Preston Manning Takes a Swipe at MP's Science Illiteracy

Preston ManningThis for Canadian political policy wonks:

In an opinion piece in yesterday's Globe and Mail, the conservative elder statesman Preston Manning took a not-very subtle shot at the degree to which new Members of Parliament in Canada are prepared for their duties.

Manning says:

“There are an increasing number of public issues - from climate change to the demands of the knowledge economy, from the biotech revolution to coping with AIDS and the H5N1 virus - the understanding and resolution of which require a comprehension of basic science and an ability to critically assess scientific opinion. 

In addition to formal training, these skills can be developed by visiting reputable science websites, reading science literature, attending science lectures for general audiences, cultivating scientific acquaintances, visiting science projects and laboratories, urging one’s party to develop in-depth policy positions with respect to science, technology and innovation, and participating in that development. The time to do all this is before, not after, seeking nomination for public office.”

For those out of the loop, Manning is a social conservative who energized a Western Canadian conservative movement called the Reform party. Current Prime Minister Stephen Harper served on the Opposition benches with Manning, but stomped off to work as a lobbyist for the libertarian National Citizens Coalition. There, Harper spent a fair amount of time hurling insults at Manning, criticizing his leadership and his style. It now appears that Manning is returning the favour, though in a much more polite fashion.

Although this is not climate related, Manning also had a swipe at Harper's dearth of knowledge on international affairs, a file that has challenged his still-new Conservative administration. Manning wrote:

“Most members of Parliament are well acquainted with local issues in their ridings and were elected in campaigns dominated by national issues addressed by their leaders. 

But this does not equip them to deal with international issues and foreign policy demands.  Once again, aspirants to Parliament need to take more initiative on their own to develop a foreign policy background - in addition to formal training, by reading more diligently in this field, cultivating contacts and mentoring relationships with people having international experience, travelling abroad for more than tourist reasons, urging their parties to give a much higher priority to foreign policy development, and participating fully in that development.

And, once again, the time to do all this is before seeking nomination for public office.”

Or, say, before becoming the Prime Minister.