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A Trump North revolution? Not so much

Despite a ‘Down With The Elites?’ panel, a keynote, and stray hats, Kady O’Malley can’t see much proof of Trumpism at Canada’s right-wing convention


 
Alex Walsh, right, and Matt Atkins wear Make America Great Again hats as they attend the Manning Centre conference on Friday, Feb. 24, 2017 in Ottawa. (Justin Tang/CP)

Alex Walsh, right, and Matt Atkins wear Make America Great Again hats as they attend the Manning Centre conference on Friday, Feb. 24, 2017 in Ottawa. (Justin Tang/CP)

Kady O’Malley is joining Maclean’s to cover the Manning Conference, hosted by Canada’s leading think tank for the right. She’ll be filing frequently over the course of the two-day conference—keep track at her Manning Manifests page, here. Watch the broadcast live all weekend here.

So, here’s the thing about ManningFest—like most (all?) conferences, while officially, it’s all about the panel sessions, it’s really all about the mixing and mingling in the hallways and between the exhibit booths, which is why I’ve been so incredibly delinquent in posting updates: Every time I try to hole up in a quiet corner to write up my thoughts, I get caught up in the conversation.

With a few minutes to go before the debate gets underway, however, here are a few scattered thoughts and impressions on the day so far.

For all the wringing of hands and thinkpiecing over the ostensible populist-to-alt-right lean in this year’s programme, by far the most common reaction from delegates when asked about what it might say about the state of the C/conservative movement is a polite but emphatic sigh-and-an-eyeroll over how much fuss is being made about a Doug Ford-helmed “Down With the Elites?” panel that didn’t even manage to fill the main hall.

MORE: John Geddes’s Q&A with Preston Manning

That’s not to say that the whole phenomenon is simply the creation of a Trump-fixated media: there were attendees in the audience, listening raptly as the speakers delved into almost pornographic detail on the threat posed to civilization as we know it. But it definitely doesn’t seem to have much in the way of momentum outside the already convinced, and there’s definitely a sense of quiet horror at the thought of such sentiments becoming mainstream.

That is, unless I’m hanging around the wrong corridors, which is always a possibility.

As for the potential Trumpening of Canadian politics, while there was definitely enthusiasm for such a development emanating from the front of the room, courtesy of various panelists—Trump speechwriter Frank Buckley, for one, who told the audience that not only could it come to Canada, but is actually already here, and pretty much the entire “Down With The Elites?” gang, as far as I could tell from my brief pop-in at the session.

MORE: Trump could happen in Canada—it’s already begun

But with the exception of the two young men sporting Trump red hats, “blue lives matters” shirts and doing interviews with every passing camera, I just didn’t get a sense that Manning-ites are hoping to bring about a similar era up here.


 

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