Politics Watch ® News Services
November 14, 2007, updated 5:00 p.m.
|Former prime minister Brian Mulroney is not
the elder statesman of the Conservative party, a former Reform
OTTAWA (PoliticsWatch.com) —
He may be a former prime minister, but Conservatives on Parliament
Hill are now openly distancing themselves from Brian Mulroney.
Mulroney's cash payments from jailed German-Canadian
businessman Karlheinz Schreiber will soon be the subject of a
public inquiry and are already the main line of attack for the
opposition parties in question period.
The key strategy for the Liberals, Bloc and the NDP is trying to
make the events of 14 years ago taint the current Conservative
government that has only been in power for 21 months.
Inheriting Mulroney's legacy of controversy is angering some in the
Reform wing of the Conservative party, which broke away from
Mulroney's Progressive Conservative coalition in the late
"He's the gift that keeps giving for the Liberals," one
Conservative insider quipped on Wednesday.
Veteran Conservative MP John Williams, who was elected to
Parliament as a Reformer in 1993 when the Progressive Conservatives
were nearly wiped off the electoral map, minimized any ties Mulroney
has to the current Conservative government.
"This is an issue in the past that has come to the light now and the prime minister is dealing with it
decisively," he told reporters after the weekly Conservative
"He's not the elder statesman of the party. He's a former prime minister back in 1984 to
93. I don't think he's a party guru. I've never talked to him."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is making sure no Conservatives
talk to Mulroney either. He has ordered members of his government to
cease any communication until the air is cleared on the latest
The move is considerably drastic given that Harper spoke in glowing
terms about Mulroney at an awards presentation in April. In that
speech, Harper put Mulroney in the same league as Margaret
Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II.
Harper, who also was originally elected to Parliament as a Reformer
in 1993, is being careful as the opposition parties try to
capitalize on his recent cozy relationship with the former PM.
In question period on Tuesday, a Bloc MP asked whether Mulroney or
Schreiber contributed to Harper's Conservative party leadership
"I believe the fact that the former prime minister did not support me as a candidate for the leadership of this party is a matter of public
knowledge," Harper was quick to point out.
NDP Leader Jack Layton was not surprised when informed of
Williams' minimizing Mulroney's ties to the
"They're all trying to distance each other from what is another in a string of Liberal and Conservative scandals over the
years," said Layton after question period. "That's what's going on."
One MP with a unique perspective is Liberal Garth Turner.
Turner was a Progressive Conservative MP under Mulroney from 1988 to
1993 and was a Conservative in Harper's caucus briefly after the
"Mr. Harper made it clear on many occasions when I was in his caucus that he and Mr. Mulroney were in constant touch with each other and he was taking advice from Mr. Mulroney and Mr. Mulroney was smiling upon
him," Turner told PoliticsWatch.
"I've heard Mr. Harper refer several times to the successes of
Mr. Mulroney and how he could duplicate it, for example, in the
province in Quebec. So there was a close relationship until Mr.
Mulroney got thrown under the bus."
Turner said Harper's decision to make Mulroney a temporary pariah in
the party is a "very dangerous thing" as it could affect
the glue that holds the Progressive Conservative and Reform wings of
the party together.
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