I’m at the Conservative convention here in Ottawa taking in the sights. Many have described the event as a victory party with 2500 of the party faithful, however a few policy and party constitutional proposals are under discussion. This morning, contentious motions on a proposed youth wing, Scott Reid’s riding weighting alternative for leadership elections and resolutionsnon euthanasia and high treason. Reid’s motion will be debated at plenary, the youth wing went down in a major defeat (only 14 votes for), the high treason and pro-euthenasia motions motions also advanced.

I’m currently taking in a “fringe” meeting (side meeting) of the convention that the Manning Centre is hosting at the Chateau Laurier. Under discussion is social policy. For example, Manning Centre fellow Nick Gafuik led a discussion about poverty alleviation through strengthening means of wealth creation rather than wealth redistribution. Further, charities and local organizations must be allowed wherever possible to provide social services in our communities. Gafuik set the markers for a discussion on a social X-prize to innovate the advancement of society and social services, the increase of “charity intelligence”, the creation of social impact bonds. Tools of wealth creation include property rights and access to information infrastructure.

Andrea Mrozek from the Institute for Marriage and Family discussed the role of family breakdown in societal instability. Suggested that charities can only go so far to address this. So how are families strengthened? First, government should not regulate intimate and personal relationships, says Mrozek. Instead, marriage preparation and marriage education (prior to crises). High public and private cost to the breakdown of marriage. Suggestion that focus on female well-being by society has caused unintended side-effect of neglecting the socialization and well-being of males. Mrozek calls upon the government to differentiate concepts in law of living common law and marriage. Law should encourage repair of marriages rather than facilitate divorce and separation (for non-abusive relationships). Family income splitting allows the recognition of the family as an economic unit according to IMFC. The average family tax burden in 2010 was 41% of income. The government would do well to increase financial literacy for families, to front-load child benefit payments and to allow extended family to care for children. Over 80% of families polled by IMFC found that they would prefer if one parent could stay at home to care for the children.

Monte Solberg also addressed the Manning Centre attendees. He started by outlining his experiences as Minister of HRSDC. Annual budget for his department was $90 Billion. Governments are good at making broad easy strokes but there is a role for civil society to fill in the gaps, Solberg suggests. Solberg says we need leadership from the bully pulpit (pm and ministers), appeal to those not interested in social policy that there is a financial cost to a poorly managed social policy by the government, most importantly we must begin discussion like the Manning Centre is doing today.

Candice Hoepper who is a recently re-elected conservative MP and addressed the attendees about her committee work on poverty reduction. Hoeppner spoke for the need for volunteerism, also spoke about replicating success stories where poverty alleviation was accomplished by the community.

Manning spoke about the politics of going to individuals and asking for their own personal platform for personal advancement. Our Canadian society cannot change overnight because the muscles of society — that would be in place to address issues in place of the government — have atrophied. Big challenge is to figure out how to address this problem in order to move forward on reforming how communities deal with social issues.