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So sorry to see you go so soon, Manning Centre … here's your hat

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Preston Manning, right, Godfather of the Canadian Right, with Ron Paul, at left, the batty uncle of the American right wing, at the 2013 Manning Networking Conference in Ottawa (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Shed a tear for the Calgary-based Manning Centre, which Postmedia's Cowtown website of record sadly reported yesterday is "stepping back from its advocacy work."

Since polishing up Tiny Tories to make them acceptable for election door-knocking and serving as a launch pad for development-industry-financed attacks on Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi is about all the Manning crowd did most days of the year -- in other words, partisan advocacy work -- that sounds as if the end is nigh for the 13-year-old right-wing boiler room.

There's even a for-lease sign on the Manning Centre's funkily old-timey headquarters on the stretch of Calgary's 11th Avenue once known as "Electric Avenue." Has the plug been pulled?

Well, not quite. There are still the Manning Networking Conference and its Alberta spin-offs, which the organization's three remaining staff members will try to spin out for a little while longer.

Back in the day, founder Preston Manning's annual right-wing clambake in Ottawa was the neoliberal event of the season, attracting such iconic conservative celebs as Ron Paul, the batty uncle of the American Right. But that was when Stephen Harper was the king of Parliament Hill.

Nowadays, even that right-wing hootenanny apparently fails to attract the crowds of fresh-faced young conservatives it did back in the day when it looked as if Jason Kenney might be the next Ontario-born Alberta Conservative to run the country.

Corporate head office big shots were generous with cash, although they weren't always quite as enthusiastic about showing up themselves for more than a few moments of homage from the vassals, leaving the job of riotously applauding speeches by disagreeable second stringers like alt-right publisher Ezra Levant and British anti-EU demagogue Nigel Farage to mid-level flunkies. And even they mostly ignored the Ayn Rand Film Society booth and the like.

Whatever. The Calgary Herald noted yesterday that in addition to the for-lease sign on the Centre's gentrified southwest Calgary offices (soon to be trendy loft condos, I'd wager) its website had disappeared. Well, the website at least was back yesterday afternoon, and according to Manning Centre Vice-President John Whittaker the temporary disappearance was merely the result of an unfortunately timed server breakdown.

Still, I doubt if anyone will breathe a deep sigh of relief to hear that.

Time will tell, presumably, if the increasingly offensive alt-right newsletter published by the Manning Foundation, the Centre's charitable fundraising arm set up in 2007, continues to turn up in email inboxes. With recent stories mocking problems faced by LGBTQ seniors, still whining about "Harper Derangement Syndrome," and touting the "male resurgence" in Ontario politics, I doubt C2C Journal would be missed very much by anyone, even conservative readers.

Except, perhaps, the sort of conservatives who gave it money when the Manning Centre joked about Somali refugee camps in a bizarrely partisan fundraising letter for the publication soon after the 2015 Alberta election that brought an NDP government to power.

What happened? Well, we grow old and slow down. Manning, once the leader of the Reform Party in Parliament and still the Godfather of the Canadian Right, is now 76. He has "stepped away" from his direct role in managing the effort, the Herald quoted Whittaker explaining.

One suspects, however, that it's also getting a little harder for an outfit like the Manning Centre to raise money in Calgary, or anywhere else in Canada, what with all the competition for right-wing dollars nowadays from election PAC slush funds and the like.

In all the marketing commotion, it must have been easy for the Manning Centre to be forgotten, even if it's not quite gone.

This was likely especially true in light of the Centre's notable lack of success, despite the generosity of some members of Calgary's "Sprawl Cabal," in its effort to knock off Mayor Nenshi in last year's municipal election.

Well, we're sorry to see you go so soon, Manning Centre … Here's your hat!

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Photo: David J. Climenhaga

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