Stories arising from the Manning Networking Conference

In early March, I attended parts of the annual Manning Networking Conference that gathers the conservative movement in Ottawa every year.

I filed three stories out of this, all of which I found interesting to do, all of which are up now at B.C. Catholic.

Here’s the story on Acton Institute co-founder Fr. Robert Sirico’s talk Mar. 7

North America is at a “perilous point in history,” if it loses a sense of shared moral consensus, Father Robert Sirico warned a plenary session of the Manning Networking Conference March 7.

The co-founder of the Michigan-based Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty illustrated his point with an anecdote about a huge tree in front of the house belonging to a religious community he was living with that sported dead leaves, with some new growth near the tree’s crown.

In the plenary session sponsored by Cardus, a Canadian think tank often nicknamed “Acton North,” Father Sirico said he called a tree doctor who told him the tree was dead and should be taken down or it could blow over onto the house during the next storm. Father Sirico asked how the tree could be dead if there were still leaves growing.

The arborist explained the new growth was “just an illusion.” The tree’s roots were dead, but there was still enough sap in the trunk to support the new growth, the Catholic priest said.

“The question before us is a question of roots,” Father Sirico said. Those roots form the foundation for who we are, and form the basis of civil society.

“Are we simply living off the illusion of the past?” he asked, urging a return to the roots, to the “foundations of our society that is based on human dignity.”

I have long been a fan of the Acton Institute and it was great to meet Father Sirico in person.

Then this story on using conservative principles to tackle climate change.

Conservative ideas based on a realistic knowledge of human nature and free markets provide the most efficient solutions to climate change and other environmental problems.

That was the conclusion of a panel entitled Market-based Environmental Conservation March 6 at the annual Manning Networking Conference here March 5-7, drawing hundreds of right-of-centre conservatives.

“There’s much the conservative movement needs to do on the environment,” said the panel moderator Tim Kennedy, who is vice president of government and Aboriginal affairs for Spectra Energy, a pipeline company. “Conservatives can have the best, most efficient, and effective” ways of improving the environment using “market-based principles.”

Bob Inglis, a former Republican congressman from South Carolina and founder of the Energy and Enterprise Initiative, said conservatives “break out in hives when you talk about climate change and go into anaphylactic shock when you talk about solutions.” He admitted he was once opposed to doing anything about climate change. “All I knew was if Al Gore was for it, I was against it.”

He said he stopped being a climate-change denier when confronted with scientific evidence through a trip to Antarctica and to coral reefs in the Caribbean.

People on both the left and the right share sentiments regarding the protection of the environment, he said. But while the left might offer “pie in the sky” solutions that don’t work, conservatives can offer solutions that “understand human nature” and “free market solutions that work.”

There’s a lot more at the links.

And then, this panel on euthanasia, a hot topic in Canada, was also most interesting.  And of course, Margaret Somerville is a national treasure, though I think Australia might have a competing claim.

Speaking on a euthanasia panel March 7, Margaret Somerville urged Parliament to set up a Royal Commission to investigate the implications of the recent Supreme Court’s Carter decision.

The founding director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law said everyone she has spoken to has told her that it is “impossible to deal with this in “12 months, that is just not enough time “for the most important decision Parliament has ever made.” In Carter, Canada’s highest court struck down Criminal Code sections prohibiting assisted suicide, paving the way for Physician Assisted Death (PAD) that could include voluntary euthanasia.

The Court suspended its decision for 12 months from Feb. 6, to give Parliament time to craft a new law that would allow for PAD under certain circumstances.

Somerville called for the use of the notwithstanding clause to give the Royal Commission time to report or for Parliament to have the time to fully consider all the issues legalizing PAD raises. Invoking this Charter provision would suspend the court’s decision for five years. She acknowledged the use of the clause might not be politically popular.

“I would ask Parliament to stand up and have a backbone,” the founding director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law told hundreds of conservative movement movers and shakers at the Manning Networking Conference here March 5-7.


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