The night before I left for vacation, I had a few drinks with a friend here in Toronto who followed the Brian Mulroney saga more closely than pretty much anyone I know. So when I told him I was on my way to Baie-Comeau, he asked me to take a picture of whatever shrine to Brian Mulroney I could find as some sort of joke. (My friend is apparently no fan of people who take cash payments from shady businessmen over “coffee.”) I promised him I would do what I could.
The truth is I expected it to be easy to find such a thing. After all, if Richmond Hill can boast of being the “Home of Elvis Stojko”, one would imagine that an otherwise unremarkable town would want to do the same for a native son who went on to become a two-term prime minister. But alas, I was wrong.
There’s no “Home of Brian Mulroney” sign when you get there. I couldn’t find a statue or tribute or even a plaque in the (admittedly tiny) downtown strip. As far as I could tell, there aren’t any bars or restaurants that brag of having hosted the former PM. And the region’s official tour guide doesn’t contain even a single mention of his name. (It does, however, mention Gilles Vigneault, who was born much, much further up the coast in Natashquan, in an entirely other region.) Asking my hosts, who’ve been there a few years, yielded nothing, either. “Mulroney’s from Baie-Comeau?” they replied.
Someone finally pointed me to what to appears to be the only local reminder of Brian Mulroney’s tenure in Ottawa: a maximum security penitentiary in Port-Cartier that’s still viewed as nothing more than a shameless pork job-creation project and is now home to some of the worst sex offenders in the country. I guess that’s something.