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Canada Corbella: Mulroney stumping for O'Toole shows needed shift to the centre for the Conservatives

14:26  17 september  2021
14:26  17 september  2021 Source:   calgaryherald.com

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It was Back to the Future in Quebec this week.

a man wearing a suit and tie: Canada's opposition Conservative party leader Erin O'Toole speaks to Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney during O'Toole's election campaign tour in Orford, Quebec, Canada September 15, 2021. © Provided by Calgary Herald Canada's opposition Conservative party leader Erin O'Toole speaks to Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney during O'Toole's election campaign tour in Orford, Quebec, Canada September 15, 2021.

On Wednesday night, at a campaign event in Orford, Que., former prime minister Brian Mulroney delivered a barn burner of a speech to an adoring crowd as he endorsed the leadership of Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole. It was a quintessential Mulroney speech filled with humour, anecdotes, poignant quotes, financial facts and figures, and a bit of a history lesson, too. It’s no wonder he’s the favoured eulogist for U.S. presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. Bush.

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Mulroney’s appearance at this Tory election event came the same day O’Toole declared that this is not the Conservative party of old.

“From the first day of my leadership, my priority has been to build a Conservative movement where every Canadian can feel at home . . . We are not your dad’s Conservative party anymore,” O’Toole said Wednesday in Jonquiere, Que.

To say those words just hours before Mulroney — who won the largest majority government in Canadian history 37 years ago almost to the day, on Sept. 17, 1984 — certainly smacks of irony on the surface. For many young voters, Mulroney’s two majority governments were so long ago that the Tory party is more likely the party of their grandparents as well as their parents.

Regardless, the point is clear. Mulroney ran the Progressive Conservative Party, not the Conservative party born from the Reform/PC alliance run by former prime minister Stephen Harper, whose name is frequently spat out by Justin Trudeau as though it is a four-letter word.

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Speaking in French, Mulroney pointed out that he was born in Baie-Comeau, Que. O’Toole was born in St. Thérèse, Que.

“I’m of Irish descent and so is Erin. I became a lawyer, Erin did as well. I married up and so did Erin. I became a lawyer. So did Erin. I became the leader of the party. Erin too. I became leader of the official opposition, Erin too. I became prime minister of Canada and, next week, Erin too,” Mulroney said to raucous cheers.

Mulroney says about five months ago, he got a call from O’Toole. “He said: ‘I should tell you that there are bad polls predicting my defeat. We are getting negative media coverage. There is grumbling in the party. What do you think?’

“I said: ‘Erin, I think you should be thrilled.’ He said ‘Why?’ and I said ‘because that is exactly what they said about me three months before the election in ’84 when we won the largest majority in the history of Canada.’ ”

The likelihood of that happening Monday when Canadians vote is slim. Polls show the federal Liberals and Conservatives neck-and-neck. CBC’s Poll Tracker has the Liberals at 31.7 per cent of the popular vote and the Conservatives with 31.2 per cent — a statistical tie, but because the Liberal vote is more “efficient” — being more concentrated in seat-rich urban areas in Ontario and Quebec — most pollsters predict Trudeau winning another minority government.

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When Trudeau called this $610-million election on Aug. 15, he did so anticipating that he would win a majority government with ease. He pushed ahead with his plan that NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh calls “selfish” and “egotistical” since Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam declared just three days earlier that Canada was officially entering into the fourth wave of COVID-19 — this time with the more virulent Delta variant wreaking havoc on younger, unvaccinated Canadians — and with Canadian citizens and our allies being abandoned and facing torture and death in Afghanistan with the rise of the Taliban as western forces left the country. The likelihood of the Liberals winning a majority now, according to Poll Tracker is just 12 per cent.

Mulroney’s appearance came one day after former Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien stumped for Trudeau, so both parties were bringing out their heavy hitters hoping that memories of past glory days would help their future aspirations.

Mulroney pointed out that with the Meech Lake accord, he tried to bring Quebec into the Constitution after they were excluded in 1982 (by Pierre Trudeau) and how, along with former French President Francois Mitterrand, they established the Sommet de la Francophonie. He talked of how he convinced then-U.S. president Ronald Reagan to sign onto an acid rain treaty — which they did — and how he helped free Nelson Mandela from jail and all Black South Africans from 55 years of servitude under Apartheid.

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He never mentioned that he negotiated a free-trade agreement with the United States and Mexico (NAFTA) that has led to so much of the prosperity Canada has enjoyed in the years since.

Mulroney also mentioned that while the pandemic must take centre stage for any federal government — and that O’Toole has a “strong and effective program for that” — there are other issues. He pointed out how the Fraser Institute in Vancouver revealed that Canada has dropped out of the top-10 countries in annual economic freedom and is now 14th, “part of a downward trend that began in 2016 due to higher taxes and increased regulation,” along with Canada’s “anemic productivity, which is the lowest in the OECD. In fact, we’re lower than the state of Mississippi, and that’s saying something. This can only be corrected by strong leadership,” said Mulroney.

“A great nation like Canada is entitled to and needs a combination of visions and dreams. Of such things was Canada shaped and brought to life by the leadership of great men in the Conservative Party such as Sir John A. Macdonald and George-Étienne Cartier, which gave birth to Canada 154 years ago. That’s the kind of leadership and vision that Erin O’Toole is going to bring to the new Canada that he’s going to build.”

Mulroney added: “I frequently maintained, in my case, that we would govern not for easy headlines in 10 days but for a better and more prosperous Canada in 10 years. We did and we persevered and the results are there for history to judge — good, bad or indifferent.”

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History is judging Mulroney kindly. He has won awards for being the “ Greenest PM ” and, as recently as 2019, Pollution Probe gave Mulroney the Environmental Leadership Award for the acid rain treaty and passing both the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and Canadian Environmental Protection Act. “Canada’s Green Plan and eight major national parks were brought into being during his tenure, allowing for the protection of vital ecosystems, and Canada became an early leader on climate action thanks in large part to his leadership at the UNCED Earth Summit as Canada’s first prime minister to focus proactively on climate change,” the group said.

Asked what he felt his party has let Canadians down on in the past, O’Toole pointed to past Conservative climate policies. At the Conservative Party’s annual policy convention in March, delegates voted against adding “climate change is real” into their policy. Despite that, O’Toole brought in a strong climate change plan that puts a price on carbon and commits to meeting Canada’s Paris climate commitments.

Canada is a centrist, progressive-minded country, and unless the Conservative Party membership recognizes that, even with leadership as weak and damaging as Trudeau’s to battle against, looking back will be the only way to reflect on glory.

Licia Corbella is a Postmedia columnist in Calgary.

lcorbella@postmedia.com

Twitter: @LiciaCorbella

John Ivison: Trudeau shall reap the whirlwind .
If the 43rd and 44th Canadian parliaments promise to be as similar as Tweedledum and Tweedledee, it does not mean the election campaign was without consequence. Justin Trudeau, in his acceptance speech, said some have talked about divisions in the country “but that’s not what I see.” That is wilful blindness. Trudeau’s Liberal Party has retained power — just — but has lost nearly two million votes since its resounding win in 2015; the prime minister has won two elections with a smaller share of the popular vote than his Conservative rivals; he has helped bolster the far right People’s Party, which attracted more than 800,000 votes, and by calling an election in a pandemic,

usr: 1
This is interesting!