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Ernest Preston Manning was born in Edmonton, Alberta on June 10, 1942 to Alberta premier Ernest Manning and his wife Muriel (nee Preston) Manning. After graduating from the University of Alberta with an honours degree in Economics in 1964, Manning ran unsuccessfully as a Social Credit candidate in the 1965 federal election. He then joined the National Public Affairs Research Foundation, a conservative think tank, and was involved in the Social Conservative Party and the Movement for National Political Change. During 1966-67, he researched his father's book, "Political Realignment" and, with his father, co-wrote the White Paper on Human Resource Development for the Social Credit government in Alberta. The White Paper led to the creation of the Department of Youth, a Human Resouces Council and the Alberta Service Corps.
In 1968 Ernest and Preston Manning established Manning Consultants Ltd., an Edmonton-based research and management consulting firm which specialized in long-range strategic planning for the energy sector, communications planning, native and community economic development, and federal-provincial relations research. The company remained in business until 1988 when Manning entered federal politics. In 1987 Preston Manning was a key organizer of the Western Assembly on Canada's Economic and Political Future held in Vancouver in May, which led to the formation of the Reform Party of Canada in November of that year in Winnipeg. Preston Manning was elected by party members as its leader during the founding assembly, a position he was to hold until 2000.
In the 1988 federal election, Reform was unsuccessful in winning even a single seat, but in 1993, the Party won 22 of 26 seats in Alberta, and 24 of 30 in British Columbia: an overwhelming success for a new political party. Manning was elected Member of Parliament for the Calgary South West constituency, the riding he represented until his retirement from politics. In the 1997 federal election, only 10 years after the founding of the Party, Reform won 60 seats and became the Official Opposition. In early 2000, successive Liberal election victories led Manning and Reform to dissolve the Party and to form the Canadian Alliance Party in what proved to be an unsuccessful attempt to unite supporters of the political right wing in Canada. In July of that year, Preston Manning lost his bid for the leadership of the new Party to Stockwell Day. Manning retired from federal politics at the beginning of 2002.
After his retirement from politics Preston Manning became a Senior Fellow of the Fraser Institute, a Canadian economic think tank, and Arthur J.E. Child Fellow of the Canada West Foundation, an independent, non-partisan public policy research institute dedicated to introducing Western perspectives into current Canadian public policy debates. Manning was also a Distinguished Visitor in Canadian Public Policy at the University of Calgary and a Dean's Distinguished Visitor in Political Science and Canadian Studies at the University of Toronto.
Preston Manning has written numerous books, including "The New Canada" (1992) and "Think Big: My Adventures in Life and Democracy" (2002). He married Sandra Beavis in 1967. They have five children.