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Federal Politics

Mulroney Knocks Harper? Oh This Is Rich!

And ruminations on the federal election we must soon endure.

Rafe Mair 15 Sep

Rafe Mair writes a column for The Tyee every other week. Read his previous columns here. He is also a founding contributor to The Common Sense Canadian.

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Brian Mulroney in 1993: Almost wiped out the Tories.

This is about the federal election and our province, but first...

One almost hates to pay any attention to the man. Brian Mulroney, a certified fudger of facts to his own advantage, has now taken on almost everybody within his range.

God knows I have no love for Prime Minister Stephen Harper. I wouldn't support him for Lions Bay dogcatcher. But Brian Mulroney really is the last person who should be critical.

Let's deal quickly with Mulroney's castigation of the late Pierre Trudeau. Cabinet minutes from 1990 unearthed in March show he blamed Trudeau for the failure of the 1987 Meech Lake accord, Mulroney's attempt to get Quebec on board the Constitution by recognizing it as "a distinct society." Blaming Trudeau for the flop is, of course, arrant nonsense.

Meech Lake failed because of Mulroney. From a political point of view, had he simply given the provinces six months instead of three years to approve the accord, it would have passed and he would've been on his way. God only knows what harm that would've done the country, but that is the political reality.

When the Charlottetown accord, Meech Lake in drag, was put to the people by way of referendum in 1992, it was doomed from the beginning. I have no idea what influence Trudeau may have had on the province of Quebec, but he had next to none in British Columbia. He was scarcely hero number one in these parts and British Columbia voted nearly 70 per cent against on the clear basis that the "accord" was not in B.C.'s interest, nor that of the country as a whole.

(It is often forgotten that the first province to vote against the Charlottetown accord was Nova Scotia.)

The Charlottetown accord was a bust and that can be laid at the doorstep of one man only, Brian Mulroney.

Mulroney has the nerve to dislike Harper and to make that clear. What cheek! Mulroney is the one who had got himself in a pickle over taking at least $225,000 in bags of cash from an arms dealer lobbyist as he stepped down as prime minister. Years later, when news investigations shone ever brighter light on those murky dealings, the pressure became so great that Mulroney had to ask for a federal public inquiry into his own conduct. Stephen Harper was the prime minister who launched the inquiry, the outcome of which was a judge's scathing denouncement of Mulroney's loose ways with bookkeeping, ethics and the truth.

Brian Mulroney's main political contribution to the Conservative Party was to lead it to the biggest electoral victory in history and then take it to the worst electoral loss ever known, which virtually wiped the party out. Of course, Mr. Mulroney didn't have the guts to stick around for the last election himself, leaving that dubious pleasure to the redoubtable Kim Campbell.

Which way, British Columbia?

Prime Minister Harper can't help himself. He is, after all, not only a conservative but a Tory. The party has now moved to the right and has lost its "Red Tory" wing. They see life from the boardroom and have no other vision.

One only has to look at the Tory approach to pipelines, tankers etc. to see how far away they are from the hearts and minds of British Columbians. It doesn't occur to the prime minister that the environment matters to people in B.C. Tories can't comprehend that we aren't delighted to ship Alberta's poisoned oil through our ports to lands far away. If it makes money, surely that's the end of the matter.

My prediction is that the Tories are stone cold dead in British Columbia.

Paradoxically, this is scary for it basically leaves the prospect of the Liberals under Justin Trudeau. I discount the NDP because they have shown no ability to get elected at the federal level in the past and all they seem to be able to produce is popular leaders. In fact, an NDP contribution from the outset to this country has been sainted leaders that we all love because we know they'll never be prime minister.

Justin Trudeau has no concept of what the political grievance of this province is. In a revealing remark to a group in Quebec, the question of the ridiculous proportion of senators in this country was raised. Trudeau said to his Quebec audience, "This is obviously to our advantage." No prizes for guessing that "our" refers to the province of Quebec, not to Canada as a whole.

True, the Liberals have been strong on the environment -- at least verbally. The fear is that once elected, they will return to their roots of supporting the people in the boardrooms just as the Tories have always done.

One can only go on experience. Justin Trudeau may be a completely different political cat. Perhaps he will not be like the Liberals of old whose only motive was to get elected, when the "machine" was the important thing and shadowy insiders were the real power. The traditional Liberal approach has always been to get sufficient support in Quebec and Ontario so that they don't have to care about the rest of the country.

Fixing parliament

Federal elections for British Columbians are always rather melancholy events. Only when the political stars are in a strange order do we have any real influence in what happens in Ottawa. The "system" was designed from the beginning to ensure that Quebec and Ontario would run the country no matter who voted what way.

Until absolute power is removed from the prime minister and cabinet and given to the member of Parliament where it belongs, we will never have fair government in this country.

The member of Parliament is a eunuch whose only purpose is to chase down pension checks and to give speeches at July 1 picnics. If you ask any MP on the government side what they have accomplished, they will give you a string of important things they have done. The fact of the matter is that on any examination whatsoever this is all horse feathers.

A good example comes from my local Tory MP John Weston. He honestly believes -- I would be quick to tell you -- that on the matter of pipelines, for example, he, the elected member, carefully weighed all of the facts, talked to all of the people involved and concluded that pipelines are a great idea. The fact of the matter is he has faithfully followed the party line from the beginning in this and every other matter and will continue to do so.

This is no knock on Mr. Weston personally. All other government MPs are precisely the same. Any dissent from the party line brings instant and sometimes fatal punishment. MPs know that and knuckle under.

This will only change with total and absolute reform. Until we revolt against the "system" and force political parties at the constituency level to change we will continue to have a democracy in name only.

Those last words are pretty easy to write and not so easy to do anything about. I grant that. I take hope from the fact that much more is being written and said on the subject by people of influence on all parts of the political spectrum.

Reform is a long, slow process that takes time getting started. Overcoming inertia is always the bugaboo.

If British Columbians and other Canadians start making these feelings known at the constituency level of the party they come closest to supporting, this inertia can be overcome.

For all of Canada, the sooner the better.  [Tyee]

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