View From the Hill by Keith Beardsley – Rembering Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney

March 1, 2024 – Brian Mulroney was an outstanding person as well as a masterful politician. He represented an era in politics when leaders felt they good still make bold decisions and unlike today, they didn’t weigh how many votes they would win or lose in this riding or that riding. Three that come to mind are the Free Trade deal with the United States, his efforts against apartheid in South Africa and the Acid Rain Treaty with the USA.

The 1988 election over Free Trade was high risk for him, but he acted in the best interests of the country. Just ask Doug Ford what that means for the economy of Ontario today. Now Canada seeks free trade deals with many different counties, back in 1988 it was unheard of and high risk.

Mulroney’s stand on apartheid took him into conflict with both Ronald Reagon and Margaret Thatcher, but he did it because it was the right thing to do.

The Acid Rain Treaty was an amazing feat and the first step to deal with the environment and the effects of pollution. Essentially in recognizing the damage to air quality, the impact on lakes and rivers he was ahead of his time. Many consider him our “Greenest” Prime Minister.

He had amazing charisma. You knew when he entered a room without even looking around. Always personable he could work a room better than any politicians today, with the possible exception of Justin Trudeau and when he stopped and spoke to you, he listened.

A gifted speaker he often threw away his speech notes and simply spoke from the heart. My best memory of that was in the 1988 election. I was the Chief of Staff at Multiculturalism and served in an advisor role on the national campaign team. Tasked with arranging for him to meet with some 50 individuals to discuss issues facing their communities, we told him possibly 200 might attend. When he arrived at the Guy Favreau Center in Montrel this was a line up of people that went around the block. He mentioned afterward that he had no idea they were all there to see him. He was over a half hour late because he took the time to walk that line thanking people for coming out. Estimates at the time put the crowd at around 1300 people.

As with all political events there are well prepared speeches. Mulroney put his aside and spoke from the heart for around 30 minutes with passion about Canada and the role communities could play. Clips from that speech are often shown when media are discussing him.

He represents an era when Prime Ministers recognized the honour and privilege it was to occupy that office. An era which Jean Chretien referred to yesterday when asked about Mulroney. Chretien said you could disagree about policy and have your differences, but still sit down and have a beer together afterwards. Very different from today where other parties are treated as an enemy to be destroyed as opposed to Canadians with a different point of view on an issue.

It was a privilege to have known him. RIP Brian Mulroney.