Brian Mulroney | Prime Minister of Canada

Brian Mulroney (born 1939) revolutionized Canadian politics, leading his Conservative party to its first successive election victories (1984, 1988) since early in the 20th century and breaking the Liberal stranglehold on the state of Quebec. As prime minister of Canada, he was responsible for a significant Canada-U.S. free trade agreement and also for sweeping proposals to change the national constitution.

Martin Brian Mulroney was born March 20, 1939, at Baie Comeau, Quebec, a city created by Colonel Robert McCormick of the Chicago Tribune to provide his newspapers with newsprint. Mulroney’s dad, Ben an electrician and after a foreman at the McCormick paper mill, was among the city’s pioneers in the 1930s. Ben Mulroney and his wife, Irene, were descended from Irish immigrants to Canada. Brian was the eldest son of their six children as well as the next child born. Ben had big dreams for his family, and Brian had all of his dad’s driveway, ambition, determination, and intense loyalty to family and friends.

Receiving his schooling at Catholic schools in Baie Comeau before the tenth grade, Mulroney then left home to attend St. Thomas High School in Chatham, New Brunswick. Mulroney was a fantastic pupil and talented athlete. He had a gift for singing as well, and has been often asked by Robert McCormick to perform at the company’s social affairs. From there, at age 16, he moved farther east to St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. He had been an active member of the party both on the campus and in the national student degree. In 1956, he volunteered to help in the successful provincial effort of Robert Stanfield, the conservative Nova Scotia premier who finally replaced John Diefenbaker as Canada’s national leader. Mulroney was only 17 at the moment, but made quite an impact on the elderly campaign employees for Stanfield. Said Finlay MacDonald at Maclean’s,”One word described my first opinion of Brian Mulroney–irrepressible. He was enthusiastic, magical and dogged–a doggedness he could always back up with functionality. If you told him, as an instance, to tie a pink ribbon to a dog’s tail, then it had been tied–and in the right spot.” Mulroney was soon given such obligations as making speeches and writing radio commercials, duties not typically assigned to teenagers. If asked why he became a Tory, he recalled that the other party, the Liberals, were just no fun. They took themselves too seriously. Even as a child, recalled a boyhood friend, Wilbur Touchie, Mulroney had political aspirations, always saying he wished to be a Prime Minister daily. He was well on his way.

In 1964 he went to work at Montreal’s largest law firm, specializing in labour matters. Still very thin (his nickname was”Bones”), eager to please, clearly capable of bringing people together, he had been rapidly well-connected in Quebec business and political circles. Mulroney was becoming one of the key Conservative political organizers and fund-raisers from the state. He had been on the rise.

Mulroney also served as the vice-chair of”Youth for Dief” at Diefenbaker’s 1956 campaign. When Diefenbaker won the Prime Minister spot in 1957, both stayed in touch, with Diefenbaker calling and seeing Mulroney on campus. Students who were not sure whether to believe the relationship between the two was indeed true, changed their minds quickly when Diefenbaker was seen eating lunch together with Mulroney from the cafeteria.

Mulroney always believed in the value and strength of friendships, possibly as a result of the alliance with Diefenbaker, relying upon them for support. He maintained his connections out of St. Francis Xavier and enlarged his circle of connections once he reached Laval. Many of the people he met along his political travel were rewarded with positions in his administration when he reached power.

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Continuing to build friendships and affect people, Mulroney’s operation with Montreal’s Howard Cate Ogilvy law firm steered him to the labour lawyer spotlight; and it was where his affinity for late-night deal-making began to put the groundwork for his future political career. After combating imposing cases in 1966, Mulroney was getting discovered by political leaders who desired to work with him.

First Try for Party Leadership

The 1970s brought public attention. Mulroney was a tough-minded and articulate member of the Cliche Commission on corruption and violence in the construction industry in 1974-1975. In 1976, building on this experience, he announced for the vacant leadership of the national Conservative party. It was too soon. His conscious attempts to mimic the appeal and oratory of fellow Irishman John F. Kennedy dropped flat, and both the delegates and political professionals doubted he had sufficient substance. For all that,” the boy from Baie Comeau” finished in a solid third place behind the eventual winner, Joe Clark. Each of the features that made him likable among his friends–devotion, business, generosity–did not assist his politics. He was instead perceived as overly well-packaged, slick, manipulative, free-spending, thin-skinned, and needless to say, inexperienced.

It was not easy for Mulroney to take defeat. He was often depressed at the years that followed, drinking often and putting a strain on his marriage. Additionally, he was not above undermining Clark’s leadership from his still strong position within the party. He became vice-president of the Iron Ore Company of Canada in 1976, and president in 1977. Iron Ore was an American branch plant not unlike Colonel McCormick’s performance in Baie Comeau, and Mulroney had the diplomatic and labor relations talents to run it skillfully. He demonstrated that skill in deftly closing down the organization’s operations in Schefferville, Quebec, in 1983.

Mulroney had his attention on more than Schefferville. Clark had determined to place his place as party chief at stake in a different direction contest. Mulroney could not believe his good luck; Clark would almost certainly have won another election despite widespread criticism from within his own ranks. Learning from his 1976 defeat, Mulroney operated a careful, low-key effort. On the final ballot, June 11, 1983, there were only two candidates left; Mulroney defeated Clark with a narrow but clear margin. Mulroney now made his first bid for electoral office, getting the member for Central Nova (Nova Scotia) in August 1983 and assuming the role of leader of the opposition in Parliament. He left a measured case against the controversial policies of longtime prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, which he said had needlessly divided Canadians and attracted Canadian-American connections to their lowest country in years. On the way, he took a brave stand for minority French-language rights in the province of Manitoba. This was his greatest hour.

Brian Mulroney as Prime Minister

His successor, John Turner, promptly called an election after just nine days in office, ensuring that he would be one of the shortest-lived leaders in Canadian history. Mulroney established a brilliant campaigner, capitalizing on Trudeau’s unpopularity and pinning Turner down to the Liberals’ list of handing out the top jobs to their friends. The Conservatives took the most seats in Canadian parliamentary history, 211 from a total of 282. He had, because a young man, been arguing that the Conservatives must triumph in his mostly French-speaking and traditionally Liberal home state if they were to attain lasting power. He took what looked like a significant chance by conducting at Manicouagan, the riding (election district) that included Baie Comeau; his Conservatives won not just there but at 58 of Quebec’s 75 constituencies. Mulroney was chosen as Canada’s Prime Minister on September 4, 1984.

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It had been easier to get electricity than to regulate. In days, Mulroney was in President Ronald Reagan’s Washington, promising to dismantle Trudeau’s contentious policies on electricity and investment. In a similar vein, the new prime minister took strong actions to sweeten the contested air between the federal government in Ottawa and the states, signing important agreements with the energy-producing areas in 1985. That helped to alleviate the tension, but critics wondered whether Mulroney had opened up a federal candy shop to dispense power to the states. Within an attempt to decrease the federal government’s huge deficit, Mulroney announced the partial de-indexing of old age pensions and family allowances. The outcry was so great, however, that he needed to back down. It was a crucial early mistake. He seemed weak and indecisive into many. Others would not forgive him for his betrayal of what he’d once called a sacred trust. Canadians, indeed, were discovering that they did not like or have respect for their own leader, whose high living and high sounding platitudes had started to grate . By the end of 1985, his first full year in power, 60% of Canadians thought Mulroney hadn’t kept his promises. After two decades in office, the identical number wanted another prime minister.

Mulroney persevered in the face of growing unpopularity, demonstrating a specific ability to keep his own members of Parliament on his side. Among his aims was to win Quebec over to the 1982 Canadian constitution, also in 1987 that seemingly was achieved using the Meech Lake Accord, which suggested new abilities for all the provinces. This was obviously popular in provincial capitals, and it seemed accepted around the nation, and it was in Quebec. Mulroney was the sole prime minister able to acquire all premiers to signal a constitutional accord–three times–but was still unable to pass it . The prime minister made the agreement the centerpiece of a campaign for reelection. On November 21, 1988, that he had been returned to power, having left a magical comeback from disastrously low private and party popularity evaluations, outdoing his Liberal party competitor 33,730 votes to 5,994. Free trade, becoming ever closer to the United States, was a deeply divisive issue, however, Mulroney was able to convince enough Canadians of his case to win a strong parliamentary majority. Nobody doubted that 1988 was his victory.

Mulroney did not have much time to savour it. Support plummeted again, this time to historic new lows. He introduced a detested brand new products and services taxation, indulged shamelessly from the patronage he had criticized, and aligned his government unquestioningly with the foreign policy aims of the USA. The Meech Lake Accord, still unratified by 2 provinces, blew up in an angry round of meetings in the summer of 1990, leading Quebec to create louder noises than ever before about parting from the remainder of Canada. You will find failures enough to move around–of policy, of vision, of jealousy –but Canadians kept returning into the man himself, a man seen as too obsessed with power and its exercise to be interested in anything else.

In 1992 that the Charlottetown accord was introduced to the surveys, touting”something for everybody,” The Economist reported. Instead of asking voters if Canada must remain unified or break off into self-governing units, it asked that they approve of a preexisting deal devised by Mulroney. Inside, he attempted to appease the smaller problems in order to get voters to believe that their interests and concerns were being addressed. Each group wanted its unique claims recognized. Consequently, the new constitutional order wasn’t especially concerned with bigger issues, such as liberty as address. Since Mulroney’s popularity had shrunk to extremely low levels, rather than a pact that could make everybody happy, most everyone hated it because they weren’t happy with their chief in the first place. Voters turned it down, and Mulroney’s effort for its accord got him twice as many no votes as votes in a popularity poll conducted soon after the vote.

Mulroney Steps Down
Signing the first trade deal with President Reagan and the United States led to bigger agenda in 1992. On December 17 Mulroney signed NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, together with the United States of America and Mexico. Presidents Bush and Salinas, along with Prime Minister Mulroney, believed that the agreement would eliminate most trade and investment barriers among the three countries for the next 15 decades. Clinton assured Mulroney he would not renegotiate any part of the arrangement without him during Clinton’s scheduled trip to Mexico. Mulroney, who had been fishing buddies with Bush, hoped for small change in the normally warm rapport between the neighboring countries and authorities.

Mulroney took much heat from Canadians because of his attraction to controversial, unpopular issues and his efforts to persuade the people his policies are for their own good. Few were happy when following the Free Trade Agreement, statistics suggested a loss of 130,000 projects and consistently rising unemployment rates. His Goods and Services Tax, which substituted a hidden manufacturers’ sales tax was deemed”political suicide” by Diane Francis in Maclean’s. Not since 1990’d Mulroney’s approval ratings handed 20 percent, and on February 24, 1993, Brian Mulroney announced he would be stepping down as Canada’s 18th prime minister following his party chose a successor in mid-June of the year. The party settled on Kim Campbell, a former lawsuit lawyer and political philosophy teacher who was Canada’s first female defense minister.

A comment by Hershell Erzin published in Maclean’s shortly after Mulroney’s announcement said that he”gave good ideas a bad name.” While Mulroney acted earnestly to assist Canada alter for the better and keep up with the rest of the planet, the problems he took on weren’t satisfactorily addressed and the people could not successfully adapt to the changes. In addition, Erzin noted he wavered on coverage issues, often contradicting himself. However, Mulroney maintained he was delighted with his life and with what he attempted to do to his country. He believed that even when he stepped down that the Conservative party was in great shape and the country was advancing. He took on quarrelsome causes and basically reinvented Canada while doing so. His motives for leaving, he told Maclean’s, were simply his priorities had shifted. “I don’t know what comes over you, but all of a sudden the kinds of things that were significant when you’re 23 aren’t significant when your [sic] 53. I don’t know if it is called a view or if it is called expansion or if it’s called what. Nonetheless, it’s just there.”

Controversy Persists
He was unable to entirely leave controversy behind him, however, when Stevie Cameron’s 1994 book On The Take portrayed Mulroney as a prime minister who obtained a fortune well above that of leaders by curious means. She alleged that the Tory party resisted the household income to help support their lavish lifestyle. She billed Mulroney, as Prime Minister, has been involved in”flagrant kickback schemes, bid-rigging of government contracts, misappropriation of budgets, favors to corporate supporters of their party, and an unprecedented orgy of patronage appointments which didn’t finish until the day Mulroney left office.” Cameron was also sure to mention the generous consulting believes and director-ship payments he earned after leaving his article from the boards on which he sat: Horsham Corporation, American Barrick Resources Corporation, and also the food-processing giant Archer-Daniels-Midland Company, in addition to his hefty salary out of his job as a spouse with the Ogilvy Renault law company.

Another book that poked at Mulroney was Marci McDonald’s Yankee Doodle Dandy: Brian Mulroney and the American Agenda, published in 1995. In it, she points out how Mulroney’s conclusions in regards to the Persian Gulf War were affected by President Bush’s. Canadians were not happy when Mulroney’s judgment to send troops to battle without passing it through Parliament and his zeal for committing more power did not win him much respect.

Even more distressing controversy reached an intense personal level when Mulroney was cited in an investigation of the 1988 purchase of 34 Airbus A-320 passenger airplanes from a European firm for $1.8 billion. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Korean police alleged that Mulroney was directly involved in conspiracy to defraud taxpayers and that he had approved a $5 million kickback as a result of the airbus purchase. Additionally, Swiss bank accounts records seemed, indicating that one accounts was for Mulroney. Mulroney flatly and fiercely denied all allegations by submitting a $50 million action suit for libelous damage to his personality, accusing the government and the RCMP of making”false and reckless” accusations from him–$25 million in actual damages to Mulroney’s standing and $25 million in punitive damages, which he planned to donate to charity if he won the case.

To get ready for the case, Federal attorneys sent Mulroney’s lawyers some 40 pages of questions for which they stated they needed answers to defend their customers. Mulroney’s lawyers said the petition for such detailed advice was unnecessary and they won an appeal in Quebec to deny the lawyers access to such substance. At pretrial hearings held in April 1996 Mulroney called the Canadian authorities and the RCMP Kafka-esque fascists, saying he had been put up and accused without proof. His appearance at the hearings has been intended to be for the authorities to assail him with questions to use as ammunition at the actual trial. Instead, a strong, written Mulroney lashed out at the government, presenting his own instance, banking on his ability for exploiting queries to deliver a speech.

A January 6, 1997 date was set in Quebec Superior Court for Brian Mulroney to take his lawsuit to trial, where his attorneys tried to blame the department of justice for maligning Mulroney and accuse them of witch-hunting. Instead of walking away with the $50 million he wanted from the case that was originally estimated to last no less than three months, Mulroney agreed to settle for an decisive apology and a promise that the government would cover his $1 million in legal fees. The Economist reported that though both sides claimed victory, it was Mulroney’s testimony that has been more convincing. His reputation was somewhat restored and the government just appeared to become vindictive and sloppy.

When asked what he expected that the history books would say concerning him, Mulroney told Maclean’s that he needs people to keep in mind he had never been picked anywhere, but made it to the House of Commons as leader of the Opposition and led his party to the best success in Canadian history. His back-to-back triumphs were the first achievement by a Conservative in 100 years. Mulroney considers he made a”profound and fundamental” gap and hopes that the future will demonstrate that they had been beneficial.

They were married in 1972 and had four children: Caroline, Nicolas, Mark, and Ben.

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