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ing benefit to the political fabric of a suitably educated political class. The involvement of Manning – the mere mention of Manning – was enough to raise the hackles of those who see him, not as an elder statesman of Canadian politics, but still as an architect of the organized right. The most direct expression of this skepticism came


from Ish Theilheimer, publisher of www.straightgoods. ca, a socially progressive news and commentary site that regularly features the work of some of the leading voices on the Canadian left, including Linda McQuaig, Gerald Caplan and David Suzuki. Perfectly politely (and in a cer- tain light perfectly understandably) Mr. Theilheimer posed a number of questions to the university about the degree. Specifically, he wanted to know:


1. Why would a public university offer a program that appears to be a training ground for right-wing political professionals?


2. Preston Manning has talked about building the pro- fessional infrastructure for the conservative movement, and the Manning Centre for Building Democracy, which originally proposed this Program, is a very pub- lic manifestation of that strategy. How can the new pro- gram be doing otherwise, given that those involved in the staffing and management of it have such deep right- wing roots?


3. I understand the program has a curriculum design committee intended to be nonpartisan. How credible is this, especially given the lead role given to André Tur- cotte, a close confidante of Manning’s and a principal at the Manning Centre?


4. Why would an Alberta oil tycoon, the 36th wealthi- est person in Canada and a major Conservative Party donor, get involved in setting up such a program and make the largest-ever single gift to Carleton University without expectations of political benefit?


We were of course happy to answer Mr. Theilheimer’s


queries. In digest form, I reproduce those answers here and hope they will assure readers that the proposed degree will in no way serve the interests of only one waveband on the political spectrum. It is true the Manning Centre offers short courses in


political craft and skills, and that these courses are typically taken by those in the organized conservative movement. But that is altogether different from what we propose at Carleton. First of all, the Carleton degree will not be a hurried


briefing over a weekend in a hotel meeting room. It will be a sustained and intensive course of studies, delivered over 10 months, and informed by an academic understanding and critique of current political process and practice.


Second, the Carleton degree will certainly drill its stu-


dents in politik, but not so as to confer an advantage on the members of one partisan camp. Rather, the very idea for the degree comes from a multi-partisan exasperation with an element of the existing political system. The (mainly) young people who staff political offices, wheth- er in government or opposition, currently don’t know enough about their responsibilities when they walk into their jobs. And mistakes made in the upper reaches of politics can be damaging to more than the person who made the mistake or the politician or party the staffer serves. They can be damaging to the people the politi- cian serves – the public. So, the idea with the Carleton degree is to mount a


small, high-quality program that will provide its students with a rigorous professional formation so that they will be sought after by different political parties and organizations, and go on to leadership and senior roles in the various corridors of political contest in Canada. From the outset, the motivation has been to improve the political culture of the country.


Given that we (at Carleton) only pursued the prospect of this degree because of an approach by Preston Manning, and given that Preston Manning is vividly identified with the political right, it is certainly legitimate to ask whether this is not an effort to advance conservative interests. But if it were, that would mean that the university has some- how been hoodwinked into mounting a program that is nothing more than an imprimatur for young Machiavel- lians of one persuasion. Even if it were true – which it most certainly is not – this would become evident im- mediately. The credential of the degree would be scandal- ously, irretrievably worthless. The university’s reputation would be severely compromised – and apart from the best interests of its students, there is nothing more precious to a university than its reputation. In this instance Preston Manning has no ulterior or clandestine motive. He is genuinely committed to im- proving the political process because he knows what comes of inadequately educated political staff. And he’s not the only seasoned politician who wishes there were a reputable graduate degree program that would cultivate skills and judgment on the part of the staff on whom poli- ticians rely.


December 2010 | Campaigns & Elections 13


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