September 21, 2000
On the subject of Brian Mulroney - THE COMMENTARY
By Joseph Planta
VANCOUVER -- In continuing my quest for autographs for my collection, I fired off a letter to the Rt. Hon. Brian Mulroney. The purveyor of not only the Goods and Services Tax, but also NAFTA and the more horrendous of proposals: Meech Lake and Charlottetown.
Brian Mulroney, and with that his Tory government, were not popular while I was growing up at my house. My parents, the semi-socalists that they are, denounced Mr. Mulroney’s putting the screws to them - the working class. They supported Ed Broadbent and the NDP, and Mulroney was known as the ‘prick’ at our humble home.
History has judged Mulroney curiously. Pundits have equated his mega majority win in 1984, taking 211 of 281 seats, as the death knell of Trudeau and the rise of the “right” in Canada. I guess the fact he represented change, was the simple fact he got elected. Much is the appeal of Stockwell Day right now.
Through some reading in the memoirs of Jack Webster, Marjorie Nichols and Allan Fotheringham’s latest book, I’ve learned that Mulroney was a truly affable and charismatic politician. He knew how to win over a crowd, yet he remained hated through his final years in office. Case in point: Jean Chrétien. While Chrétien is wildly popular right now, it’s funny to note that his policies mirror those of Brian Mulroney.
Well, a week or so ago (depending on when this piece is posted,) I got a package from the Montreal law firm of Oglivy Renault. A letter from Mulroney’s assistant, a woman by the name of Francine Collins, writes that they received my request and that they are “pleased to forward a photograph duly autographed by Mr. Mulroney.”
The 8 and a half by 11 is a black and white shot of the former PM with his hands folded on his knee. He isn’t smiling, but he’s wearing one of those handsome suits duly picked out by Mila, I’m sure.
It’s signed: “Joseph, with best personal regards, Brian Mulroney.” It’s actually really nice and different from the Clark and Trudeau autographs. Trudeau, being the millionaire that he is, simply signed a 5 by 3 card. Joe Clark sent a 5 by 7 still and signed it “Joe Clark”. The personalisation by Mulroney makes it all the more mine, I guess.
After I got the picture it dawned on me why Mulroney is so popular amongst those that have gotten to know him and how different the impression is on the general public. Foth, in one of his legendary columns, recounts the fact Mulroney resembled Lyndon Johnson by the fact he’d shake your hand or talk to you and employ touching you at the same time. It’s some cardinal rule that if you latch on or grab them, all the more you’ll be more impressionable on them.
Regular folk from Port Hardy to Moose Jaw, never got to feel the Mulroney palm and only had the feeling he was a cold, dark and eerie Bay Street boy who was hung up on power and nothing else.
Sure he nearly ruined the country with the divisions unfurled by Meech and Charlottetown, but I can simply explain it all by that it was all in his head. He had a vision for the country, yet it was not what we wanted. He had our interests at heart, just like all politicians do, regardless the cynicism we all have.
I won’t be voting Tory anytime soon, but Brian Mulroney served this country for 9 years and whatever we may think of his policies and legacy, he deserves our recognition for the time he put in at 24 Sussex Drive.
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