April 25, 2000
Brian’s back! - THE COMMENTARY
By Joseph Planta
VANCOUVER -- Late last week I was greeted with the sound bite that Brian Mulroney was going to make a return to political life, after seven years of retirement.
About a month ago, I think it was the National Post or one of almost-Lord Black’s paper chains; Mulroney was hired to be a consultant. With Joe Clark at the helm of the Progressive Conservatives for the last year and a half, without a Commons seat mind you, the Tories are on a crusade to resurrect old Tories out of the dust bin for show or possibly a fight with the Canadian Alliance.
The right-wing in this country has always been fractured. Joe Clark was the only Tory leader since Diefenbaker to wrangle the trappings of power from the Liberals in 1979, but did so winning an embarrassing minority government. A government that was defeated a paltry nine months later. After Trudeau’s 16 years of power, the Canadian people bounded together, (it wasn’t just the right-of-centre’s) in 1984 and gave Brian Mulroney the biggest majority government in Canadian history. During his nine years of power, Mulroney tried to emulate the success that Trudeau had in matters constitutional, but failed. Meech and Charlottetown fell flatter than John Crosbie at a women’s lib rally. (John who?)
Then after the Tories self-destructed, the emergence of regional parties like Reform and the Bloc, it was clear that the right, could never come to power for a long long long time to come. And mean half as much as they did before. With Preston Manning’s vision of reuniting the right under this CA umbrella, the die-hard Tories want power again. They want to capitalise on the fad of small-c conservative politics and they want to be the focal point. Sadly, Ralph Klein’s and Mike Harris’ PCers are sided with supporting the Canadian Alliance.
Why then is Brian Mulroney back? Simple. After Joe Clark’s crushing defeat in 1979, his leadership was called into question. Clark put himself to the party and they said no. They chose to have Brian Mulroney lead them and thus came nine years of playing second fiddle. Third, if you include Mila. Mulroney owes a lot to Joe Clark. If Joe Clark had pulled an old Diefenbaker by barring Mulroney to take over the party, we’d have never heard of Brian Mulroney. If Joe Clark hadn’t sacrificed his political skin with Meech and Charlottetown, as Mulroney’s Constitutional Affairs minister, than we’d have had John Turner as Prime Minister again. When Joe Clark decided to seek the Tory leadership a year and a half ago, Clark deserved and got the endorsement of Mulroney, simply because he owed it to the man from Alberta.
Will Joe Clark run in an upcoming by-election? The writing is on the wall. His caucus headed up by Elsie Wayne and Peter MacKay, need their leader in the Commons. Joe Clark needs to show Canadians that he’s still ready to take them Liberals on. Even if he does do it, Brian Mulroney will still be lurking in the background and even with that, Preston Manning is still the man of the hour.
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