Not satisfied with their conquests of the provincial and federal levels of government, the right-wing activists behind the Manning Centre for Building Democracy are expanding their political agenda to city-level politics. Preston Manning‘s followers plan to treat this year’s elections in Calgary as a petri-dish for their yet-to-be-completed libertarian manifesto for municipal government.
The outline of the libertarian think-tank’s manifesto for civic government was laid out at last weekend’s Manning Networking Conference in Ottawa.
Cleverly branded as the “organic cities project,” Mr. Manning’s followers expressed their frustrations with urban planning and what they described as lengthy community consultation processes. Increasing private sector planning of city development and decreasing the role of accountable public planning processes is at the heart of the Manning argument.
Outlined at the conference was a vague manifesto to reduce the scope of political decision making and move municipal governments away from Mr. Manning’s followers claim are inappropriate activities, which were suggested could be municipally-owned golf courses and recreational facilities.
With exaggerated claims of interference in the lives of citizens, Mr. Manning’s followers are setting their eyes on cleaving the limited powers already laid out in the Municipal Government Act (though the Act was never referenced in the talk).
The Manning Centre’s real target is uber-popular Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who has taken a proactive stance on urban development, alarming the cabal of developers who have greatly benefited from near unlimited urban sprawl along the city’s edges.
Perhaps it was not coincidence that a sponsor of the Manning Networking Conference was the Canadian Real Estate Association, which represents the group of individuals who have greatly benefited from this urban sprawl.
Conservative Party of Calgary?
Earlier this year, the Manning Centre opened a facility in downtown Calgary to provide training and support to like-minded libertarians running in the October 2013 municipal elections. This could be the first step that leads to the creation of Conservative political parties on the city level in Canada. While political parties are normal in some large cities, like Vancouver and Montreal, most Canadian municipalities are free of slates and official partisanship.
Municipal political parties, like the Urban Reform Group Edmonton, were common in Edmonton until the 1980s when their popularity declined and they disappeared from the ballot.
Despite arguments at the Manning Centre conference that municipal governments are filled with left-leaning politicians, municipal councils are home to many conservatives, and many more non-partisan citizens. Progressive-minded candidates have had success being elected to municipal councils in Alberta, but their views are by no means the only views present at that level of government.
Consensus and coalitions exist on the municipal level that transcend traditional hard-line partisan loyalties. Unfortunately, ideologically-based slates and municipal political parties could be an inevitable result of the Manning Centre’s meddling.
Perhaps a sign of the times to come, it was announced this week that a slate of conservatives candidates in the City of Red Deer will run in the October elections under the “Red Deer First” banner. Sources in Red Deer tell this blogger that many of the key figures behind this group have ties to the provincial right-wing Wildrose Party.