Conservative values 'attractive' to young Canadians, say Manning conference panelists

Conservative values 'attractive' to young Canadians, say Manning conference panelists

Panelists at this year’s Manning Networking Conference believe that conservative values are true to what young Canadians want from their country and say rising numbers of youth flocking to right-wing events is proof of that.

The annual Manning conference, which takes place this weekend and has been dubbed the “Woodstock” of events for “small-c” conservatives and “big-C” Conservatives, is boasting more young delegates than ever before, with 200 registered as of Thursday and more expected as the conference gets underway. A spokesperson says last year’s conference drew 140.

Aaron Gunn works for the Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation in Victoria, B.C. and describes himself as a non-partisan, ‘small-c’ conservative, who believes in fiscal responsibility and small government.

He will be one of five speakers at a lunchtime panel on Friday discussing the next generation of conservatism and how young people can find employment within the conservative movement.

Gunn is in charge of the CTF’s “Generation Screwed” youth campaign, which aims to mobilize young Canadians who “see this country heading for a fiscal cliff and want to set off alarm bells” and who are worried about the “expanding…size of government,” according to the campaign’s website.

The CTF initially set out to get the campaign on 20 university campuses across the country, but in under two years they’ve already reached 26 campuses, with hundreds of students attending their events and thousands participating via social media.

This experience, Gunn said, “shows our ideas can (be) and are attractive to young Canadians.”

Gunn has attended the Manning conference in the past, which he said serves as a great way to meet new people, exchange ideas and be challenged in the exchange of those ideas.

He told Yahoo Canada News that it makes sense many young Canadians and students may be inclined to “favour larger government solutions”— in a sense, to lean left on the political spectrum — because they’re more likely to pay less in taxes and reap more benefits from government services.

But, he noted, the next generation of conservatives, “or any political persuasion for that matter, will be defined by the evolution of the country and the issues and challenges it faces in the future.” Mainly, he said, young Canadians will be focused on fiscal and economic issues.

Leigh Bursey agrees that financial issues are what young Canadians, of all stripes, are focused on. Bursey will be speaking on the same panel as Gunn and is himself a politician. He was elected to city council in Brockville, Ont., in 2010 at the age of 23 and re-elected last year.

He says he doesn’t identify as a young conservative or progressive or liberal, but rather as a “young Canadian” and as a “political chameleon.” He’s trumpeted left-wing issues in a city he describes as conservative, and admitted that it can’t be helped that those values have rubbed off on him.

Bursey believes Canadian values are conservative values, in the sense that everyone — all political parties as well as in popular sentiment — puts a lot of weight into being fiscally responsible.

“One thing I know from someone who’s passionate about certain issues but still sees the common sense in others, you cannot, absolutely, fundamentally, go in with a closed mind. And there are definitely good ideas from every side, from every table,” Bursey told Yahoo Canada News.

Gunn and Bursey’s panel discussion takes place Friday at lunchtime, and will also feature Alanna Newman representing Toronto Conservatives, federal Conservative party’s national council member Marc-Olivier Fortin and former Sun News reporter Paige MacPherson.