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Brian who? 
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 MP says.  

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 1980s. 

"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 caucus meeting. 

"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 controversy. 

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 campaign. 

"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 Conservatives.  

"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 2006 election. 

"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. 

:  Related Links

> Mulroney's do-not-call list

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