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Stick together, former Reform leader Manning tells BC conservatives

The former party leader who once gave Canadian voters a right-wing alternative to the Progressive Conservative Party, today criticized the British Columbia Conservative Party for opposing the B.C. Liberal Party.

"I know all those folks and I have a long association with John Cummins," Manning said of the B.C. Conservatives and their leader, who he said he respects, particularly on fisheries issues.

"I disagree with John on the tack that he's on," he said. "I think in British Columbia he'd be better to work within this broader coalition represented by the Liberal Party."

In the 1990s Manning led the upstart Reform Party that competed for votes with the Progressive Conservatives. Reform and its successors were often accused of splitting the right-wing vote, until the parties coalesced into the Conservative Party.

Stephen Harper, now prime minister, was first elected as a Reform member of parliament.

Asked how the situation for the BC Conservatives is different from what Reform did, Manning said, "Federally there was three parties and the two major ones were the Conservatives and the Liberals, not the NDP. That's quite a different situation."

He added, "In British Columbia historically, British Columbia got into polarization politics . . . The danger of polarization politics is ultimately you end up electing the very opposite of what you are."

On May 2, 2011, when the Conservatives formed a majority Canadian government, it was with the Jack Layton led NDP as official opposition.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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