Preston Manning and the Reform Party


230 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55028-357-X
DDC 324.271'0983




Reviewed by Eric P. Mintz

Eric P. Mintz is an associate professor of political science at the
Memorial University of Newfoundland.


It is unusual for a new political party to develop a membership base
rivalling that of long-established parties and to gain the apparent
support of a significant proportion of the electorate in its first years
of existence. Dobbin, a Saskatchewan-based journalist, provides a
critical examination of this new party which has the potential to
profoundly change Canadian politics.

The Reform Party has capitalized on the exceptional unpopularity of the
Mulroney government and the general negativity of Canadians towards
politicians and political parties by portraying itself as a populist
party with an honest leader. But, Dobbin argues, the Reform Party and
its leader are not what they claim to be. Instead of a populist party
beyond traditional ideological categories, Dobbin finds that Manning and
his party have a strong and consistent laissez-faire conservative
ideological orientation. The party’s advocacy of greater democracy is
contradicted by the domination of the party by its leader and his
hand-picked advisors. And Manning’s image of being an honest
nonpolitician is belied by his skillful efforts to manipulate his party
and the public.

Dobbin, whose research was funded by the Douglas-Coldwell Foundation,
views the Reform Party unsympathetically from a leftist perspective. But
although Dobbin may be somewhat unfair in connecting the Reform Party to
extreme right-wing organizations, it is not unreasonable to view the
Reform Party as “Tories in a hurry.” On matters other than the
Constitution, the Mulroney government has moved the country in the
direction that the Reform Party favors, but without the speed,
consistency, or explicitness that those on the right would like.

This stimulating and informative book is recommended for all
Canadians—particularly those who have been thinking of supporting the
Reform Party. More depth might have been added by comparing the Reform
Party to similar parties and movements that have arisen elsewhere in
recent years, and by exploring the potential significance of Manning’s
evangelical fundamentalism and its possible contradictions with an
individualistic free-enterprise ideology.


Dobbin, Murray., “Preston Manning and the Reform Party,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 23, 2024,