Monday, September 21, 2009

Preston Manning and the National Public Affairs Research Foundation

A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada

Though his father never really had a formal education, joining the Calgary Prophetic Bible School right out of high school, Preston did attend the University of Calgary. It was quite a culture shock after leading a sheltered life.

And what he found was that it was a different world. It was the 60's and people were breaking away from the social norms. So he would report to his father at the end of every day, not with the intent of changing his father's ways, but with the goal of making right-wing policies more palpable to a changing world, which he saw as veering toward Marxism.

"It was not simply that Social Credit was found ... to be wanting in areas of social policy - it was more that conservative ideas and Conservative government (as defined by Manning ideology) were being challenged by socialism. Left-wing thinking was influencing events and people ...""Manning fought the trend with enthusiasm - and paid for it with criticism in the campus press ... Preston Manning told the paper that free enterprise had to reform to continue it existence. The social reforms were to be .... the individual responsibility ... of every Canadian citizen ... "We (socreds) believe that Canada is drifting towards socialism even when the majority of Canadians are opposed to collectivism and the welfare state..." (1)

However, Canadians were not opposed to the welfare state, but were expecting our politicians to do more to help society at all levels. Naturally, the corporate world was nervous, especially since Tommy Douglas was becoming so popular and was promoting free health care.

And they saw in Ernest Manning, a believer in free-enterprise conservatism and approached him about establishing a new party. Social Credit had had it's day, and was losing steam.

According to original Socred MPP Alf Hooke:
On at least two occasions Mr. Manning told me in his office that he had been approached by several very influential and wealthy Canadians and that they wanted him to head up a party of the right with a view to preventing the onslaught of socialism these men could see developing in Canada. They had apparently indicated to him that money was no object and they were prepared to spend any amount of money to stop the socialistic tide ... Mr. Manning indicated to me also that he was working on a book which he would hope to publish ... in which he would endeavour to outline the views these men represented and recommendations he would make in keeping with their views. (2)
Hooke asked Manning who they were and was simply told that they were "wealthy and influential men", one of whom was R. A. "Bobbie" Brown, Jr."
Manning believed that a new party was not feasible. Instead, he supported a coalescing of right-wing forces into the Progressive Conservative Party. He would use his influence to spread that idea across the country. Confident of his personal power and the obvious need for such a movement, apparently he did not intend to take an active organizing role. He would provide the idea; others would have to respond to it. (2)
And he would do it with the help of his son Preston.
The task of formulating the new conservative philosophy fell to Preston Manning and the group of young Socreds around him. The cost of this project was borne by the "influential and powerful Canadians" who had approached Manning. They, under the leadership of R. A. Brown, Jr., president of Home Oil, established the National Public Affairs Research Foundation (NPARF) in 1965.(2)
So father and son created M and M Consulting and with the help of others, Preston produced for them "The White Paper".
... while working for one of Canada's first right-wing think-tanks, the National Public Research Foundation. The paper suggested a new political direction for Social Credit. "Human social problems were to be seen as akin to problems involving the physical world," wrote Manning in a near-parody of Enlightenment rationalism. Empowered with the lightning bolt of pure reason, government could "apply new and advanced techniques, initially conceived for industrial application, to the analysis of social problems." (3)
The idea was to allow private enterprise to administer social programs (for profit).

It occurred to me that this same Request for Proposals technique, under the guidance of government contracting agencies, might be used to link public and private resources to more down-to-earth objectives like improvements in regional development, health care, or educational services. It would also provide a mechanism for striking an appropriate division of labour between the public and private sectors in relation to particular tasks—a division of labour based not on ideology (only governments should do this, or only private enterprise should do that), but on the more practical criterion of "Who can do the best job in the most cost-effective way?"

After my father and I set up M and M Systems Research, I wrote a promotional booklet entitled "Requests for Proposals and Social Contracts:' We marketed the concept through the firm, and became involved in a number of interesting experiments involving the contracting of public and private resources to attain socio-economic objectives. These objectives included providing support and rehabilitation services to single transient men through a hostel operation in Calgary, operating a pioneer "home care" program for Halton County in Ontario, and involving native people in a bitumen trucking operation for Gulf Oil. (4)

The idea sounds good, but we know from experience that it doesn't work. Look at the mess of HMOs in the U.S. When social services depend on profit, the bottom line is always the priority. And when businesses establish themselves as "charities" it becomes like the old mining operations, with company stores, where the employees have few options.

National Public Affairs Research Foundation

The NPARF was an extremely secretive organization,

"... but it was known at the time that it included on its board of directors some very orthodox people: Cyrus McLean, chairman of the B.C. Telephone Co.; Renault St. Laurent, a lawyer and son of the former Prime Minister; R. J. Burns, a prominent Calgary lawyer; and A. M. Shoults, president of James Lovick Ltd. of Toronto.

Most of the board members were friends of Brown's and were not involved in the foundation at all. Two of the men, R. J. Burns and A. M. 'Scotty' Shoults, barely remember the foundation. Burns recalled, "I may have just been a front man, doing Bobbie Brown a favour. These other fellows were in the same situation as me, just called upon to sit on a board. They were never active participants."

The first major product of the NPARF was produced by Preston and several of the other young Socreds around him. It was called "The White Paper on Human Resources Development." Considered left-wing by many of the Social Credit faithful, it was intended to present a moderate image of the Social Credit to the public. But according to Finkel, it was vintage Ernest Manning.

"Manning's anti-collectivist orientation was now inelegantly phrased to be a commitment to integrating physical and 'human resource' development: 'to facilitate the harnessing of the economy based on the principles of freedom of economic activity ... achieving objectives stemming from humanitarian values ... based on the concept that the individual ... is the supremely important unit of consideration."

Accompanying this technocratic language, says Finkel, was a restated commitment to the government's long-standing opposition to universal social programs. It also quite likely reflected Preston Manning's background in physics and economics: "Human social problems were to be seen as akin to problems involving the physical world. The government wanted to 'apply new and advanced techniques, initially conceived for industrial application, to the analysis of social problems ...' " (5)

Don Sellar, then a reporter for the Calgary Herald, first revealed the existence of the NPARF in the summer of 1966. Almost a year later, on July 1, 1967, he wrote again on the organization:

"The NPARF ... has kept details of its studies under wraps while offering its services to any political organization that wants them." Sellar pointed out that Preston Manning and Owen Anderson, one of the young Socreds advising Manning on the white paper, were working full time for the organization, "operating out of a downtown Edmonton office building."

... The NPARF name is not even painted on their door and their office secretary contributes to the secrecy of their operation by answering the telephone ... 'Preston Manning's office ...' Few of its employees know about all the research documents being prepared in such places as Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and Edmonton because the work is being done in separate sections and assembled in Edmonton.

Mr. Anderson (working on a comprehensive national public policy for Canada) has been permitted to hire any number of people to carry out his work and now has about 19 researchers under him. Preston Manning, in writing his book, has travelled all over North America gathering information on technological change. Owen Anderson today laughs at the notion that he "had nineteen men under him" but acknowledges that he may have had that many researchers working on papers for him, as de facto director of the NPARF.

According to Sellar, now a senior editor with the Toronto Star, and who knew many of the people involved through his father, the secretiveness of the NPARF was simply a reflection of the fact that its backers and founders were men who shunned publicity. "They didn't want people knowing that they were involved in this sort of thing." The "sort of thing" they were involved in was for the most part a right-wing think tank. While the institute did some policy papers for government it had a broader mandate as well, according to Owen Anderson:

This was our contribution to the debate of the day. We were saying that there was a need for more fundamental debate in this country. 'Here's some ideas — what do you think of this? We were trying to get people to come out and take a stand and discuss some of these issues ... We even contributed to the public debate. [We would hold public meetings] and people would come out talk and debate. We would circulate these papers — we'd give them to political leaders, people on the campus ... and to any business people we knew.(5)

Preston Manning continued to work for the National Public Affairs Research Foundation until the end of 1968.


1. Preston Manning and the Reform Party, By Murray Dobbin Goodread Biographies/Formac Publishing 1992 ISBN: 0-88780-161-7, pg. 24-25

2. Dobbin, 1992, Pg. 28-29

3. Slumming it at the Rodeo: The Cultural Roots of Canada's Right-Wing Revolution, Gordon Laird, 1998, Douglas & McIntyre, ISBN: 1-55054 627-9, pg. 53

4. The New Canada, By Preston Manning, 1992, MacMillan Canada, ISBN: 0-7715-9150-0, pg. 56

5. Dobbin, 1992, Pg. 30-34

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