By Raul Jaime
On Mon., April 3, former Reform Party leader and Canadian Alliance leadership candidate Preston Manning visited the University of Calgary campus. The visit’s objective was to convince students to join and support the CA and his leadership bid.
“Students and faculty are potential intellectual resources for shaping and telling us where do you think we are wrong, but also saying where we are right,” said Manning explaining why he was visiting U of C.
Starting at noon in Craigie Hall, the presentation was attended by about 120 students, mostly supporters of the new party, who questioned Manning. The audience was very receptive and there was little hostility in the questions; most were prefaced by encouraging comments.
The first question came from French-Canadian student J.P. Ruel. The question, concerning how the CA would represent the people of Québec, was fully structured in French. To the surprise of many who doubted Manning’s knowledge of the language, he not only understood the question in full, but answered part of it in French as well.
“Merci pour votre question [thank you for your question],” said Manning as he concluded his answer.
Organized by the Campus Canadian Alliance, the visit, according to this club, was a complete success.
“We just wanted to give students the opportunity to ask questions to questions Preston Manning,” said CCA member, Kim Sterling who was in charge of organizing Manning’s visit.
The questions touched on various issues, but students were strongly concerned about the constant increase in the cost of education.
“Under the current circumstances, with the federal transfers going down and no other sources really of revenue coming into the system, the institutions don’t have much choice,” answered Manning about the last tuition increase. “I have five kids, and the difference in the cost of education of my oldest daughter compared to that of my youngest son is very significant.”
Students’ Union President Rob South asked Manning about his plans to change the status quo for post-secondary students.
“The Alliance should be viewed as a possible vehicle for more radical ideas. The emphasis is to make the existing system work better, make the student loan system work better,” replied Manning.
After the public hearing, Manning met privately with members of the CCA in MacEwan Student Centre. The meeting was a more direct invitation to join the CA and application forms were available for those interested in formally joining of the party.
At the end of the meeting, the CCA presented Manning with a U of C sweatshirt with the signatures of the members of CCA. Manning posed in the sweatshirt for a short photo session with his supporters.
Before leaving campus, Manning also reminisced that the U of C was the first campus in Canada to give the Reform Party a chance to express their policies.
“We got a fair hearing, not necessarily support, at the U of C before we did at any other campus,” said Manning looking back at his beginnings as a politician.
When asked for his thoughts on U of C President Terry White’s possible re-appointment, Manning replied with no comment.
“Well, I should stay out of student politics,” said University of Alberta graduate Manning.
“May the best person win,” he added.