If the format for the opening of yesterday’s Manning Centre Conference was about finding common ground, the afternoon was about understanding audience and being true to core political values.

I tweeted a fair bit about the 2013 Manning Barometer which identified the pulse of Canada’s Conservative movement. Among the key points were the following:

  • 2% of Canadians believe government is adequately prepared to handle issues related to healthcare, 5% on energy.
  • Canadians believe healthcare, environment and poverty are the issues most neglected by government.
  • There’s a re-trenching of Conservative support with strength growing in the mid-west and shrinking in Ontario.
  • Conservative research shows the Liberal brand is incredibly resilient.
  • In 2012, the federal Conservative brand enjoyed solid identification around a perceived focus on fiscal responsibility. In 2013, the Conservative brand is unclear and unfocused with a veritable stew of issues which are widely dispersed.

There’s good news for Canadian politicians, though. The number of Canadians with a good perception of politicians doubled in the last year. That’s right, 2% of Canadians now.

Tipping points in political history

It was the Conservatism in the U.S. panel that tipped into a more adversarial discussion (certainly among the sessions I attended). It felt a bit more like a pep rally with Hollywood filmmaker and conservative blogger Bill Whittle offering the most energized performance. He praised Canada for burning down the White House in 1812 and asked if we would do the same favour, again.

Mr. Whittle also praised the Democrats for using tools already adopted by the public to great effect during the election while Mitt Romney’s campaign built ORCA, a tool which was and proved too be a single point of failure. It was as though, Mr. Whittle said of the Democrats, “they take politics seriously.”

I caught up with Mr. Whittle after the panel. The attached audio podcast is an excerpt of our conversation.

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