Brian Mulroney won the biggest majority in Canadian history. And he suffered the worst defeat. But, if you really want to know what happened to the Conservative Party under Stephen Harper, you should ponder the differences between the two men.
Andrew Cohen writes that, in a recent speech before the Albany Club, Mulroney spoke of what changes the Conservatives would have to make after Harper's departure. The first change had to do with trust:
Here is a former leader warning Conservatives that they will only return to power “when Canadians feel they are worthy of their trust, that we reflect their values and that we offer them a vision of Canada that is grand, generous and true.”
He calls for his co-religionists to adopt a tone that rejects “harshness,” that understands Canadians and projects confidence. This is a rejection, without directly saying so, of the small, mean and narrow politics of the last government.
Mulroney took his inspiration from people who were not on the list of approved Conservative sources:
Mulroney buttressed his theme by citing Sir John A. Macdonald, the founder of his party. But Mulroney, knowing the properties of a good speech, is unafraid to quote from others, including Robert Kennedy, Theodore Sorensen and D’Arcy McGee. Heavens, he even cited Lester Pearson, whose good name John Baird and other Conservatives refused to utter.
And that was why Mulroney never underestimated Justin Trudeau:
He warned Conservatives publicly not to underestimate Justin Trudeau, which they did, and warned them privately that they would be defeated if they did not run a different campaign. He quietly predicted a Liberal majority 10 days before the election. He was right about his party and his country.
Mulroney made mistakes -- both in and out of office. But he is a much wiser man than Stephen Harper is or -- one suspects -- ever will be.