For the second year in a row, Andrew Coyne was underwhelmed by the Manning Conference. It used to be, he writes, the home of the Conservative Party in exile:
It was the place where Conservatives, starved for talk about ideas by a leadership that long ago declared its contempt, not just for ideas, but even for the idea of ideas, mingled with conservatives, the broader movement outside the party, and recalled a time when it was still permissible to think that governments are elected to change things, not just to perpetuate themselves in power; that elections are opportunities to win a broad mandate from the public, not to dangle a few precisely crafted baubles of nonsense in front of the right micro-demographics; that governing is something done openly and through Parliament, not secretly and by any means at hand; and all the rest of what we have been educated, after these many years of misrule, not to expect.
But just as Harperism has seeped into the press, the military and the civil service, it has now firmly entrenched itself in what masquerades as a serious event:
The more open the conflict between what conservatives are supposed to believe and what the Conservatives have tended to produce, the more it has been resolved in favour of the party. As late as last year, when the party was at its lowest point in the polls, there was still a useful tension in the air, the odd veiled suggestion that the Conservatives had lost their way. But this is an election year, and the party is back in contention, and so this year’s conference has thus far broadly favoured politics over ideas, discretion over debate.
Conservatives have drunk the Harper Kool-Aide. Now the lust for power tramples everything and everyone in its path. Like the hollow man who heads Canada's Conservative government, it appears that the movers and shakers at the Manning Conference have "headpieces filled with straw."