When Human Starvation Fueled A New Canadian Political Reform

Reading Preston Manning’s memoir is rather humbling.

Manning always fascinated me as a person and politician. Who else in this country did what we did: bringing online a new grassroots national political party that became the official opposition (almost ruling party) of an entire country in an incredibly short time frame. This story is a story that school children will read about in history class some day. At least it should be.

I often forget about the great depression in Canada. It shaped Preston’s family and his upbringing. It shaped our nation. Was the force behind some very good and important social programs in Canada.

Today, we often think politics is trivial ideas, or dealing with semantics and the trivialities of a Justin Trudeau.

However, Politics and policies have, and still do form, transform, tamper or even destroy human lives. It’s not a game to avoid, nor a subject to shun, as the old proverb, “Never discuss religion or politics.”, advised. There certainly are competing ideologies.

However, let us never forget that simple, painful, and raw hunger, during the Great Depression in Canada, shaped our nations politics in many ways. We were hurting, and badly.

My grandfather (Alvin) used to talk about the great depression with me forty five years ago. And I have not heard the Great Depression stories since his passing (over thirty one years ago as of this writing).

Imagine, starvation, and western suicide rates actually drove a political reformation in Canada. This realization proved to be a very humbling reminder this morning.

“It was the Great Depression, and misery, starvation, financial ruin, despair, and suicide were affecting thousands of lives. In response to the raw need of the people around them and their search for social justice, my parents lives and home were infused with a panoramic sense of history and big ideas of economic and social reform, democratic processes, and populist politics. They looked for deliverance from the awful conditions that threatened to destroy their community. Mostly, they refused to accept the prevailing political notion of the traditional political establishment that there was nothing I’m to be done but Riding the Storm.”

– Preston Manning. Think Big: Adventures in Life and Democracy.

Gosh, I laughed a long time over this one this morning.

“As a boy, I would sometimes do my homework in a little anteroom off his office. I would leave the door ajar and listen as he talked with visitors. It was there that I got my first exposure to politics and government. My father had told me that if I listened closely I would hear the sound most familiar to the ears of an elected politician – the sound of the grinding of an axe.”

– Preston Manning. Think Big: Adventures in Life and Democracy

This was a time when Western Canada and Quebec separatism was a real concern to splitting Canada in three, and the split of the conservative vote handed the countries leadership to Liberal rule for a decade.

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