Growing up through the 1970’s and 1980’s, I became aware that Canada was governed almost entirely by two different political parties, the Progressive Conservative Party (PC) and the Liberal Party. There were other parties such as the NDP, but they were either too socialistic or too wacky to pose any serious threat to the political balance that had been achieved.
It seemed as though Canada would be perpetually lobbed back and forth between these two opposing parties, and for the most part it was a good thing. No one party was able to take the country very far from the centre, so change was gradual and balanced. Life was good, and politics were politics. Then came Martin Brian Mulroney. He would prove to be the millstone around the Progressive Conservative Party’s neck.
While a successful young lawyer, Brian was also involved in conservative circles. He became the leading conservative fundraiser in Quebec, and made inroads where conservatives had been unable to for many generation. He gradually ran for the leadership of the party in 1976 but was defeated on the third ballot. He ran again in 1983, and beat out Joe Clark on the final ballot. The PC party now had a new leader.
The government of John Turner called an election in 1984 and Brian Mulroney and the Progressive Conservatives did something that no government in Canadian history had ever done, nor have done since. They captured 211 of 282 seats. In an electoral landslide, the PC party had crushed the Liberals. Much good could have been accomplished.
It wasn’t long until Mr. Mulroney’s government was embroiled in scandal. There were accusations of personal loans being paid to the family of one of Mr. Mulroney’s ministers in return for millions in government contracts, and involved the firm then controlled by the father of none other than Belinda Stronach. This would later pale to the reports of kickbacks received by Brian Mulroney himself in what would become known as the “Airbus scandal”, when airbus jets were purchased for Air Canada.
There were the Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords, two very ambitious plans to give Quebec special status within the Canadian constitution. These were flawed plans to begin with, as no one province should be raised up any higher than the rest. That in itself would cause our confederation to implode. Some of Canada’s provincial leaders had the good sense to recognize this injustice and helped to defeat both of these accords. This led to a resurgence in Quebec separatist sentiment and led to the rise of the Bloc Quebecois to national prominence and political victory in Quebec.
Free trade. It would take too long to go into details, but this act that changed our economics forever deeply divided Canadians. The jury is still out as to how bad or good this has affected our country, as there are as many differing opinions as there are ideas. It was a huge step into becoming part of a global economy. To this writer, that is a bad thing as much of our sovereignty is lost in such an economy. Take for example the current lawsuit against Canada Post being waged by United Parcel Service. If this battle is lost to Canada, a foreign company will have dictated our national policy.
Last but not least, there is the hated Goods and Services Tax. Mr. Mulroney not only introduced this monster, but treated Canadians with contempt as he stacked the senate with his friends and cronies to ensure the passage of this act.In this move, Mr. Mulroney thumbed his nose at Canadians from coast to coast.
He didn’t just commit political suicide, he also sacrificed his entire party. In the general election that followed this arrogant political maneuver, the PC party of Canada was utterly and forever destroyed. In the election of 1993, they would be reduced to just 2 seats, losing even official party status. It would be the worst defeat ever endured by a sitting government in our country’s history. It would also end a period of checks and balances that could only be provided by a viable opposition party.
From 1993 until the formation of the new Conservative Party of Canada, the Liberals have had a free hand to steer our country so far left that we have gone into the political ditch on more than one occasion. Conservatives scrambled to form new parties, but the movement became fractured, with the conservative vote being split between multiple parties. Only now is there emerging a unified conservative alternative to the corruption and arrogance that replaced the corruption and arrogance that came before it.
Canadians punished the conservative stronghold of Brian Mulroney, and as a Canadian, I pray that the current lot receive their comeuppance in the same manner. It will restore my faith in the intelligence and memory of the Canadian voter, who did what he/she should have done in 1993.
I hope that the generation that rejected the arrogance of Mulroney will also reject the arrogance of Martin. We now have a viable opposition party, one that is not fragmented and divided. Canadians now have a choice. Do we allow the corruption to be rewarded, or do we gravitate to someone we have seen the media deride?
I don’t know about you, but I look at the lack of polish that Mr. Harper has been accused of as a positive. The last thing we need is another born and bred spit polished politician. We need a real person.
And it’ll be nice to undo the Mulroney legacy .