Monday, October 21, 2013

Brian Mulroney

Image from Depauw

Brian Mulroney first came to power with a massive majority in 1984, when after sixteen years of Liberal rule, Canadians saw fit to vote the Liberals out (Trudeau having retired as leader.)

From a promising start with the strongest majority in our history, his government plummeted in the public esteem. When then end came in 1993, his personal popularity was the lowest ever seen.

Canadians had taken revenge on the Conservative Party and virtually wiped it off the map.When the dust settled, the Conservatives held a mere 2 seats, and the separatist Bloq Quebecois, with 54, had become the official Opposition.

Kim Campbell, the placeholder Prime Minister after Mulroney had wisely left office, took the brunt of public anger; after less than four months as PM, the press dubbed her "the lady with the summer job."

What made the public react so strongly at that election? Unpopular policies and scandal seem to have been the issues.

The Mulroney years brought forward two attempts to bring Quebec into the Constitution -- the Meech Lake Accord and the Charlottetown Accord. Well and good. Though both these failed, it is unlikely they contributed to the dramatic fall of the Conservatives from power.

Free trade was a different story. In 1988, in spite of public opposition, Mulroney pressed on with the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement, following this with the NAFTA in 1992.

In 1991, he involved Canada in the Gulf War, again, with much public opposition, and in 1991, he introduced the hated GST, the Goods and Services Tax.

After his departure from politics, Mulroney was dogged by fallout from the Airbus Scandal, which dated back to 1988. In 2003, media reports said that Karl Schreiber, who was later extradited to Germany for fraud, bribery and tax evasion, had given the PM a bundle of cash in an envelope.

Mulroney first denied his connection with Schreiber, and said he received no money from him. Yet later, he admitted having done so. Astonishingly, in 1995, Mulroney brought a libel suit against the Canadian government and received an apology and a $2 million settlement for being "falsely accused" in the Airbus affair. Turns out he'd actually lied in court. He admitted that later too.

In 2007, Prime Minister Harper called a public inquiry into this and the special adviser was none other than David Johnston, who was later appointed Governor-general (Canadian Coalition for Democracy and Fiscal accountability).

The Mulroney mandate ended in 1993. Two decades later, the smell of scandal lives on, touching people still in power.

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