Saturday, September 26, 2009

Faith Feud of Ernest Manning and Tommy Douglas

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

"The will of the people is bound to come into conflict with the will of God" Ernest Manning

Ernest Manning's parents belonged to the United Church and were never particularly pious. (1) But as a young man, he began listening to William Aberhart's radio Bible program, and convinced his parents to allow him to register at the Calgary Prophetic Bible Institute, becoming their first graduate.

Aberhart's brand of Christianity was of the most radical fundamentalism, bordering on the occult. Manning himself, ascribed to much of this, but when he took over the radio broadcasts, he had moderated somewhat, though was still clearly a fundamentalist. He told his audiences that every aspect of their lives could be found in the scriptures and as such they should allow themselves to be directed by the "word of God".

He believed in the infallibility of the Bible at a time when the Social Gospel was becoming more popular. Tommy Douglas, then Premier of Saskatchewan, belonged to the latter group:

These competing tendencies can be personified in Tommy Douglas and Ernest Manning, two preachers who became premiers. Douglas was a Baptist pastor in Weyburn, Saskatchewan and responded to the Great Depression by becoming involved with the Farm-Labour Party and later the Cooperative Commonwealth
Federation (CCF). ...

... Throughout his years as premier, Manning continued to appear as a lay preacher on the religious radio program that he had inherited from Aberhart. On occasion Manning recruited his son Preston to stand in for him on the show. Ernest Manning ruled Alberta from the right, particularly after the discovery of oil ... He grudgingly introduced welfare measures such as building homes for the aged, but believed none of that would be necessary if people in society were shouldering their Christian duties to care for one another.

In Saskatchewan, Douglas ruled from the left and his party introduced North America’s first state medical care insurance program in 1962. When Ottawa proposed Medicare for all Canadian provinces later in the decade, Manning was opposed. (2)

Ernest Manning's greatest fear was the spread of socialism:

"Throughout his political career, Ernest Manning was motivated by religion, and more specifically, by anti-Socialism: 'Socialism, to Manning, is a system which largely prevents the individual from attaining the state of grace and hence salvation ... Giving to the individual societal benefits such as free medical care ... breeds idleness... causing a break down in his relationship with God'. "Manning argued that 'where the state imposed a monopoly on a service ... the sinful philosophy of state collectivism scored a victory'. ((3)/em>
What I found the most compelling about Ernest Manning was how serious he was. Comedian and talk show host, Percy Saltzman, interviewed him once and had this to say:
Ernest Manning, Social Credit Premier of Alberta, I remember as the coldest fish I ever did tangle with. Ice water in his veins, I swear. Probably due to the notoriously deep-rooted streak of anti-Semitism among the Mormonic Socreds (pace Aberhart and his goys) (4)

I don't think his faith was making him happy and certainly was not cheering up those around him. The following is a brief interview, and I can see what Saltzman meant.

Some of this rubbed off on his son Preston. As a member of the youth wing of the Social Credit Party; he once stated: "We (socreds) believe that Canada is drifting towards socialism even when the majority of Canadians are opposed to collectivism and the welfare state..." (5)

1. Like Father, Like Son: Ernest Manning and Preston Manning, By Lloyd Mackey, ECW Press, 1997, ISBN: 1-55022-299-6

2. Citizenship as ministry: Religious progressives, By Dennis Gruending, Pulpit and Politics, February 8, 2009

3. Preston Manning and the Reform Party, by Murray Dobbin, Goodread Biographies/Formac Publishing, 1992, ISBN: 0-88780-161-7, pg. 9

4. PREMIERS, PRIME MINISTERS, COLOSTOMIES & ME OR ... Life in that Sandbox on the Hill, Percy Saltzman, 2006

5. Dobbin, 1992, Pg. 24-25

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