in the late ‘80s with a grassroots party they called Reform. Brian Mulroney’s Tories had swept Western Canada in the 1984 and 1988 elections. Our votes with about half of Ontario’s, most of Quebec’s and the Atlantic provinces, built two huge majority governments. With the same treatment as lobbed to us -- Western Canada -- as those damned Liberals, Reform became our choice. They were in 1993, 1997 and again last fall when the Liberals won their 3rd majority on the backs of status quo Ontarians.

I never much took to Preston Manning. He seemed like Mr. Rogers and growing up seemed to always preach that Canada was a union of 10 jurisdictionally equal provinces, not any of this two found nations crap. I never really took to him, because being young and naive in the early ‘90s, adults would say he and his party were a racist and fascist group. Not really understanding what that meant I listened.

The first political party I ever joined was in 1999, when I joined the NDP. It wasn’t much of a stretch for me, as I grew up in a union household where both of my parents were (and still are) union members. I joined the party for personal reasons and left it the same. When I tendered my resignation from the NDP in the spring of 2000, it was not a difficult decisions as I felt I did not fit in to the NDP scheme of things. Largely the left was becoming irrelevant in the political spectrum, and one usually ebbs to go with the flow.

The Reform Party failing to break into the bastion of Ontario, began a morphing process that birthed the United Alternative and then the Canadian Alliance. As I left the NDP, the Canadian Alliance was taking form and I was a tad mesmerised and actually interested. I guess paradoxically the reason people didn’t vote for the Alliance in November, I joined the Alliance, because I wanted the Liberals out. Small-c conservatism, is my home at present. I am coming to grips with it, as much as I struggled to come to grips with democratic socialism when I was with the NDP. It is perhaps noteworthy that I disliked the Reform of Manning, because I found them too right-wing or Christian. I joined the Alliance and voted emphatically for Stockwell Day, perceived more right-wing and Christian than Manning. That truly signifies democracy.

I chose to join the Alliance and support Stockwell Day, because I felt that Day could deliver Ontario, as Manning could not with ‘93 and ‘97’s results in mind. The Monday after Manning had lost the leadership ballot to Stockwell Day, I had writ a column entitulated “Thanks for everything, Preston.” I felt strongly then, that it was people like me who, rather opportunistically hijacked his baby and tried to use it for purely political purposes. With the benefit of hindsight, those that tried to change Reform into a viable alternative to the Liberals failed. Joe Clark stood in the way of that, and full participation from Ontario’s voting elite did too. To digress ever so briefly, I think between Day and Manning, since Day has faltered, Manning would have been the truly honourable choice.

Through and through, Manning was a true reformer. He wanted to change Ottawa and perhaps he did not succeed. The seeds he planted in the Alliance proved that the West was not to be ignored, nor would we be submissive to the crap propagated by Liberals alike. At the end of his political career, while rocks like Deb Grey, Stockwell Day and others have seen better days, Preston Manning did not change. He remained steadfast to the vision he set out to preach and I think at the end of the day, while not have succeeded he remains unscathed and very distinguished. In the glut orgy of politics, Preston Manning is a true example people in politcal life should aspire too. For me, I realised that too late and am guilty of one thing -- wanting the Liberals out. Preston Manning’s vision is debatable. Did he want the Liberals out? Or did he merely want change. At my place in life now, I too want change. Those across the country that do want change, are sorry to see Preston Manning to go. Preston Manning, for all his faults and misconceptions, signifies for us the fact for sometime he was Western Canada.

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