Thirty years ago, Brian Mulroney was looking at the worst defeat in political history. His chosen successor, Kim Campbell, had won just two seats in the House of Commons. Anthony Wilson Smith writes:
So, when an invitation to lunch came from his friend, the Quebec Inc. titan Paul Desmarais, Mulroney was especially appreciative. Over several hours in the elegant private dining room in the headquarters of Power Corporation on Victoria Square, he listened as Desmarais – the founder of the company and an extraordinarily cultured man with a deep knowledge of history – talked about the need for the former prime minister to allow time and perspective for his achievements to be evaluated in their historical context. What he needed to do, Mulroney vividly recalls Desmarais saying, was to “let the garden grow”; the famous moral of Voltaire’s Candide — “cultiver son jardin” — on the value of narrowing one’s focus to immediate problems that can be resolved constructively.
Mulroney has taken Desmarais's and Voltaire's advice:
Twenty-nine years after leaving office, the key elements of Mulroney’s legacy – including free trade with the United States; the introduction of a federal goods and services tax; early, visionary steps on environmental issues and human rights initiatives – are so entrenched that they’re largely taken for granted. In Quebec, Mulroney is revered even by nationalists (for instance, he has been chair of Québecor Media, owned by the sovereigntist Péladeau family, for many years). Far from being attacked by the federal Liberals, they now, under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, seek his advice on key issues — including the time he briefed the federal cabinet during the highly sensitive NAFTA renegotiation with the Trump administration.
I was never a fan of Mulroney's. I never voted for him. But with the passage of time, some legacies begin to look pretty good.
Image: Adam Scotti