Manley calls for new approach to politics

Wayne Thibodeau
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John Manley, left, former deputy prime minister, joins Jim Palmer, for whom the Palmer Conference at UPEI is named, and conference co-chair Kevin Lynch.

A familiar face on Canada’s political scene is calling for a new approach to politics in this country.

Former deputy prime minister John Manley says the country needs to reverse the current poisonous trend and create a more positive dynamic within the political life of the country. He’s calling on all involved, including political parties, public servants and the media, to make that happen.

“Political parties play an important role in our democracies by providing voters with choice, but partisanship that cannot compromise, that demonizes adversaries and that relies on vicious ad hominem attacks degrades our democracy,” Manley said Thursday night during an address at the University of Prince Edward Island.

“Increasingly, smart, sensible people who should be thinking of fulfilling a public role, either elected or non-elected, choose not to subject themselves to the poisonous atmosphere of public life, partisan self-righteousness and ‘gotcha’ journalism.”

The remarks were made at the first annual Palmer Conference on Public Sector Leadership.

Taking place Thursday and today, the national conference brings together leaders from across the country to address what organizers feel are important issues in the public sector.

This year’s theme is “public servants and their relationship with politicians and the media.”

Manley, who served as minister of industry, foreign affairs and finance, also challenged the media to change the way it reports on politics — while poking a bit of fun at those in the fourth estate.

“When I talk with other ‘formers’ from the political world, not just in Canada but elsewhere as well — about that they miss and don’t miss from our past lives — we invariably agree that we do not miss the media,” he said.

“That said, many miss the opportunity to be seen and heard in the media.”

Turning serious, Manley said what is written and what is said through the media create perceptions that lead to judgments, adding that “nothing is more integral to our system of democratic government than the relationship among professional public servants, politicians and the media.”

Still, Manley said the proliferation of new media has brought many new voices to the arena, and the fragmentation of audiences is eviscerating profits and newsroom budgets.

“That squeeze on resources, together with the relentless speed with which new media blurt out their chaotic blend of fact and opinion, leaves mainstream reporters and editors without the luxury of

cross-checking sources and making sure they have

all the facts before they

publish or broadcast,” he said.

“Rather than people believing anything they hear, I suspect that they will soon believe nothing they hear . . . and I believe that ultimately, credibility remains the key to success in the media business.”

In a post-Gomery Ottawa, Manley said instead of having a culture of accountability, the country has created a culture of “name, blame and shame.”

“Thus, many public servants and politicians are fleeing risk, the very risks that are necessary to drive innovation and growth,” he said.

“And in seeking to avoid risk, they are, ironically, reinforcing the argument that government is indeed irrelevant.”

Organizations: University of Prince Edward Island

Geographic location: Canada, Ottawa

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Recent comments

  • Doug
    August 28, 2010 - 12:37

    The socialists are losing their grip on our wallets and losing the ability to stick their nose in other peoples business and they don't like it. The end is near they tell us . They fear independant thought. All I want, is to live in a free and productive society. Is that so wrong.

  • hollinm
    August 28, 2010 - 11:11

    It sounds like Manley minimized the responsibilty of the media in this farce called reporting the news. Most Canadians can't tell when a news item is just that. Most are laddled with adjectives and descriptions which clearly show which side that media outlet sits on any given story. You cannot separate fact from opinion and plain spin. Most Canadians are not interested in trying to decipher those nuances and so they ignore it. The opposition parties are not interested in what is in the best interest of the country. For the Liberals in particular it is all about getting back into power. They will say and do anything to achieve that end. The media cheers them on and ridicules the PM and his government every chance they get. There is no attempt at fair and balanced reporting. Recently stories appear about Harper's photo ops in the Arctic. Yet we have had the Liberal leader all summer playing for the cameras. Yet that seems to be quite alright. Of course the Liberals never have photo ops. Until we change the way politics is reported in this country and the media sees themselves as purveyors of fair and balanced news nothing is going change in the way politics works. If the MPs know they can say outrageous things and there is no challenge then it will continue with Canadians becoming more cynical and disengaged in the political process.

  • Ron
    August 27, 2010 - 21:25

    The Opposition parties have spent 4 years doing everything they can to destroy Parliament. While whining before the cameras about working together, they institute kangaroo courts at every opportunity to tear apart the fabric of democracy and use/abuse tax payers resources for purely political ends. The Canadian media has become nothing more than a mouth piece for what every left wing group says. The ethics and standards for our media have been reduced to attack journalism with no thought to facts or truth. When a Liberal like Manley is aware of their poor, partisan, unprofessional behaviour, you know they have really sunk to the bottom. Nothing will change as long as the media permit the Liberals to lie without being challanged and to allow the Opposition parties to abuse their positions to run partisan attacks with taxpayers money -- since the media are too lazy to actually do their job, I fear nothing will change - they will re-elect their Liberal friends and the theft of our money will resume --- voters need to educate themselves - the blogs are more accurate and a better source of news than the MSM.

  • motor
    August 27, 2010 - 20:42

    you harper supporters are freaks.

  • motor
    August 27, 2010 - 20:41

    journalists just repeat what people say......they should try a little investigation to ensure they are reporting the truth.

  • motor
    August 27, 2010 - 20:38

    John Manley will taint his research in favor of the highest bidder. He has no morals and should never be interviewed again.

  • anonlinereader
    August 27, 2010 - 16:40

    " Liberals might ask themselves why Manley left them ......... " Mr. Manley was promoted to the private sector where he rose to the top of the political system . As head of the Council of CEOs our P.M. reports to him .

    • Dukeboy
      August 27, 2010 - 22:11

      Manley should remember how he sold out Canada's internet conditions for a seat in the corporate world in the 1990's.

    • Jacob Rempel
      August 28, 2010 - 21:54

      Right On !

    August 27, 2010 - 15:47

    Liberals of the current ilk might want to ask themselves why Manley left them to their current fate...

  • Alumnus
    August 27, 2010 - 11:53

    John Manley was at UPEI?! Could we not get a picture of him with Dr. Ian Dowbiggin? It's like how Bruce Wayne and Batman are never around at the same time. hmmmmm......

  • Matty
    August 27, 2010 - 11:35

    I am happy to live in a country where we have a free press. I only wish bureaucrats and those who work in government would feel more comfortable coming forward to the media when they need to speak out. Think it's bad in Ottawa, there isn't a single gov't employee in P.E.I. who would come out to say anything against the gov't because they know the 5th floor is watching, taking notes, and looking for opportunities to hire Liberals.

  • Shotgun Willie
    August 27, 2010 - 10:13

    The code of the journalist used to be to ask and report on the 5 questions - what, when, where, why and how. When they set themselves up as a partisan non-official opposition or as propaganda machines for the ruling parties they do a disservice to what was once an honourable profession. That is the case today and the prime offender is the CBC which draws $1 billion dollars a year from the public purse. It above all should be the most non-partisan since its funding comes from taxpayers of all political persuasions. This does not exempt other media most of whom have descended into the depths of 'Gotcha' journalism, thus losing all credibility with the public - hence the problems with their bottom line. Many of these folks now fear the entry of 'Fox North' into the market place. Yet as a consumer of the product, I see it as a balancing of the scales and the opportunity to get both sides of the story. A privilege I am rarely offered by the existing media, who merely give me a POV based on their particular biases.