Mulroney shows his unease with Harper's Tories

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Mulroney shows his unease with Harper's Tories

Post by oneh2obabe »

Robert Benzie
Queen's Park Bureau Chief

It was an illuminating moment in a remarkably candid conversation.

Brian Mulroney, the most successful Conservative prime minister since Sir John A. Macdonald, was sitting down for a rare television interview the other day in Montreal.

TVOntario’s Steve Paikin, always adroit at coaxing politicians to dish, broached the subject of the May 2 election and Conservative Leader Stephen Harper.

“You’re voting for Mr. Harper, I take it,” said Paikin, coincidentally the moderator of Tuesday’s English-language leaders’ debate.

“At this point,” replied Mulroney with a pause that seemed to hang in the air longer than its mere second, “I’ll vote for the Conservative candidate in my constituency.”

Although the architect of decisive Progressive Conservative victories in 1984 and 1988 conceded that Harper is “clearly a competent Prime Minister,” his unease with the current Tory leader was barely concealed.

He praised Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff (“an intelligent man, hard-working guy”), NDP Leader Jack Layton (“an outstanding leader of his party”), and even Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe (“respected in Quebec”), whose party began in 1990 as a separatist offshoot of Mulroney’s Tories.

He suggested Ignatieff could win despite polls indicating otherwise: “You never can tell what happens in political life. I’ll tell you this, in 1984, when the campaign started I was 14 points behind. We ended up in a rather different fashion.”

He touted former Liberal prime minister Lester Pearson, who endured similar political uncertainty to Harper, but had far more to show for his tenure, including medicare and the Maple Leaf flag: “You can do big things — even if you have a minority Parliament. Witness what happened with Mr. Pearson, who achieved great things with minority status.”

And he pointedly dismissed a central tenet of the Conservative campaign, the spectre of an Ignatieff-Layton-Duceppe government: “They should not speculate in any way about coalitions or all of this nonsense.”

Certainly, Mulroney is still smarting from fallout of his ill-advised business dealings with German lobbyist Karlheinz Schreiber, now in prison serving an eight-year sentence for tax evasion.

Confidants say he feels like he was “thrown under a bus” over the Schreiber affair by people he trusted in the highest levels of the Harper government and such wounds are unlikely to easily heal.

“You have to understand, nothing matters more to him than loyalty,” said an associate. “And he feels he was betrayed by some people who wouldn’t be where they are if it weren’t for him.”

Yet, several Tories insist, there is more at play here than just personal slights.

Mulroney — like others from disparate wings of the Conservative Party of Canada, be they former Reformers or Progressive Conservatives — appears disappointed by Harper’s paucity of ambition.

Reform Party founder Preston Manning famously urged Canadian conservatives to “think big,” but his one-time underling has for the most part governed cautiously, using the constraints of a minority Parliament as an excuse for the lack of any major initiative.

“Being in power is better than not being in power,” explained one Tory MP, who like others interviewed spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to publicly discuss such machinations.

The MP noted Harper spent years in opposition as a Reform MP, Canadian Alliance leader, and, finally, Conservative leader, so survival in government trumps any sweeping policy dream he may once have espoused.

“It’s as simple as that,” the Tory member said, emphasizing that Harper’s greatest legacy was “uniting the right” to create a viable and enduring alternative to the Liberals.

Still, after a middling half-decade in power, some Tories wonder what else the history books will say about Harper.

“What, really, have we got to show for our five years in office?” asked a former senior official in the Prime Minister’s Office.

“An accountability act that forces us to hire kids,” the insider said with a scoff, referring to the legislation designed to curb lobbying that has made it difficult for the Tories to attract talent to government.

Even the few accomplishments that actually touch Canadians’ day-to-day lives are questioned.

Sources say Mulroney, who created the goods and services tax two decades ago, has privately expressed concerned about Harper’s reducing the GST rate from 7 per cent to 5 per cent. (It has since been melded with the 8 per cent provincial sales tax into a 13 per cent harmonized sales tax.)

“He should have lowered income taxes instead. Conservatives believe in taxing consumption, not output. How does a GST cut increase productivity?” fumed a veteran Tory.

A Mulroney-ite attacking Harper’s conservative bona fides?

It gets worse.

With the retirement from electoral politics of Reform and Canadian Alliance icons Chuck Strahl, Jay Hill, and Stockwell Day, it’s apparently not just the Conservatives’ centrist Mulroney wing that feels ornery.

There was Alberta conservative stalwart Link Byfield on the front page of the National Post last Tuesday, complaining that Harper has “systematically suppressed debate” on matters such as same-sex marriage and abortion.

“Harper has made it abundantly and compellingly clear that the social conservative agenda is not to be contemplated in his government and not to be advocated or advanced. And he will have come to this conclusion because he has seen it necessary to get centre voters. As long as he’s leader that will remain the case,” Byfield told journalist Charles Lewis.

Such fractiousness can, of course, be viewed as growing pains in a maturing political party.

But something Mulroney told Paikin lingers longer than the one-second dramatic pause over his voting intentions.

“There are big ideas out there,” said the man who helped end apartheid in South Africa and gave Canada free trade with the United States.

“Popularity is meaningless unless you use it to do big and good things for your country and for the people of Canada.”
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Re: Mulroney shows his unease with Harper's Tories

Post by NAB »

LOL. Mulroney hesitates and media tries to put their own spin on it. And Mulroney's ego is as big as ever as he tries to re-write history in a way that he hopes will be more kind to him, his brown envelopes full of cash, and a majority government that looked the other way with such things while the Harper Government did not.

And make no mistake as to what outsider folk like extreme right winger Byfield means when he accuses Harper of suppressing debate over advocating or advancing the "social conservative agenda" when it is reported..

"There was Alberta conservative stalwart Link Byfield on the front page of the National Post last Tuesday, complaining that Harper has “systematically suppressed debate” on matters such as same-sex marriage and abortion.

“Harper has made it abundantly and compellingly clear that the social conservative agenda is not to be contemplated in his government and not to be advocated or advanced. And he will have come to this conclusion because he has seen it necessary to get centre voters. As long as he’s leader that will remain the case,” Byfield told journalist Charles Lewis."


These are the folk on the conservative fringe who want debate re-opened with respect to such things as having same-sex marriage banned and abortion made illegal. Good on Harper for not supporting their extremist and divisive "social" agenda.

Edit to add: Byfield is a Catholic, and a founding member of the Wildrose Party of Alberta, which went on to unite with the Alberta Alliance Party in 2008. His biggest gripe appears to be that the Alberta Conservative Government has moved left of its hard right roots more to the centre of the political spectrum, so I guess it is no surprise that he would feel similar about the Harper Conservatives nationally.

And to have such folk as Mulroney and Byfield express "unease" over Harper's leadership is to his credit IMO. My guess would be that he wouldn't even allow folk like Byfield to even be a candidate in the Conservative Party, so they have to participate as independent right wingers.

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Re: Mulroney shows his unease with Harper's Tories

Post by oneh2obabe »

Whether you agree with Mulroney or not, it's new and people can make up their own minds.

OT - Nab ... so the latest about the G8 fund isn't anything to be concerned about?
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Re: Mulroney shows his unease with Harper's Tories

Post by NAB »

oneh2obabe wrote:Whether you agree with Mulroney or not, it's new and people can make up their own minds.

OT - Nab ... so the latest about the G8 fund isn't anything to be concerned about?


Pretty hard for people to make up their mind about anything unless dealing with facts babe, instead of some reporter's assumptions about what a hesitation in answering means.

As for your question, I answered in the other thread. It is of course of concern but not particularly surprising as all governments (as well as individual politians) are known to push the limits with such things. The Chretien/Martin Liberal's sponsorship scandal was another one that comes to mind, and that Quebec golf course issue,.... and of course Mulroney's alleged questionable activities.

All I can say is thank God we have an Auditor General Office that has some teeth as part of our system.

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Re: Mulroney shows his unease with Harper's Tories

Post by Urbane »

As for the notion that the Harper government threw Mulroney under the bus I would just say that Mulroney threw himself under the bus when he accepted the cash-filled envelopes.
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Re: Mulroney shows his unease with Harper's Tories

Post by Homeownertoo »

oneh2obabe wrote:

Let's deconstruct this wretched opinion piece (edited for brevity)
Robert Benzie
Queen's Park Bureau Chief

... Although the architect of decisive Progressive Conservative victories in 1984 and 1988 conceded that Harper is “clearly a competent Prime Minister,” his unease with the current Tory leader was barely concealed.

He praised Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff (“an intelligent man, hard-working guy”), NDP Leader Jack Layton (“an outstanding leader of his party”), and even Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe (“respected in Quebec”), whose party began in 1990 as a separatist offshoot of Mulroney’s Tories.

Notice how these mundane descriptions are intrepreted as 'praise' for the three leaders. If there anything at all controversial about Mulroney's descriptions. Nope. His comments hardly rise to level of 'praise'. But that doesn't stop the writer from opening his piece with such over-the-top claims.

He suggested Ignatieff could win despite polls indicating otherwise: “You never can tell what happens in political life. I’ll tell you this, in 1984, when the campaign started I was 14 points behind. We ended up in a rather different fashion.”

Mulroney makes the pedestrian observation that initial poll numbers don't determine the eventual winner, but that is far from him suggesting the Ignatieff could win, particularly in the absence of any enthusiasm among voters for the Lieberal leader. So why did the writer attach that claim to Mulroney's comment?

He touted former Liberal prime minister Lester Pearson, who endured similar political uncertainty to Harper, but had far more to show for his tenure, including medicare and the Maple Leaf flag: “You can do big things — even if you have a minority Parliament. Witness what happened with Mr. Pearson, who achieved great things with minority status.”

Yes, Pearson, governing from the middle, was able to garner support from the wings for such "great things". Far harder for the Conservative minority facing a truculent opposition itching to bring him down and with far more in common with each other than with the Tories -- points the writer fails to address because they don't fit his agenda.

And he pointedly dismissed a central tenet of the Conservative campaign, the spectre of an Ignatieff-Layton-Duceppe government: “They should not speculate in any way about coalitions or all of this nonsense.”

Which reminds me of the saying that where you stand depends on where you sit. Mulroney, a Quebecer, made placating Quebec the central tenet of his governments. Yet where did that lead? To the creation of the Bloc, which now bedevils the Conservatives and any federalist party. At any rate, Mulroney was certainly not above demonizing his opponents.

Yet, several Tories insist, there is more at play here than just personal slights.

Mulroney — like others from disparate wings of the Conservative Party of Canada, be they former Reformers or Progressive Conservatives — appears disappointed by Harper’s paucity of ambition.

Reform Party founder Preston Manning famously urged Canadian conservatives to “think big,” but his one-time underling has for the most part governed cautiously, using the constraints of a minority Parliament as an excuse for the lack of any major initiative.

Easy to think big with the biggest majority in Canadian history. Harper's alleged paucity of ambition (where's the beef?), or lack of conservative achievements, are hardly a mystery. There's no support for such outside his own minority-status party. This is a patently stupid observation that the writer has cobbled together out of some out-of-context comments. He then even answers his own question -- “ 'It’s as simple as that,” the Tory member said, emphasizing that Harper’s greatest legacy was “uniting the right” to create a viable and enduring alternative to the Liberals." -- before returning to his theme -- "Still, after a middling half-decade in power, some Tories wonder what else the history books will say about Harper."

“What, really, have we got to show for our five years in office?” asked a former senior official in the Prime Minister’s Office. “An accountability act that forces us to hire kids,” the insider said with a scoff, referring to the legislation designed to curb lobbying that has made it difficult for the Tories to attract talent to government.

A valid lament for all conservatives but totally understandable, as explained above. No need to resort to Harper's alleged lack of ambition.

Sources say Mulroney, who created the goods and services tax two decades ago, has privately expressed concerned about Harper’s reducing the GST rate from 7 per cent to 5 per cent. (It has since been melded with the 8 per cent provincial sales tax into a 13 per cent harmonized sales tax.) “He should have lowered income taxes instead. Conservatives believe in taxing consumption, not output. How does a GST cut increase productivity?” fumed a veteran Tory.

A criticism I share, but I'm also aware that cutting the GST had enormous popular appeal, far more than income tax cuts that would inevitably, due to the progressive nature of income taxes, be portrayed as rewarding the rich. It should be obvious that this was part of Harper's agenda of building support for the Tory brand even if it departed from conservative orthodoxy. No such understanding, alas, from the partisan writer of this piece.

It gets worse. With the retirement from electoral politics of Reform and Canadian Alliance icons Chuck Strahl, Jay Hill, and Stockwell Day, it’s apparently not just the Conservatives’ centrist Mulroney wing that feels ornery.

There was Alberta conservative stalwart Link Byfield on the front page of the National Post last Tuesday, complaining that Harper has “systematically suppressed debate” on matters such as same-sex marriage and abortion.

“Harper has made it abundantly and compellingly clear that the social conservative agenda is not to be contemplated in his government and not to be advocated or advanced. And he will have come to this conclusion because he has seen it necessary to get centre voters. As long as he’s leader that will remain the case,” Byfield told journalist Charles Lewis.

This is the writer's "it gets worse". That Harper has put the socon agenda on hold while he tries to ease Lieberal charges of a "hidden agenda" to impose the social conservative policy!!!

But something Mulroney told Paikin lingers longer than the one-second dramatic pause over his voting intentions.

Was there really such a pause? Is Mulroney really thinking of voting Bloc, or Liberal or NDP? Does anyone seriously believe the writer's hint that such is possible?

“There are big ideas out there,” said the man who helped end apartheid in South Africa and gave Canada free trade with the United States.

“Popularity is meaningless unless you use it to do big and good things for your country and for the people of Canada.”

Once again, easy to do with the largest majority mandate in history. Or maybe not. Where did Mulroney's achievements lead the Tory party? Right. It got decimated. Where, after two terms as prime minister, has Harper led it? To the brink of majority even in the shadow of the Bloc that makes a federalist majority almost impossible. But, of course, the writer tells us nothing of that. It's not his agenda to portray Harper and his party fairly.

Thus does the media propagandize under the illusion of balance and fairness.
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Re: Mulroney shows his unease with Harper's Tories

Post by Al Czervic »

Mulroney’s gargantum sized ego aside I do think he makes some valid points. One of the problems these days with EX political leader has beens is that many like to come forward and try to re-write history in a manner that is more kind to them and they also seem to like to make delicate pot shots at the current leader, because obviously the current leader is NEVER as good as they were (or they like to think they were)

Still I do think there is a point when you say what has the Harper Government accomplished in terms of leaving a legacy for Canada? Cutting the GST by a couple of points is hardly the answer, and in fact as I have noted elsewhere I think it is high time that the Federal Government started to follow the lead of Provincial Governments (like British Columbia) and seriously reduce the personal income taxes for lower income earners. In B.C. you pay next to nothing earning under $ 20,000K and even the first B.C. income tax bracket is just 5% compared to 15% federally. Consumptions taxes are great for taxing on spending but I think the GST rate staying the same and lowering Canada’s lowest income tax bracket would have been a much better way to go. Odd that not even Iggy or the NDP have suggested it. I suppose spending promises are more fun than taxation policy.

Getting back on track I don’t think Harper is really looking for (or wanting) a huge endorsement from Mulroney right now (likely about the last thing he needs) Getting an endorsement from Mulroney is right up there with getting an endorsement from Conrad Black….high in the not helpful territory….
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Re: Mulroney shows his unease with Harper's Tories

Post by wthwyt »

I don't blame Brian Mulroney to show unease with Harper's Tories simply because they are the Reform Party only decked out in the Blue & Red of the former PC. Same s**t just different colours and name.
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Re: Mulroney shows his unease with Harper's Tories

Post by steven lloyd »

Al Czervic wrote: ... I don’t think Harper is really looking for (or wanting) a huge endorsement from Mulroney right now (likely about the last thing he needs) Getting an endorsement from Mulroney is right up there with getting an endorsement from Conrad Black….high in the not helpful territory….

:dyinglaughing: touche

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