Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Conservatives told to shut up

Speaking mind can harm party, says Manning

  • Print

OTTAWA -- Conservatives gathered in Ottawa this weekend to learn how best to spread their party's message are being told one way is to know when to shut up.

The Achilles heel of the modern-day conservative movement is people who end up discrediting it when they speak their mind, suggested Preston Manning, the founder of the Reform party, which gave today's Conservative government its start.

Manning referred directly to the case of Tom Flanagan, a long-time party strategist who found himself swiftly ostracized last month after suggesting people who look at child pornography shouldn't be jailed.

"Conservative governments, parties, and campaigns simply cannot afford to be blindsided and discredited by these incidents when the individuals involved are connected with those governments, with those parties, and with those campaigns," Manning said in his keynote address Saturday to a conference organized by his political leadership institute.

Flanagan had been scheduled to be a speaker at the conference but was dropped from the schedule.

The movement had no choice but to cut him off, Manning said, even as he called Flanagan a good friend.

Manning said in the early days of the Reform party he didn't address the issue enough of where the line is between freedom of expression and speaking on behalf of the party.

"If I am only speaking for myself and I am the primary bearer of the consequences of what I say, the horizons of free speech should be as broad and expansive as the sky," Manning said.

"But if in speaking we are identified with a conservative organization made up of many others who will also bear the consequences of what we say, there are limits to what we can say defined by that line in the sand and the responsibility we owe to colleagues."

Canadians have every right to ask whether those who can't seem to govern their own tongue can actually govern the party, Manning said.

Treasury Board President Tony Clement, one of the other speakers at the convention Saturday, noted that as a broader goal, the party does believe government should be limited.

He suggested that efforts to provide more basic government information to citizens, mostly in the form of data sets, is one way forward.

"The dream of conservatives is that eventually, through crowdsourcing, that governments can step back," Clement said during a panel on the role data plays in politics and governance.

"When all the information is available, why does government need to make decisions? That's the holy grail for us as freedom lovers, who believe government should be limited."

But Clement's advocacy of open government seemingly runs counter to a number of battles the Harper Tories have had over access to information, including an ongoing fight with the parliamentary budget officer over the government's refusal to hand over financial information relating to last year's budget.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 10, 2013 A3

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Steve Ashton comments on bid for NDP leadership

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Two baby tigers were unveiled at the Assiniboine Park Zoo this morning, October 3rd, 2011. (TREVOR HAGAN/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Local- Peregrine Falcon Recovery Project. Baby peregrine falcons. 21 days old. Three baby falcons. Born on ledge on roof of Radisson hotel on Portage Avenue. Project Coordinator Tracy Maconachie said that these are third generation falcons to call the hotel home. Maconachie banded the legs of the birds for future identification as seen on this adult bird swooping just metres above. June 16, 2004.

View More Gallery Photos


How will you be spending the holiday season? (select all that apply)

View Results

Ads by Google