Brian Mulroney

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The Rt. Hon. Brian Mulroney
Rank: 18th
Term of Office: September 17, 1984 - June 25, 1993
Predecessor: John Turner
Successor: Kim Campbell
Date of Birth: March 20, 1939
Place of Birth: Baie-Comeau, Quebec
Spouse: Mila Pivnicki
Children one daughter, three sons
Profession: Lawyer / businessman
Political Party: Progressive Conservative
Religion: Roman Catholic

The Right Honourable Martin Brian Mulroney, PC , CC , GOQ , LL.D (born March 20, 1939), was the eighteenth Prime Minister of Canada from September 17, 1984, to June 25, 1993.

Born in Baie-Comeau, Quebec, Brian Mulroney became Prime Minister after his Progressive Conservative Party won the most parliamentary seats in Canadian history. At the time, Mulroney was unique in Canadian politics in that he had never been a career politician. A longtime businessman, he had become leader of the Progressive Conservative Party without any political experience, running as an outsider. His legacy is a mixed and complicated one, but it is almost undeniable that his period was one of drastic change.



The son of a paper mill electrician, he received his high school education at a Catholic boarding school in Chatham, New Brunswick operated by St. Thomas University. He graduated with an undergraduate degree from Saint Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, where he was a nationally ranked debater. He then obtained a law degree from Laval University in Quebec City. After graduation, he joined a Montreal law firm, and on May 26, 1973, he married Mila Pivnicki, the daughter of Yugoslav (Serbian) immigrants. The Mulroneys have four children: Nicolas, Mark, Ben and Caroline.

Although Brian Mulroney had not yet held public office, he had worked for the Progressive Conservative Party for years. In 1976, he ran for election as PC leader at the party's leadership convention, but lost to Joe Clark. Following this, Mulroney took the job of Executive Vice President of the Iron Ore Company of Canada, a joint subsidiary of three major U.S. steel corporations. In 1977, he was appointed company President.

By mid-1983, Joe Clark's leadership of the Progressive Conservative party was being questioned. Mulroney organized to defeat Clark at the party's leadership review. When Clark received an endorsement by less than 67 percent of delegates at the party convention, Clark resigned from the leadership, resulting in the 1983 leadership convention. Brian Mulroney was again a candidate, and he campaigned more shrewdly than he had done seven years before. He was elected party leader on June 11, 1983, beating Clark on the fourth ballot. He attracted broad support from the many factions of the party, especially from representatives of his native Québec. After winning a by-election in the riding of Central Nova, Mulroney entered the Canadian House of Commons in Ottawa on August 28, 1983.

When Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau retired in June 1984, the Liberal Party chose John Turner as its new leader. Turner called a general election for September. Mulroney is remembered for his performance in the debate in which he attacked Turner over making patronage appointments on behalf of Trudeau. Ironically, Turner had planned to attack Mulroney over the patronage machine that the latter had set up in anticipation of victory but Mulroney successfully turned the tables by pointing to Turner's recent patronage appointments. Many observers considered the debate a turning point in the campaign.

The Progressive Conservatives won the largest majority government in the history of Canada with 211 of 282 seats. They also led in every province, emerging as a national party for the first time since the 1958 election.

Arms of the Rt. Hon. Brian Mulroney
Arms of the Rt. Hon. Brian Mulroney

Prime Minister

Domestic policy

A major undertaking by Mulroney's government was an attempt to resolve the divisive issue of national unity. Mulroney wanted to include Québec in a new agreement with the rest of Canada. Quebec was the only province that did not sign the new Canadian constitution negotiated by Pierre Trudeau in 1982. Additionally, for years, many people of the province of Québec had believed that their French-speaking culture merited a distinct status within Canada, and a widespread movement to secede from Canada had developed in the 1960s and 1970s.

In 1987, Mulroney negotiated the Meech Lake Accord with the provincial premiers, a series of constitutional amendments designed to satisfy Québec's demand for recognition as a "distinct society" within Canada. However, many English-Canadians objected to the accord, and it was not ratified by the provincial governments of Manitoba and Newfoundland before the 1990 ratification deadline. This failure sparked a revival of Quebec separatism, and led to another round of meetings in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, in 1991 and 1992. These negotiations culminated in the Charlottetown Accord, which outlined extensive changes to the constitution, including recognition of Québec as a distinct society. However, the agreement was defeated in a national referendum in October 1992.

Throughout his term Mulroney attempted to cut Canada's deficit, which was running into the billions of dollars. However, he was never able to eliminate it, and the country's debt increased substantially through his term. His attempts to cut spending limited his ability to deliver on many promises. The worldwide recession of the early 1990s further exasperated the government's financial situation. His inability to improve the government's finances, as well as his use of tax increases to deal with it was a major factor in a alienating the western conservative portion of his power base.

Mulroney attempted to appeal to the western provinces, whose earlier support had been critical to his electoral success. He cancelled the National Energy Program and included a significant western presence in cabinet. However, he was not completely successful, even aside from economic and constitutional policy, for example by moving CF-18 servicing from Manitoba to Quebec in 1986.

One priority was the privatization of many of Canada's crown corporations. In 1984 the government of Canada held 61 different crown corporations. [1] It sold off 23 of them by 1994. Several of these were quite large, such as Air Canada, Canadian National Railways, and Petro-Canada.

Air Canada was completely privatized by 1989, although the Air Canada Public Participation Act continued to make certain requirements of the airline. For example, the airline must maintain its headquarters in Montreal, foreign ownership is limited, and it must continue to provide French and English service. At the same time airline regulations were liberalised, allowing, among other things, for greater access to the United States.

In 1990 the government announced plans to privatize Petro-Canada. Privatization legislation passed and, on July 3, 1991, the first shares were sold to the public in an initial public offering. Some rules still applied to the company: no other shareholder was allowed to own more than 10% of the company, and foreigners could not control more than 25% of the company. Over the next decade the government of Canada slowly sold off its stake in the company, selling the last shares under Paul Martin in 2004.

The final privatization of CNR was not completed until 1995 when the government of Jean Chrétien passed the final legislation.

Mulroney's government also held a referendum in the Northwest Territories on the issue of creating a new territory from the eastern half of the Northwest Territories to be called Nunavut. Nunavut, in which the Inuit people form the majority, provides that people a measure of self-government. The people of the Northwest Territories voted "yes", and Nunavut came in to being in 1999.

The conservative government proposed the introduction of a national sales tax, the Goods and Services Tax (GST), in 1989. When it was introduced in 1991, it replaced the Manufacturers' Sales Tax (MST) that had previously been applied at the wholesale level on manufactured goods. Although the government argued that the tax was not a tax increase, but a tax shift, the highly visible nature of the tax was extremely unpopular.

In 1990 Mulroney appointed his former cabinet minister, Ray Hnatyshyn, as Governor General.

The decline of cod stocks in Atlantic Canada led the Mulroney government to impose a moratorium on the cod fishery there, putting an end to a large portion of the Newfoundland fishing industry, and causing serious economic hardship. The government instituted various programmes designed to mitigate these effects but still became deeply unpopular in the Atlantic provinces.

Foreign policy

The Mulroneys with President and Mrs. Reagan in Quebec, Canada, March 18, 1985, the day after the famous "Shamrock Summit", when the two leaders sang "When Irish Eyes are Smiling".
The Mulroneys with President and Mrs. Reagan in Quebec, Canada, March 18, 1985, the day after the famous "Shamrock Summit", when the two leaders sang "When Irish Eyes are Smiling".

During his tenure as prime minister, Brian Mulroney's close relationship with U.S. President Ronald Reagan helped result in the ratification of a free-trade treaty with the United States under which all tariffs between the two countries would be eliminated by 1998. Critics noted that Mulroney had originally professed opposition to free trade during the 1983 leadership campaign. This agreement was very controversial, and was the central issue of the 1988 election, in which Mulroney's party was re-elected with a strong majority in Parliament (however only with 43% of the popular vote). This trade liberalization was expanded in 1992 through the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) signed by Canada, the United States, and Mexico.

Mulroney's government actively opposed the apartheid regime in South Africa. Mulroney met with many opposition leaders throughout his ministry. His position put him at odds with the American and British governments, but also won him respect elsewhere.

Mulroney supported the coalition during the 1991 Gulf War and sent Canadian jets to participate. In August he sent the destroyers HMCS Terra Nova and HMCS Athabaskan to enforce the trade blockade against Iraq. The supply ship HMCS Protecteur was also sent to aid the gathering coalition forces. When the UN authorized full use of force in the operation, Canada sent a CF18 squadron with support personnel. Canada also sent a field hospital to deal with casualties from the ground war.

When the air war began, Canada's planes were integrated into the coalition force and provided air cover and attacked ground targets. This was the first time since the Korean War that Canadian forces had participated in combat operations.

Another major policy initiative was the signing of an Acid-Rain Accord with the United States.

Under Mulroney's government, external affairs minister, Joe Clark, was the first foreign affairs minister to land in previously-isolated Ethiopia to lead the Western response to the 1984 - 1985 famine in Ethiopia; Clark landed in Addis Ababa so quickly he had not even seen the initial CBC report that had created the initial and strong public reaction; Canada's response was overwhelming and led the US and Britain to follow suit almost immediately — an unprecedented situation in foreign affairs to that time, since Ethiopia had a Marxist one-state regime and had previously been wholly isolated by Western governments.

The government took a strong stand against Nicaraguan intervention under Reagan, and accepted refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala, and other countries with regimes supported directly by the Reagan administration.


Although Mulroney had retained a parliamentary majority in the 1988 elections, widespread public resentment of the GST, the fracturing of his political coalition, an economic slump, and his inability to resolve the Quebec situation caused Mulroney's popularity to decline considerably. He announced his resignation as PC leader and prime minister in February 1993 in and was replaced by Kim Campbell in June of that year. Mulroney was criticized in his last days of office for taking a lavish international "farewell" tour mostly at taxpayers' expense. Mulroney remained in office until almost the end of the maximum five-year mandate which meant that his successor was faced with an election within months; this gave Campbell little time or chance to salvage the PC's tattered reputation.

The pent-up resentment against the Mulroney government was delivered by the electorate in a withering, unmistakable judgement: the oldest political party in Canada was reduced to two seats. The Progressive Conservatives limped on for a few years with a handfull of members, regaining official party status but eventually merging with the Canadian Alliance to form the Conservative Party of Canada.

After politics

Since leaving office, Mulroney has pursued a lucrative career as a lawyer at Ogilvy Renault and an international business consultant. His experiences as prime minister, such as trying to reconcile the western provinces and Quebec and his close relationship with former President George H.W. Bush, have served him well.

In 1997, Mulroney settled a defamation lawsuit he had brought against the Government of Canada, originally for $50 million. At issue were allegations that Mulroney had accepted bribes in the so-called "Airbus affair" concerning government contracts. Mulroney was re-imbursed for $2 million in legal fees. The government said the allegations could not be substantiated.

William Kaplan, a historian and former law professor, discusses payments from German-Canadian businessman Karlheinz Schreiber to Mulroney in his 2004 book A Secret Trial, published by McGill-Queens University Press. Schreiber paid Brian Mulroney $100,000 in cash not long after Mulroney stepped down as prime minister -- and another $200,000 in cash over the next two years. Schreiber himself received millions of dollars in commissions related to the sale of Airbus Jets to Air Canada, which in turn touched off one of the biggest scandals in German political history. Shreiber is currently fighting extradition to Germany to face charges of fraud. He claims that he could touch off a very large political scandal in Canada, should he ever choose to reveal what he knows.

It is unclear what services Mulroney performed for Schreiber to earn the money; Mulroney says it was for introductions for Schreiber's pasta business. Mulroney says he is "as clean as a whistle" and points out that he declared the money and paid tax on it. Despite the payments, Mulroney had previously sworn under oath that he had only a "peripheral" relationship to Schreiber. Kaplan calls the testimony evasive, incomplete and misleading -- but concludes that it does not rise to the level of perjury. He adds that no evidence has ever emerged that Mulroney was involved in the decision to purchase Airbus airplanes. To this day, many questions about the Airbus affair remain unanswered.

In 1998, Mulroney was accorded Canada's highest civilian honour when he was made a Companion of the Order of Canada.

In January 2004, Mulroney delivered a keynote speech in Washington, D.C. celebrating the tenth anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement. In June 2004, Mulroney presented a eulogy for former U.S. President Ronald Reagan during the latter's state funeral. Mulroney and former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher were the first foreign dignitaries to eulogize at a funeral for an American president (Thatcher did not attend due to poor health but she taped her eulogy).

In February 2005, Mulroney was diagnosed with a lesion on one of his lungs. In his youth, Mulroney had been a heavy smoker. He underwent successful surgery and was recovered well enough to tape a speech for the 2900 delegates attending the new Conservative Party of Canada's inaugural Policy Convention in Montreal in March though he could not attend in person. Though his surgery was initially reported to have gone on without incident, he later developed pancreatitis and he remained in hospital for several weeks. It was not until April 19 that his son, Ben Mulroney, announced he was recovering and would soon be released.

Mulroney played a minor role in the scandal that ensued when Belinda Stronach, the Member of Parliament for Newmarket--Aurora, crossed the floor to join the Liberal Party of Canada and was appointed Minister of Human Resources. Stronach claimed that she had Mulroney's support for this move. However, Senator Marjory LeBreton, speaking for Mulroney, indicated that Mulroney initially refused to take or return Stronach's calls. When he finally did speak to her, the former prime minister expressed his thanks for Stronach's friendship, but condemned her move in the strongest terms.

On September 12, 2005, veteran writer and former Mulroney confidant Peter C. Newman released The Secret Mulroney Tapes: Unguarded Confessions of a Prime Minister. Based in large part on unguarded remarks from the former prime minister which Newman had taped with Mulroney's knowledge, the book set off national controversy. Newman had released the tapes after Mulroney did not honour a prior agreement with Newman leading to a falling out between the two men; Mulroney had planned to release his autobiography without Newman's help. Mulroney himself has declared that he showed poor judgement in making such unguarded statements, but he says that he will have to live with it.

This lead Mulroney to respond at a press dinner, 22 October 2005 with a minimalist, yet highly effective speech. The former Prime Minister appeared on tape and very formally acknowledged the various dignitaries and audience groups before delivering the shortest speech of the night: "Peter Newman: Go fuck yourself. Thank you. Good night."


Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's official portrait by Igor Babailov.
Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's official portrait by Igor Babailov.

Like many former national leaders, Mulroney appears to be greatly concerned with how he will be viewed by history. He makes the case that his once radical policies on the economy and free trade were not reversed by subsequent governments. Mulroney regards this as vindication.

Two of his most controversial moves entered were the 1988 free trade agreement and the 1992 Goods and Services Tax. Although the Tories were re-elected with a large majority in 1988 campaigning on free trade (mostly due to support in the western provinces and Quebec), they only won with 43% of the popular vote, compared to 56% of the vote which went to both the Liberal Party of Canada and the New Democratic Party who campaigned mostly against the free trade agreement (but the whole campaign was not just about free trade, as polls at the time showed that the majority of Canadians supported free trade).

Environmentalists, social activists, nationalists, labour leaders and members of the cultural community continue to complain today of alleged injustices Canada faces due to free trade. Free Trade is not dead as an issue, but has been put on the back burner compared to issues like health care, the Kyoto Protocol, the gun registry, child care, taxation, equalization payments and the Atlantic accord.

The "in your face" nature of the Goods and Services Tax proved to be very unpopular. The GST was created for two purposes, to help eliminate the ever growing deficit and to replace the hidden Manufacturer's sales tax (which Mulroney claimed was hurting business). On large purchases Canadians paid pretty much the same as before, but on small purchases Canadians paid far more and could also see how much they were being taxed which angered them.

Mulroney's intense unpopularity at the time of his resignation led many Conservative politicians to distance themselves from him for some years. Mulroney began position himself in the late 1990s as something of an elder statesman, but that perception is not universally shared. Former Ontario premier and liberal David Peterson, who stood by Mulroney through the wrangling over the Meech Lake Accord, is quoted as saying he would "never trust" the former prime minister. "He is a pathological liar," Peterson says. "In fairness, I don't believe he knows he's lying ... you couldn't take anything he said at face value. His essential Achilles heel is his baloney." Many Canadians still regard Mulroney as a polarizing figure.

Social conservatives also found fault with Mulroney in a variety of areas. These include his opposition to both capital punishment and the outlawing of abortion, his tax increases and his failure to curtail expansion of "big government" programs and political patronage. However, Mulroney's view on those positions established him in the eyes of social conservatives as a Red Tory (most Red Tories would disagree), though for most of his tenure he was moderate enough to be electable across Canada. Leaders of the Reform and Canadian Alliance, have been known to be Blue Tories on social and financial issues, which has solidified their support in Alberta but failed to make headway in the more centralized Ontario, Quebec or Atlantic region (once PC strongholds).

The initially unflattering view of Mulroney's legacy began when he was replaced as Prime Minister and leader of the Progressive Conservative Party by Defence Minister Kim Campbell. She suffered a stunning electoral defeat in the 1993 election. Many blamed Mulroney not only for his unpopular policies, but also because Mulroney had stayed on as leader for almost the entire mandate, only resigning at the last minute in 1993 when an election would have to be called not long after and leaving Campbell with little time to consolidate her leadership. The Canadian political right had fragmented during Mulroney's tenure. Many veteran Cabinet Ministers and MPs decided not to run for re-election. Western conservatives left the Progressive Conservative party for the new Reform Party, and Quebec conservatives left to join the separatist Bloc Québécois and the Liberals. This fragmentation contributed to the defeat of the Progressive Conservative Party, and left it a marginal force in the House of Commons. The Canadian right was not reunited until the December 2003 merger of the Progressive Conservatives and the Canadian Alliance (successor to the Reform Party) to form the new Conservative Party of Canada.

Mulroney played an influential role by supporting the merger at a time when former Progressive Conservative leaders such as Joe Clark and Kim Campbell either opposed it or expressed ambivalence.

Mulroney had also been attacked for his relationship with the U.S. by Jean Chrétien, who had a good relationship with Bill Clinton. Chrétien attacked Mulroney for his friendships with both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Supreme Court appointments

Mulroney appointed the following Justices to the Supreme Court of Canada:

Notable cabinet ministers


"Real leadership is often the antithesis of popularity." [2]

See also

External links

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Preceded by:
John Turner
Prime Minister of Canada
Succeeded by:
Kim Campbell
Preceded by:
Erik Nielsen
Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons
Succeeded by:
John Turner
Preceded by:
Erik Nielsen
Progressive Conservative Leaders
Succeeded by:
Kim Campbell
Preceded by:
Elmer M. MacKay, PC
Members of Parliament from Central Nova
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Elmer M. MacKay, PC
Preceded by:
André Maltais, Liberal
Members of Parliament from Manicouagan
Succeeded by:
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Charles Hamelin, PC
Members of Parliament from Charlevoix
Succeeded by:
Gérard Asselin, Bloc Québécois

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