…and what a show THAT was.
Brian Mulroney, for my non-Canadian friends, was prime minister of our fair Dominion from 1984 to 1993. That works out to two terms. During that time, he presided over a mixed bag of goodies. We got sold down the river by the 1988 free trade agreement and its evil offspring, NAFTA, under the pretext that it would create jobs (it gave us a recession instead); we got dinged with a second-tier sales tax, the nationally loathed GST, which is sometimes credited with our current large, unused budgetary surplus; we got the magnificent failure of the Meech Lake Accord, which almost quashed Quebec separatism once and for all, only to be torpedoed by Clyde Wells (the premier of Newfoundland–over the James Bay power plant, of all things). We also got a prime minister who dared to stand up to his partisan equivalent in England over apartheid in South Africa, but not to his American counterpart (Mulroney disgraced us all by singing “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” with Ronald Reagan, who was not a real president but played one on TV.) And for better or worse, we got Mila, the legendary and loyal (and surprisingly likeable) personal shopper to the PM. And we got their four kids, too–of whom one married American liberal media royalty, and another one of whom now has his chinny, chip-off-the-ol’-block mug all over the fluffiest of the entertainment talk shows. No idea what the youngest two are up to.
Maybe that’s for the best; they might want to avoid the limelight for as long as they can. Besides, they have a big shadow to get out from under. Their dad may have left Parliament Hill, but alas, he hasn’t left the building. I have a feeling that when he finally does, he’ll be storming out in a petulant huff, as is his wont.
You see, Brian Mulroney is a great one for petulance. He’s also an incredible back-stabber, incapable of putting personal glory in the backseat to the greater good.
I found out this evening that Pierre Trudeau, his prime-ministerial predecessor (and by far the better man, IMO), repeatedly helped Mulroney in his career. As far back as university, in fact, when Mulroney wrote a thesis on the issue of Quebec separatism–a phenomenon he hoped to nip in the bud. Trudeau had much in common with him on this point. He wrote Mulroney a very cordial letter, congratulating him on his efforts and offering much solid advice, including an essay of his own on the topic. Later, Trudeau would again reach out to a defeated Mulroney, who lost the Tory leadership race to Joe Clark in 1976–with an offer to come join the Liberals instead. Mulroney, partisan to a fault, refused. He was out for his own glory, and was not about to band together with Trudeau, who by then was prime minister (as of 1968).
So much for keeping a country together.
Mulroney, however, still insists he did more for national unity than Trudeau. This in the face of two failed constitutional accords (Meech Lake and Charlottetown) and the humiliating defection of one of Mulroney’s most trusted lieutenants, Lucien Bouchard, to the newly formed separatist party, the Bloc Quebecois.
On the other hand, Pierre Trudeau patriated our constitution in 1982, despite the refusal of Quebec (then in the grip of the Parti Quebecois, the Bloc’s predecessor) to sign on. A noteworthy constitutional attorney and scholar, Trudeau also crafted our Bill of Rights and thus paved the way for much of the social liberalism we’ve become renowned for (including, most significantly, our legal recognition of same-sex marriage, and our total lack of anti-abortion laws since the Supreme Court struck down the last one, on the grounds of sexism, in 1988.)
See what I mean by Trudeau being the better man?
Meanwhile, we get a bombshell: Brian Mulroney had a drinking problem. No, not while in office, but it sheds a further light on his character. Even if he stopped drinking and hasn’t touched a drop since, he is, like Dubya, still not a recovered or a temperate man. Witness his most recent episode of pissing on the grave of Trudeau, gone these seven years. It is really unfair of him to conflate Trudeau’s opposition to wartime conscription–a common and popular viewpoint in Quebec, where no one likes to be dragooned, even to this day–with appeasement of Hitler. It is also downright hypocritical of Mulroney, who was certainly old enough to serve in Vietnam himself, to not volunteer for that–but then have the gall to turn on Trudeau, who was barely of age at the time of World War II, and accuse him of lacking “moral leadership” simply because he did not go to war.
Shall we now accuse Brian Mulroney of being pro-communist? No, we shan’t stoop to his level. We shall simply register our disgust, and move on, and tell him to bloody well do the same himself, for God’s sake!