Hosted by
CraigBaird

Born Martin Brian Mulroney in Baie-Comeau (BAY-COMO), Quebec to Irish immigrants to Mary and Benedict on March 20, 1939, he was born into a town that got its start thanks to newspapers. The town had its start thanks to Colonel Robert McCormick, who owned the Chicago Tribune and used the town to supply his papers with newsprint. Benedict Mulroney was one of the pioneers to the town when it was first founded in the 1930s. Mulroney’s father wanted his children to escape the paper mill that dominated the job market of the area. To that end, Benedict worked extra hard, running a side repair business, and taking the overtime he could get to have extra money for his children’s education.

Mulroney would say later in life, quote:

“The company provided schools and a hospital and a steady living, which was irresistible to my father. He signed on as an electrician’s helper in 1937 and stayed there until he died nearly 30 years later.”

The hard work of his father was something that Mulroney noticed and greatly admired. He would say quote:

“My father worked six days a week in a hot paper mill, including 16 hours on Sunday. He would come home after a full day’s work, have a quick meal, and then head out in the cold winter night to fix someone’s oil burner, or wire someone’s new home. I learned from him a sense of responsibility, commitment to family and the importance of hard work.”

As a young man of 10, Mulroney’s first job would be at the local food store, where he washed fruits and vegetables and kept the shelves stock, working after school and on weekends. All the money he made went to his mother, who was considered the banker of the family.

Living on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River, Mulroney would often look at the outside world from the small town with awe. He would say quote:

“The summers were fleeting and the winters long and bitterly cold. I remember as a boy I would lay in bed at night and listen to American radio stations. With my imagination I painted pictures in the sky of all this excitement that was available outside my little town and the future that might exist out there. I was very much a dreamer.”

There was no English-language school in the area, so Mulroney would attend the private St. Thomas High School in New Brunswick. The yearly tuition was $405, or $4,000 today. For the family, it was a significant amount of money. He later attended the St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia as a 16-year-old freshman, where he studied political science and became involved with the Conservative Club on campus. In the Combined Atlantic Universities Parliament, he served as the prime minister. Mulroney would also win several speaking contests at St. Francis, never losing a single interuniversity debate.

From an early age, Mulroney was captivated by the speaking skills of John Diefenbaker, and how approachable he was. This would set him on his own path to eventually becoming prime minister himself. Like Diefenbaker, and oddly unusual for Canadian prime ministers, Mulroney also wanted to lead the country from a young age.

As a child, Mulroney was an excellent student and a gifted athlete. He also had an excellent singing voice and Robert McCormick would often have Mulroney perform at the company’s social events.

Mulroney would get his first taste of politics when he worked for the successful leadership campaign of John Diefenbaker in 1956. With the successful win by Diefenbaker for the leadership of the party, he began to take Mulroney under his wing. The two would become friends and Diefenbaker would often call Mulroney. When Mulroney was attending Laval, he told people he was the student advisor to Diefenbaker, the current prime minister at the time in 1961. No one believed him and dared him to invite Diefenbaker to speak at Laval. Now this is where it gets a bit murky as there are two versions of the story, but I will relate one. In one story, his classmates see Diefenbaker and Mulroney sitting in the cafeteria having lunch together, and in another story, Mulroney did have Diefenbaker attend the law class one day.  

Mulroney quickly began to make a name for himself at that point thanks to his charm, gregarious personality and due to the fact, he was fluent in French and English.

After graduating from St. Francis in 1959, Mulroney pursued a law degree from Dalhousie Law School. While in Nova Scotia, he developed a friendship with Robert Stanfield, who was looking to become the premier of Nova Scotia, and Dalton Camp, the chief advisor of the premier. The campaign was a success and Mulroney made an impact with the older members of the campaign team. Finlay MacDonald, who also worked on the campaign, would say, quote:

“One word described my first impression of Brian Mulroney, irrepressible. He was enthusiastic, charming, and dogged. A doggedness he could always back up with performance. If you told him, for example, to tie a pink ribbon to a dog’s tail, it was tied and in the right spot.”

Mulroney found himself drawn to the Conservative Party and later in life would say that he did not want to be a Liberal because they were no fun and took themselves too seriously.

In 1960, Mulroney would assist Stanfield with his re-election, but it came at the cost of his studies. In the winter term, Mulroney also fell seriously ill, and he would leave Dalhousie after the first year.

In 1961, Mulroney returned to Quebec and would receive a law degree from Laval University. While back in Quebec, Mulroney would befriend the future premier of Quebec Daniel Johnson, and often went to the provincial legislature where he met a new group of friends including Lucien Bouchard and Michael Meighen, the grandson of Arthur Meighen. During this time, he became more involved with the Progressive Conservative Youth Wing, and came to know Joe Clark, another man who would have a long impact on the career of Mulroney.

Working closely with political leaders, Mulroney would be rewarded with the job as an executive assistant to Alvin Hamilton, the minister of agriculture in Ottawa. When the federal election was called that year, Hamilton was appointed as acting prime minister for the campaign, and Mulroney accompanied him on the campaign trail, gaining excellent experience.

Following his graduation from Laval University in 1964, Mulroney joined the Norton Rose Fulbright law firm, which was the largest law firm in the Commonwealth at the time. Interestingly, Mulroney failed the bar twice, but due to his charming personality, he was kept on with the firm until he passed, which he did in 1965. He soon became a labour lawyer, where he could use his skills with conciliation and negotiation.

Tragedy would strike when Mulroney lost his father when he was 24, leaving Mulroney to take on the responsibilities, and financial wellbeing, of the family. Mulroney would finance the educations of his brother and sister and supported his mother for the rest of her life.

In 1966, with the Progressive Conservative Party pushing against John Diefenbaker after failed elections, Mulroney began to work with Dalton Camp and his supporters against Diefenbaker to have Camp chosen as the new leader. Due to his friendship with Diefenbaker though, Mulroney would remain out of the spotlight of the power struggle.

In 1967, when the Progressive Conservative leadership convention was held, Mulroney, along with Joe Clark, supported E. Davie Fulton for leader. When Fulton dropped out, Mulroney and his group put their support behind Robert Stanfield, who then won. Mulroney was then chosen to be the chief advisor to Stanfield in Quebec.

On May 26, 1973, Mulroney married Mila Pivnicki, the daughter of a Serbian doctor. Together, the couple would have four children, including Ben Mulroney who would go on to host Your Morning, while Caroline Mulroney would run for the PC leadership and is currently the Ontario Minister of Transportation.

As a member of the Cliché Commission on Violence and Corruption in the Construction Industry in Quebec in 1974 and 1975, Mulroney gained attention for his articulate speaking and hard-hitting style. This commission, which was looking at the James Bay Project, Canada’s largest hydroelectric project, was marred with dirty tactics and violence as part of a union struggle. Mulroney worked with Lucien Bouchard as counsel and found that the mafia was in the unions. The commission made Mulroney well known in Quebec through the extensive media coverage. Through this, Mulroney also became friends with Robert Bourassa, the premier of the province. This would have big benefits for Mulroney later in life.

In the province, he was now the leading Conservative organizer and despite not being in political office yet, he ran for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party in 1976. In that leadership run, Mulroney picked up 357 votes and finished in second on the first ballot, ahead of Joe Clark. On the second ballot he had 419 votes, but on the third ballot he had 369 votes and he was eliminated, while Joe Clark would go on to win the leadership of the party. Many felt that the Mulroney campaign was too expensive, and Mulroney lacked experience in Parliament, and had vague policy positions. When the leadership race was done, Mulroney was the only one of the 11 candidates who did not provide full financial disclosures, and his campaign finished deeply in debt.

That same year, Mulroney became the vice president of the Iron Ore Company, and served as its president from 1977 to 1983, where he emphasized management-labour relations.

The leadership loss hit Mulroney hard, and he would fall into alcohol abuse and depression for several years after the failed leadership bid. Thanks to his wife, he was able to rebound and in 1979, he became a teetotaler.

In 1982, as a prominent member of the Progressive Conservatives, Mulroney stood with Clark at a press conference and endorsed him publicly as others were beginning to look to remove Clark from leadership. In truth, Mulroney was working behind the scenes to defeat Clark, and Clark’s own Quebec organizer was working for Mulroney to undermine Clark.

In 1983, once again not having served in Parliament, Mulroney ran for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party. This time, he decided to go for a low-key effort compared to his showier 1976 campaign. The weakness that he lacked policy depth was remedied by Mulroney through a series of major speeches he made around Canada in the early 1980s, which were collected into his book Where I Stand, which was published in 1983.

In that leadership run, He took 874 votes on the first ballot, 1,021 votes on the second ballot and 1,036 votes on the third ballot. Through the first three ballots, Mulroney slowly decreased the lead of Joe Clark until the fourth ballot, when he pulled ahead with 1,584 votes, becoming the new leader of the party.

Winning a by-election in Central Nova, Nova Scotia with 60.2 per cent of the vote on Aug. 29, 1983, Mulroney became the Leader of the Official Opposition. He then began to work to heal the wounds of the party and built a solid electoral machine in a short time as he knew that an election was coming.

Around this same time, Mulroney also quit smoking.

With the retirement of Pierre Trudeau, Justin Turner came in as the new prime minister of Canada. At the time, the Liberals were leading in the polls and Turner decided to capitalize on this and he called an election for September of 1984. The Conservatives were caught off guard by this because they thought that Turner would take advantage of the visits by Queen Elizabeth II and Pope John Paul II to tour the country and raise his profile.

In the 1984 election, Mulroney ran an excellent campaign against Prime Minister John Turner and the Liberals. The Liberals had a campaign that was in disarray and Turner made several gaffes after being away from politics since 1976. One of the biggest issues was the patronage appointments of Trudeau, which numbered 200. Rather than cancel these, Turner implement an addition 80 of his own. In the leadership debate, Mulroney went on the offensive and attacked Turner over it. Many observers felt that this showing in the leadership debate was what pushed Mulroney towards his election as prime minister.

On Sept. 4, the Progressive Conservatives picked up 211 seats, the largest number in Canadian history to this date. One of the biggest wins for the party in that election was the 58 seats they took in Quebec, the home province of Mulroney. This was the most seats that the Conservatives won in Quebec since 1896. Running in a Quebec riding, Mulroney defeated the Liberal incumbent with 71.6 per cent of the vote and almost 20,000 more votes. The Conservatives won just over half the vote and led in every province for the first time since 1958.

Speaking at 1 a.m. on the night of his election, Mulroney said quote:

“The people of Canada, coast to coast, have spoken, and the people are always right.”

On Sept. 17, 1984, Mulroney was sworn in as the 18th prime minister of Canada and Mulroney as chosen as the Canadian Press Newsmaker of the Year.

With the first Conservative majority government in 26 years, and only the second in 54 years, Mulroney got down to work in his first term as the leader of the country. Things did not get off to a great start. Mulroney’s support was based on the support of populists in the west, Quebec nationalists and fiscal Conservatives in Ontario and the Maritimes. With so many supporters all wanting him to support them in different ways, it caused some fracturing in the support of Mulroney around the country.

For the west, he would cancel the National Energy Program and he appointed westerners to his Cabinet, including Joe Clark. He moved the servicing of the CF-18 from Manitoba to Quebec, even though the Manitoba company had a better rating and lower bid, which angered Manitoba but pleased Quebec. He did keep supporters in Manitoba through his recognition and stance on the minority French language rights in Manitoba.

Another issue was that with so much time away from leading the country, the Progressive Conservatives had few ministers with any experience beyond Joe Clark.

A focus for Mulroney was the deficit of the country, which had increased from $1 billion in the 1960s to $32.4 billion by the early 1980s. He was successful in this regard, reducing the percent of the GDP the deficit took up, from 8.3 per cent to 5.6 per cent.

Unfortunately, by the end of 1985, only one year into his first term, 60 per cent of Canadians thought Mulroney had not kept his promises. In 1986, 60 per cent of respondents said they wanted a new prime minister.

By the spring of 1987, Mulroney would launch two initiatives that would serve as the main aspects of his first term. This was the negotiation of the Meech Lake Accord, and the conclusion of the Free Trade Agreement with the United States.

For the Meech Lake Accord, this came about because Quebec was the only province that did not sign the new Canadian constitution in 1982 and Mulroney wanted to resolve the divisive issue of national unity and include Quebec in a new agreement with the rest of Canada. At first, the proposed amendments were popular among the provinces and all the provinces agreed to a package and they had reached their agreement at Meech Lake north of Ottawa. The Accord would recognize Quebec as a distinct society in Canada, and recognize the Anglophone minority in Quebec, as well as the Francophone minority in other provinces. Under the Accord, the provinces were given a formal role in nominating people to the Senate and Supreme Court of Canada.

Among Canadians, the Meech Lake Accord was popular with Canadians when it was unveiled, and there was relief that Quebec was joining in officially on the Constitution.

Unfortunately, all of this would begin to fall apart for the next three years as provincial legislatures took votes and were unable to reach an agreement. Critics of the plan also worried over the weakening of the federal power. Pierre Trudeau was highly against the Accord, and would come out of retirement to attack it, stating that Mulroney sold out to the provinces. In English Canada, growing unease began to emerge over the concept of a distinct society for Quebec, and they felt that giving Quebec special status would give it more power than the other provinces.

The Accord was also negotiated by the First Ministers, consisting of the premiers and the Prime Minister, which became an issue for Canadians. For many Canadians, it was seen as backroom political dealing by what were called 11 men in suits.

On May 1, 1987, Mulroney spoke to the House of Commons stating that an agreement had been reached in principle on the constitutional package to allow Quebec to rejoin the Canadian constitutional family.

He would say quote:

“This agreement enhances the Confederation bargain and strengthens I believe the federal nature of Canada. Although it remains to be formalized, it represents in the judgement of the First Ministers, of all political stripes, from all areas of the country, an historic accomplishment.”

To become law, the Accord had to be ratified within three years by all 10 provinces. Quebec was the first to pass the required resolution of approval on June 23, 1987, the remaining provinces had to all pass their own resolution of approval by that date in 1990. In the early weeks of 1990, the premiers did agree to ratify the Accord on a condition of an elected senate and other issues. In Manitoba, all political parties agreed to endorse the Accord. Hearings had to be held unless everyone in the Legislature agreed to bypass those. One member, Elijah Harper, did not vote in favour and as a result the Accord did not reach the vote in the province. To give Manitoba more time, a new ratification date had to be created, but this began to frustrate the other premiers and would lead to its collapse.

The collapse of the Meech Lake Accord would have serious consequences for Mulroney. Lucien Bouchard, the environment minister, and Mulroney’s Quebec lieutenant, walked out of the government due to the collapse of the Accord. Several other members left the Progressive Conservatives, as well as the Liberals. They would then go on to form the Bloc Quebecois. Despite being close friends since university, Bouchard and Mulroney would never speak again.

Mulroney also began to sell off various Crown Corporations. When he came to power in 1984, the government had 61 Crown Corporations and by 1989, his government had sold off 23 of them, including Air Canada.

Near the end of his first term, Mulroney would also write a wrong that had happened to Japanese Canadians four decades previous. He would give a formal apology to the Japanese Canadians who had been interned during the Second World War, with many losing their property as a result. He also authorized a $300 million package to the families.

The government of Mulroney, through the work of Joe Clark, greatly opposed apartheid in South Africa and Mulroney would meet with many of the country’s opposition leaders to show his support for anti-apartheid measures. In 1990, when Nelson Mandela was released from prison, he publicly thanked Canada for its support.

While presidents in the past have had good relationships with our prime ministers over the years, few were as close as the friendship between Ronald Reagan and Mulroney. Many considered Mulroney to be in the hip pocket of Reagan, but it was thanks to this friendship that Mulroney was able to negotiate a landmark treaty on acid rain, and the creation of a free trade agreement. Mulroney was quite environmentally friendly when it came to his policies. He passed the Environmental Protection Act in 1988 and his government created eight new national parks. Canada was also the first industrialized country to ratify both the biodiversity convention and the climate change convention agreed to at the UN Conference on the Environment.

Going back to the relationship between Brian Mulroney and Ronald Reagan, the Shamrock Summit needs to be mentioned. This was a summit that happened between the two leaders on March 18, 1985 and due to the Irish background of both leaders, and that it was held the day after St. Patrick’s Day, it was given that name by the press. For American officials, they saw this summit as a chance to mend relations between the two countries following the Trudeau era. Among the events scheduled for the 24-hour schedule, the two men talked about military planning, the upgrading of the DEW line to use modern electronics, the passing of the acid rain treaty, and the formal signing of the Canada-US Declaration on Goods and Services, which would lead to the free trade agreement. It could be argued that the relationship between the two leaders was the best since John Diefenbaker and Dwight Eisenhower, or Lester B. Pearson and John F. Kennedy.

Thanks to the close relationship with Reagan, Mulroney was able to steer him towards the free trade agreement even when talks had stalled. At one point in October of 1987, he called Jim Baker, the US Treasury Secretary and told him he was going to call Reagan and say, quote:

“Ron, I want you to explain to me how it is that you have just concluded a nuclear reduction treaty with your worst enemies, the Soviet Union, and you can’t conclude a free-trade agreement with your best friends, the Canadians.”

A few minutes later, Baker put a piece of paper on the negotiating table and stated, quote:

“All right, you can have your goddamn dispute settlement mechanism.”

Many were surprised by Mulroney pushing for free trade as he was opposed to it during his leadership campaign in 1983.

Soon after, he would change his tune on the matter, saying in 1985, quote:

“Throughout our history, trade has been critical to Canada’s livelihood. Now, almost one third of what we produce is exported. Few countries in the world are so dependent on trade. This trend ultimately threatens the jobs of many Canadians and the living standards of the nation. We must confront this threat. We must reverse this trend. To do so, we need a better, a fairer, and a more predictable trade relationship with the United States. At stake are more than two million jobs which depend directly on Canadian access to the US market.”

The free trade agreement was highly controversial in Canada, supported by Corporations but not by unions, regular Canadians, and others. Before an agreement could be created, the Senate demanded an election before having a ratification vote. This resulted in the Free Trade Agreement becoming the central issue of the 1988 election.

In the 1988 election, while Mulroney returned with a majority once again, his party saw its seat count fall from 211 to 169, while the Liberals doubled their seats to 83. Most Canadians voted for parties that opposed free trade, it was not enough to prevent another majority. With his successive majority government wins, he became the first Conservative prime minister since Sir John A. Macdonald to accomplish the feat. While Sir Robert Borden did lead two majority governments, his second was under the banner of the Unionist Party, rather than the Conservative Party.

On Jan. 1, 1989, the Free Trade Agreement was put into effect.

Mulroney’s second term began with an economic recession hitting the country and in August of 1989, Michael Wilson, the finance minister, announced the introduction of a nine per cent national sales tax that would replace the 13.5 per cent manufacturers sales tax. This tax was immensely unpopular with as many as 80 per cent of Canadians opposing it. There was a battle in the Senate over it and Mulroney used The Deadlock Clause of the Constitution to allow him to ask the Queen to appoint eight new senators. The government argued that the tax was not a new tax but a tax shift, but for regular Canadians it was seen as a new tax and the use of the clause to was resented by many. The manufacturer’s sales tax was not seen, while the GST was very visible. For Canadians, that was all that mattered.

On Jan. 1, 1991, the new Goods and Services Tax came into effect.

One bright spot during the second term was the negotiations to put in place the new territory of Nunavut, the first redrawing of the Canadian map since 1949 when Newfoundland joined the fold. The land claims agreement was completed in 1992 and ratified by 85 per cent of the voters in Nunavut in a referendum. Just two weeks after Mulroney resigned as prime minister, but prior to his leaving the House of Commons, the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act and the Nunavut Act were passed in Parliament. Nunavut would officially be created on April 1, 1999.

With the failure of the Meech Lake Accord, a second round of meetings was held, called the Charlottetown Accord. This new accord would give the provinces jurisdiction over mining, forestry, and other areas. It also required the federal government work with the provinces in areas such as immigration, telecommunications, and regional development. The accord also addressed Indigenous self-government and Indigenous representation in the government. The agreement would also recognize Quebec as a distinct society, as the Meech Lake Accord had. In the House of Commons, the number of seats would be increased, and no province could have fewer seats than any other province with a smaller population, but Quebec would always be guaranteed 25 per cent of the seats. The Charlottetown Accord was supported by the federal government and all 10 provinces. Since many criticized the Meech Lake Accord for what were seen as backroom dealings, Mulroney chose to make the Charlottetown Accord more public, and put it towards a national referendum. Across the country, 54.3 per cent of the vote went against the Accord, only winning approval in New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, and the Northwest Territories. A slim majority, 50.1 per cent supported it in Ontario and 56.7 per cent of voters in Quebec were against it.

The economic recession continued for the country, and debt levels reached $42 billion by 1992, which damaged Canada’s credit rating and the Canadian dollar.

With Canada now in a recession that many blamed on the free trade act, the Conservatives made the decision to negotiate a North American Free Trade Agreement which would include Mexico.

By this point, Mulroney’s popularity in polls was lower than any other prime minister in history due to the failure of the accords, the economic recession, and the implementation of GST. From 1990 onwards, Mulroney’s approval rating was never above 20 per cent.

In 1991, Mulroney supported the United Nations during the Gulf War and Canada would send a CF-18 Squadron with support personal and a field hospital to Iraq. In August of 1991, he sent the HMCS Terra Nova and the HMCS Athabaskan to enforce a trade blockade against the country. This would be the first time since 1974 in Cyprus when Canadian forces participated directly in combat operations. Regarding the military, Mulroney had promised to increase the military budget and increase the regular force to 92,000 troops. By the time 1993 came along though, the budget had been cut and the force was below 80,000 in number.

Mulroney’s popularity took a serious hit in Atlantic Canada when he imposed a moratorium on the cod fishery due to the huge decline in cod stocks.

By November 1992, his approval rating was just 12 per cent.

In February of 1993, Mulroney, facing a mandatory election, resigned from federal politics. At the time, his popularity had taken several hits due to the constitutional failures, the economic problems for the country, and the resentment over the creation of the GST.

He would tell Maclean’s magazine, quote:

“I don’t know what comes over you, but suddenly the kinds of things that were important when you were 23 aren’t important when you’re 53. I don’t know if it is called perspective or if it is called growth or if it is called what, but it is just there.”

Prior to handing over power, he would tour Europe using federal funds, and by the time Kim Campbell took over as prime minister, there was only two and a half months before the mandated election, giving the new prime minister barely any time to prepare. Mulroney also continued to live at 24 Sussex Drive for quite some time after Campbell became prime minister.

For the past decade, Mulroney had formed the Conservative Party into a strong entity but by the time he left politics, it was beginning to fracture. On June 25, 1993, it would see the worst collapse for a major party in Canadian history. The Progressive Conservatives fell from 151 seats to two seats and were no longer a recognized party in the House of Commons.

A big reason for this collapse was the feeling in the west that Mulroney was pandering to Quebec too much. It would lead to the formation of the Reform Party under Preston Manning, which attracted several former Progressive Conservatives.

Kim Campbell would speak about Mulroney later in her life, saying quote:

“I don’t blame someone for being human. People who make a mark are complicated. Brian Mulroney is complicated. He has great skills and annoying flaws.”

While it is easy enough to focus on some of the critical aspects of Mulroney’s time in office, most do see the beneficial aspects of his time in making Canada a middle power in the world that was able to exert influence to pressure the world to do something about the famine in Ethiopia, or apartheid, even the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Helmet Kohl would tell a German committee quote:

“There are three leaders in the world we want to thank for German reunification: George Bush, Mikhail Gorbachev and Brian Mulroney.

Following his time in politics, Mulroney became a senior partner at a law firm, and in 1998, he became the chairman of the Forbes Global Business and Finance magazine. That same year, he was awarded the Order of Canada. He has also served on a variety of boards including Quebecor Inc and The Blackstone Group.

Even out of politics, controversary still followed Mulroney. A book called On the Take alleged that Mulroney had made a fortune using dubious means while prime minister and that the Progressive Conservatives had supplemented the family income to help support his lifestyle. The book stated there was, quote:

“flagrant kickback schemes, bid-rigging of government contracts, misappropriation of parliamentary budgets, favors to corporate sponsors of the party, and an unprecedented orgy of patronage appointed that didn’t end until the day Mulroney left office.”

The biggest issue to dog Mulroney outside of politics was the Airbus Affair. Mulroney was mentioned in an investigation in the 1988 purchase of 34 Airbus A-320 passenger planes from a European company for $1.8 billion. It was alleged by Swiss authorities and the RCMP that Mulroney was directly involved in the defrauding of taxpayers and that he received $5 million in kickbacks because of the purchase. Swiss bank account records indicated one account was for Mulroney. Mulroney would deny the allegations and filed a $50 million lawsuit for libelous damage to his character. He asked for $25 million for damages to his reputation and $25 million in punitive damages, which he said he would donate to charity. In pretrial hearings, Mulroney said he was accused without proof and he lashed out at the government and presented his own case. On Jan. 6, 1997, the case went to the Quebec Superior Court and Mulroney’s lawyers blamed the Department of Justice for maligning Mulroney. In the end, Mulroney agreed to settle for an apology and the promise of the government paying $1 million in legal fees. Analysts felt that in the trial, Mulroney was more convincing, and his reputation was somewhat restored as a result. While there was no concrete evidence that Mulroney accepted kickbacks from the Airbus sale, he did state in 2003 that Karlheinz Schreiber, the chairman of Airbus Industries, had given him $225,000 over 18 months following his stepping down as prime minister in 1993. The money was sent in three payments, one of which came when Mulroney was still a member of the House of Commons. Mulroney stated the money was for helping to promote a fresh pasta business and to develop international contacts for Schreiber.

In 2007, a public inquiry was ordered, which revealed that Schreiber had also helped fund Mulroney’s 1983 leadership bid. In 2010, Justice Jeffrey Oliphant ruled that Mulroney did not break any laws or use his influence while prime minister on the contract.

In 2002, he was presented with the National Order of Quebec, and in 2003 received the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service.

In 2004, upon the death of Ronald Reagan, Mulroney delivered a eulogy, becoming the first foreign dignitary, along with Margaret Thatcher, to eulogize at the funeral of an American president.

In 2007, Mulroney released his memoirs, which were criticized by some for its attacks on Pierre Trudeau, who Mulroney stated was anti-Semitic in his youth.  

In 2009, Mulroney was the first recipient of the Sakura Award, presented to him because of his formal apology to Japanese Canadians for their internment during the Second World War. That same year, a survey conducted by the Capitol Hill Times named Mulroney as the most admired former Prime Minister of Canada. I assume that it was living prime ministers, rather than all prime ministers but the source did not state.

On Dec. 5, 2018, Mulroney would present a eulogy for former President George H.W. Bush.

Also in 2018, Mulroney was inducted into the Canadian Disability Hall of Fame for his, quote: “extraordinary contribution to enriching the quality of life for Canadians with physical disabilities.”

In a ranking of the first 20 prime ministers in Canadian history up to 1999, Mulroney would place eighth.

Since he left politics, there has been a varied outlook over the legacy of Mulroney. While his environmental policies were landmark in many ways, there was a great deal of anger towards him over the GST and the free trade agreements. While many of his opponents criticized the policies that were seen as radical at the time, none of the subsequent governments reversed those decisions.

His deputy prime minister, Don Mazankowski, would say that Mulroney dragged, quote:

“Canada kicking and screaming into the 20th century.”

As for Mulroney, he had this to say, which I will use to close out the podcast. He would say quote:

“I have always tried to do what I thought would be right for Canada in the long term, not what would be politically popular in the short term.”

Information comes from Biography, Canadian Encyclopedia, Wikipedia, Norton Rose Fulbright, Policy Options, Maclean’s, National Film Board, Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, Ottawa Citizen, The Hamilton Spectator, Horatio Alger Association of Canada,

Liked it? Take a second to support CraigBaird on Patreon!

Leave a Reply

More from this show

Canadian History Ehx

Recent posts

%d bloggers like this: