Ed Broadbent is about to take on Preston Manning.
In September, the former NDP leader launches his think tank – the Broadbent Institute – aimed at developing socially progressive policies, training future municipal, provincial and federal politicians and even teaching political staffers how to move forward on a socially progressive agenda.
Mr. Broadbent's organization will be the counterpoint to the Manning Centre for Building Democracy, a right-wing institute created by the former Reform Party leader. "It's an amazing development in the advancement of our movement and in our preparations to form government," the Opposition Leader's chief of staff Anne McGrath said last week.
Mr. Manning's centre, which conducts courses for potential politicians and staffers and organizes an annual right-wing networking conference, has been operating since 2005. Mr. Broadbent only announced in June at the NDP's 50th anniversary convention in Vancouver that he was about to launch this.
Apparently, the idea was cooking on the 75-year-old former politician's backburner for a long time and finally he decided the timing was right, given the NDP's breakthrough to Official Opposition status in the May 2 election. (There has been some suggestion the Liberals try to launch a centrist think tank, too.)
Late last week, Mr. Broadbent took another step in hiring Kathleen Monk, 37, the director of strategic communications in Jack Layton's office, as his executive director. The former journalist joined the NDP Leader's team in 2006.
"It's just Ed and me," Ms. Monk noted in an interview Monday, adding that they have seed money to start up the think tank but will be mounting a fundraising effort to run it.
"We will be relying on soliciting funds from the outside world," she said. The types of donors she has in mind are "people who are friendly to the idea of creating more progressive policies in Canada" plus "businesses and others who want to get involved in building a stronger and more progressive Canada."
Ms. Monk said the Manning Centre had raised about $10-million from wealthy Albertans to start up. "Obviously we have a lot to compete with. Mr. Manning had many contacts in the West."
She and Mr. Broadbent will be trying to do the same in building their base (though obviously they won't be able to rely on oil patch money).
Ms. Monk's move from the Opposition Leader's Office to running the institute was based partly on wanting a new challenge but also on taking a slight step back to focus on her two young boys, 4 and 1.
The new job, she hopes, will give her and her husband more flexibility in controlling her working life after an intense political year that began with Mr. Layton's health challenges and culminated in the election.
It's all about trying to find balance these days.