CFN – It is hard to believe that it is 30 years ago today that I was a young campaign manager sitting in our riding election office trying to find ways to keep our candidate busy (and out of our hair) on what was then an election day- September 4th, 1984.
We were in a tough fight against Louis Desmarais (Paul Desmarais’s brother) in a riding that had voted Liberal for 125 years. We had an excellent candidate (Gerry Weiner), but as anyone involved in the political process will tell you, it isn’t always the best person that wins. We were trying to overcome a huge vote deficit. Desmarais had won by one of the largest majorities in the country in the previous election and we had no idea if the results would even be close.
Our campaign team reflected the Progressive Conservative Party of Brian Mulroney. It was big tent, inclusive, not exclusive. We had workers from all walks of life, some 60 different cultural communities, plus right wing Conservatives, fiscal Conservatives, middle of the road Conservatives and Red Tories, even a few Liberals. Everyone was welcome; no one was made to feel unwanted. Being a Conservative and supporting Mulroney was what mattered. We had a common aim and purpose- to defeat the Liberals of John Turner, the leader who had replaced Justin Trudeau’s father, Pierre.
Looking back (it seems like it was just a few years ago, not 30) it was a different time. Dare I say the good old days for the political process in Canada?
Going into that election we were as highly partisan as the present generation of political players, but you had respect for your political opponent. They weren’t just an enemy to be destroyed. You respected the fact that not everyone agreed with your view or policies. You could debate issues, in some cases seek compromise on bills and we even sat with opposition MPs to address some of their concerns.
There was the usual cut and thrust of partisan politics, but not the intense dislike and nastiness that you see on display in the House of Commons today. You could admire the political tactics your opponent used against you, figure out ways to counter it and file it away in the back of your mind to bring out to turn the tables on them down the road.
Going into that election MPs, especially committee chairs, still had a lot of clout. Don Blenkarn as Chair of the Finance committee is but one example. Ministers were allowed to be ministers and ran their department without PMO orchestrating every move. Even the Parliamentary press corps had our respect, although I can’t say we liked them.
It was a different time and era. New technologies, more “got you” moments, a new style of doing politics, excessive control from the center and a much more cut throat style that all parties put on display in the House of Commons has changed the political process.
On this day in 1984 we had no idea what the results would be.
That night Brian Mulroney delivered the largest majority government in Canadian history. A Conservative victory of a magnitude that I doubt we will ever see again.
Brian, thank you for your service to our country and best wishes on the 30th anniversary of your spectacular win.
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