Stick with B.C. Liberals, Manning says

Reform Party founder Preston Manning says his former colleague John Cummins is going the wrong way.

Preston Manning and Premier Christy Clark speak to reporters after a B.C. Liberal caucus meeting at the legislature Wednesday.

VICTORIA – Reform Party founder Preston Manning says his former colleague John Cummins is going the wrong direction by trying to revive the B.C. Conservative Party.

Manning was invited to the B.C. legislature Tuesday to speak to the B.C. Liberal caucus about his work with the Manning Centre For Building Democracy, his main project since retiring as federal opposition leader in 2002. Premier Christy Clark was visibly pleased to have Manning’s public endorsement, as Cummins and other former Reform and Conservative MPs build a campaign against B.C.’s governing party.

“I know all those folks, and I have a long association with John Cummins,” Manning said. “I think he’s one of the most knowledgeable people on the fishery that there is in the country. But I disagree with John on the tack that he’s on. I think in British Columbia it would be better to work within this broader coalition of the Liberal Party.”

Manning said the B.C. Liberals are the most open party in the country about being a coalition with common goals. Former premier Gordon Campbell and now Clark have reduced the polarized politics established in B.C. during W.A.C. Bennett’s 20 years as premier, he said.

“I think positioning one’s self openly as a coalition is the way of the future,” Manning said. “Most parties are, but very few of them talk as openly about it as the premier does.”

Cummins was first elected as a Reform Party MP in 1993, and was re-elected to represent Richmond and Delta five times through Canadian Alliance and Conservative affiliations. Since being acclaimed leader of the long-dormant B.C. Conservative Party in March, he has campaigned against B.C.’s carbon tax and opposed treaties.

Clark said she regularly phones Manning to ask his advice. Gwyn Morgan, the former Encana Corp. CEO who has been an advisor to Clark since her return to politics this year, is also a director of the Manning Centre.