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The feud

Two titans, bad blood, and a growing rift that threatens to divide the Conservative party


 

The feudThe thing about the fight that Stephen Harper has managed to pick with Brian Mulroney, the paradox that elevates it beyond a few days’ bad headlines into the sort of event that makes party members wonder about the boss’s judgment, is that Harper was only doing what he has always done to win.

For as long as he has been in politics, Harper has returned, at important moments, to a few favourite techniques to manage the public agenda. Selective leaks to reporters. Titillating stories custom-designed to distract the press and public from weightier events. Wedge issues chosen with care to turn ally against ally.

It’s what he does. Except he used to do it to his opponents.

This time he did it to Mulroney—the patriarch of one of Harper Conservatism’s constituent groups and a still-formidable political street fighter who, even now, probably has more real, call-him-up-on-his-birthday friends in the party Harper leads than Harper does.

It was Harper’s staff, acting on his behalf for days on end, who leaked word to reporters recently that Mulroney had cut his links to the party. With the Oliphant commission into Mulroney’s ties with Karlheinz Schreiber looming, it was a transparent bid to put space between this Prime Minister and his predecessor. Mulroney and his loyalists took the hint and the insult and pushed back—hard. Pretty soon, two decades’ worth of bad blood was on public display. And Harper, who could use some good luck these days, had some of the other kind on his hands.

Brian Mulroney was making people hurt for crossing him when Stephen Harper was still in short pants. So one question Ottawa Conservatives were asking, when the bizarre two-week debate over Mulroney’s membership status finally calmed down, was: what on earth got into Harper?

Robin Sears is no Conservative. He’s a long-time New Democrat who served as Bob Rae’s chief of staff when Rae was Ontario’s premier. But Sears does act as Mulroney’s paid spokesman, a position that has kept him busy while the Oliphant commission prepared to investigate Mulroney’s dealings with Schreiber. Here’s what Sears makes of the Mulroney membership kerfuffle. First, “what should have been a very positive week for the government,” because Harper was attending a bunch of blue-chip summits overseas, “hasn’t been.”

“Secondly, Mr. Mulroney’s mandate, legacy and record of achievement has been revived in a mostly positive manner, at a time when one couldn’t have anticipated that.

“From the perspective of the world beyond, it provides a rather unhelpful glimpse into how fragile the bonds of partisan loyalty remain within the Conservative party.”

When Canadian conservatives set aside their differences to build broad coalitions, they prosper and govern. One measure of the difficulty of that task is that they have so rarely governed. In the past half-century, only Harper, Mulroney and John Diefenbaker have won more than one national election. For much of that time Mulroney and Harper have incarnated, sometimes in the breach, the importance of conservative loyalty. When they were on the same side, Conservatives were in power. When they weren’t, they weren’t.

Harper was a campus political geek at the University of Calgary when Mulroney won his historic first majority in 1984. For Harper, an Ontario-born former Liberal who had abandoned his old party out of disillusionment with Pierre Trudeau’s National Energy Program, Mulroney’s election must have seemed like a new dawn. He went to Ottawa to work for Calgary West MP Jim Hawkes. But Mulroney took almost two years to roll back the NEP. By then Harper had moved to Calgary, disgusted with the glad-handing and compromises of life in Mulroney’s Ottawa.

By 1987 Harper was at the founding convention of a new western protest movement, the Reform party. He became Preston Manning’s policy director and ran twice against Hawkes, finally beating him in 1993. The near-simultaneous rise of Reform and the Bloc Québécois illustrated the surprisingly rapid disintegration of the Mulroney coalition.

Even at that early stage Harper’s relationship to the older man was complex. Certainly he harboured no illusions about Mulroney’s popularity. “The man has a pettiness and a credibility problem that is so large that it’s tough for voters to support him even when he does things that may benefit their region or benefit them personally,” Harper told a reporter in 1991. “He really is an anathema.”

And yet Harper was reluctant to attack Mulroney personally in the political arena. With political scientist Tom Flanagan, Harper persuaded Manning to run against the constitutional amendments in the Charlottetown accord in 1992. But they also resisted when Manning wanted to label the accord the “Mulroney deal.” That was cheap, Harper and Flanagan argued. Better to argue on substance.

The same ability to coolly gauge Mulroney’s strengths and weaknesses came in handy when Harper became the leader of the Canadian Alliance in 2002. On May 28 of that year, he made his maiden speech as leader of the Opposition in the Commons. The occasion was a debate over an Alliance motion on lumber trade. More or less out of nowhere, Harper announced, “When it comes to United States-Canada relations, the government has much to learn from former prime minister Brian Mulroney . . . Under Mr. Mulroney, Canada-United States relations were infinitely better than they are now.” A Maclean’s reporter quizzed Harper afterward about the speech. “Frankly,” Harper said, “I’m making a political point.”

Seventeen months later Harper announced a deal with the new Progressive Conservative leader, Peter MacKay, to wind down their two parties as legal entities and launch a newly incorporated Conservative Party of Canada. Mulroney was a key behind-the-scenes player in cajoling Progressive Conservatives to sit down with the Alliance. But he was no great admirer of Harper. With former Ontario premier Mike Harris, Mulroney was a none-too-secret backer of millionaire car-parts heiress Belinda Stronach in the race to lead the new party.

Still, Conservatives handed Harper a first-ballot victory over Stronach and Tony Clement. It began to seem a wise choice. Harper made MacKay his deputy leader, wove members of both parties into an effective parliamentary caucus, and built a party office into which nobody was allowed to carry old grudges.

The figure of Brian Mulroney loomed large in Harper’s calculations in those early days of reconciliation. “At the very last Canadian Alliance caucus meeting,” one Harper minister recalls, “Stephen said, ‘We’re going to be building a party with people who revere Brian Mulroney. You need to forget everything you’ve been saying about him for years. And you need to know that right now, Peter MacKay is in their caucus room telling them the same thing about Preston Manning.’ ”

Amazingly, Mulroney became a close Harper adviser and confidant. They spoke on the phone all the time. Marjory LeBreton, a Mulroney-appointed senator who acted as his unfailing advocate on Parliament Hill, went on the campaign bus for Harper’s victorious 2006 campaign.

And they all would have lived happily ever after—except Conservatives almost never get to do that, do they? Every once in a while, old tensions would resurface. During the party’s first formal convention, in Montreal in 2005, a debate over delegate rules for future conventions pitted former Alliance members against former Progressive Conservatives. The former outnumbered the latter 10 to 1. Peter MacKay threw a strategic tantrum, telling reporters, “This party is in real jeopardy, in my view.” Harper kicked a chair over and, days later, took MacKay and Belinda Stronach into his office to berate them for airing the party’s dirty laundry in public. The incident led directly to Stronach’s departure from the party.

But none of that mattered much as long as it involved temporary tensions and minor characters. The saga of Mulroney’s dealings with Schreiber obeyed neither of those rules.

Mulroney had denied for years that he had any business dealings with Schreiber, a cheerfully crooked operator who faced extradition on charges of bribing German officials. But on Nov. 8, 2007, Schreiber filed an affidavit claiming he visited Mulroney on June 23, 1993—two days before Mulroney ended his term as prime minister. At that meeting, Schreiber claimed, he negotiated a $300,000 lobbying deal with Mulroney.

Suddenly Mulroney’s dealings with Schreiber weren’t necessarily those of a private citizen in retirement, but those of a serving politician. And his close relationship with his one-time apostate successor, Harper, meant allegations against Mulroney could hurt Harper.

Harper announced an independent review of Schreiber’s allegations. Mulroney said that wasn’t enough and called for a full public inquiry: “It’s time we put this issue to bed, once and for all.” Harper took Mulroney at his word and announced what would eventually become, in the fullness of bureaucratic time, the Oliphant commission. At a news conference announcing the commission, quite unprompted by reporters, Harper went a step further and cut the ties that connected the two prime ministers.

“I think it will be incumbent on me and also upon members of the government not to have dealings with Mr. Mulroney until this issue is resolved,’’ Harper said.

This was something new. “It put a suggestion of persona non grata on Mulroney,” L. Ian MacDonald, a Montreal political journalist who served for years as Mulroney’s chief speechwriter, wrote in his Gazette column. Harper’s hands-off-Mulroney edict, MacDonald wrote, “has created serious rumblings in the old Tory tent this week, especially in Quebec, where Mulroney is held in high regard.”

A year later Harper won re-election, no thanks to Quebec, where his government’s cuts to arts funding sparked a truly formidable voter backlash. Facing his own re-election campaign, Premier Jean Charest joined the criticism rather than defend Harper. In MacDonald’s Gazette column and others in Quebec newspapers, the theory spread that if Harper had kept lines of communication open to Mulroney, he wouldn’t have been so tone-deaf in Quebec.

Three days before Christmas 2008, Harper named 18 new Conservative senators. One was Irving Gerstein, the party’s chief fundraiser. Shortly after the New Year, Gerstein took a phone call from Mulroney.

“They had a nice long chat,” Robin Sears recalls. Mostly Mulroney wanted to congratulate Gerstein on landing a Senate perch. “Irv, being a good fundraiser, asked Mr. Mulroney whether he wanted to make his Leader’s Circle donation.” The Leader’s Circle is the list of top Conservative party donors.

“Mr. Mulroney said, ‘That’s a great idea, Irv, but as you know, they won’t talk to me, so I don’t think I’m in the Leader’s Circle any more.’ ” He added, according to Sears, that he would be happy to keep donating to Conservative party candidates he knew. Elections Canada records show that Brian and Mila Mulroney have donated almost $15,000 to the party and individual candidates since the 2004 election.

Now the thing to remember about Mulroney’s call to Gerstein is that it took place in January. And nobody heard any more about it until March 30 and 31, when reporters from at least three Ottawa news bureaus heard about it from officials in the Conservative party and the Harper government.

What happened in the meantime?

Clues might lie in the story that ran in Canwest newspapers on Sunday, March 29: “Mulroney reputation, legacy at stake as inquiry set to begin.” It’s an “understatement to say the stakes are high for Mr. Mulroney,” the story said, noting Schreiber’s claim to have evidence of “the biggest political scandal in the history of Canada.”

Each Monday morning at the Langevin Block meeting of the Prime Minister’s senior staff, Jenni Byrne, the director of issues management, reports to a group including the chief of staff, Guy Giorno, and the communication director, Kory Teneycke. Byrne’s role is to identify recent or coming events that might present political hazard or opportunity during the week ahead. The meeting starts at 7:30 a.m.; Harper enters around 8, if he is in town, or calls in if he is away. On this day he was in New York City, but it is impossible to know whether he called in to the March 30 meeting: in recent days, his office has stopped taking questions about Harper’s squabble with Mulroney.

Funny, they were a lot more chatty when this began. By March 31, a day after the senior staff meeting, three Ottawa news bureaus had been approached by PMO political staffers with the stale but suddenly handy “news” that Mulroney had asked to be stricken from Conservative party lists. And also that he had let his membership in the party lapse in 2006.

Tom Clark was the first with the news on CTV Newsnet. Robin Sears’ phone rang minutes later. “I got a call from the CBC saying CTV had a story saying, quote, ‘Mr. Mulroney has ripped up his membership card in frustration at the conduct of the Oliphant inquiry.’ Did I have any comment? I said I don’t know anything about that, let me check.”

Sears called Clark, who confirmed that was what he’d been told “by the PMO.” Then he called Mulroney, who took a little finding. A Monday evening dinner with Mila in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., had turned into a two-day hospital stint with food poisoning. Sears asked Mulroney whether he had torn up his party card and set the party loose.

“I guess my job is to delete a few expletives here,” Sears says, recounting the conversation. Mulroney “said, ‘Just tell him that I am a member of the Conservative party and I will be one til the day I die.’ ”

By Tuesday night the story was leading the cable newscasts. The PMO sent “talking points” to MPs and staff, urging them to direct reporters’ questions to the PMO. Those who did call were informed, cheerfully but off the record, that Mulroney had taken it upon himself to sever ties with the party.

Heading into Wednesday’s caucus meeting, several MPs disagreed. “He is a member of the party, there’s no doubt,” MacKay told reporters. Jean-Pierre Blackburn added: “For me he will be a Conservative forever, and I’m sure that’s what he feels.”

Harper enforces discipline and secrecy on his party’s weekly caucus discussions. But Harper was in Europe, and in his absence the caucus’s factions bickered over the Mulroney question. Days later they were astonished to read a blow-by-blow account of their discussion in a Canadian Press report from Alexander Panetta. Who was breaking caucus secrecy?

Just before midnight on Saturday night, with the story now five days old and the CP story sure to give it legs, the PMO sent out a new set of talking points: play down the rift, refuse to talk, take the air out of the story. Somebody leaked the talking points to CTV reporter Bob Fife, who read them live on the air.

On Monday Michael Ignatieff, the new Liberal leader, got into the act. He said he had telephoned Mulroney to wish him a happy 70th birthday and that he was sorry Harper couldn’t show the big guy a little respect. Harper used to brag that he could “take a punch,” but those days are over. At a news conference in New Brunswick, he rose to Ignatieff’s bait.

“Mr. Ignatieff and the Liberal party—when this matter first broke—were practically demanding that I throw Mr. Mulroney in prison without a trial. Now they are out there pretending that somehow they are his best friends,” he said.

“I think what Canadians will see is that when it comes to a very difficult issue of government conduct and government ethics, this government has behaved responsibly and the other leader has absolutely no moral compass when it comes to dealing with this kind of a matter.”

No moral compass. Check. Hey, was Mulroney still a party member? “I can’t address that subject. I don’t honestly know the answer,” Harper said, nine days after his own staff had started telling reporters Mulroney wasn’t a member. “I’ve been reading and hearing different things.”

And with that, the story gurgled to a halt, at least officially. It’s a measure of the acrimony in this debate that Mulroney’s membership status could be debated for two weeks without being settled categorically. Is Mulroney a party member? “I confess I don’t know where the fact lies in this thing,” Sears said, disarmingly.

Don Plett, the Conservative party president, was more categorical. Mulroney had a membership during the calendar year 2006, and when it lapsed at the end of that year he didn’t buy a new annual card. Nor has he since.

Could Mulroney be a “member for life”? Perhaps he was in the Progressive Conservative party, Plett said. But that party ceased to exist in 2003. The new Conservative party doesn’t offer lifetime memberships.

By this point in the tale, Don Plett is in no mood to dig his heels in. “If Mr. Mulroney says he is a Conservative for life, that’s wonderful, so am I. Whether someone is a party member doesn’t, to my mind, affect whether they are a Conservative or not.”

Come again? Does Mulroney have the card he needs to participate in party activities? No, Plett said. “But if he wanted to, he would simply purchase a membership. I, for one, as president of the party, certainly consider him a Conservative for life. But that doesn’t mean he has a party membership.”

Clear as mud. What remains, as so often these days, is a set of questions about Stephen Harper’s political judgment.

It is worth emphasizing that he used to keep people on the payroll to question his judgment. Sources say that the voices that could most reliably be heard at Monday senior staff meetings questioning the boss’s decisions belonged to a cluster of, well, senior staffers: Ian Brodie, Sandra Buckler, Bruce Carson and Keith Beardsley. Only Brodie came from the Reform/Alliance wing of the party; the others were old Progressive Conservative hands. In the past year, all have been replaced.

One former PMO staffer calls the replacements—Giorno, Teneycke, Byrne—“cheerleaders” for Harper. Giorno, an Ontario strategist who became Mike Harris’s chief of staff after Harris had won his last election as premier, joined Harper with a mandate to make everything “more political.” He has certainly done that.

And with what results? In September Harper let slip a majority because his tone-deaf staff had misunderstood the reaction in Quebec to cuts in arts funding. In November Harper introduced an economic update that led, via a hair-raising parliamentary crisis, to the uncontested installation of Michael Ignatieff as Liberal leader. Now Harper has managed to split his own party. The man who won his job by uniting friends and dividing foes has now spent a calendar year doing the opposite. There is one man in Canada who knows better than any why that’s dumb. But Stephen Harper no longer takes his calls.


 

The feud

  1. “The man has a pettiness and credibility problem that is so large it is tough for voters to support him even when he does thngs that may benefit their region or may benefit them personally.”

    Ouch! History is cruel!
    Live by your words, die by your words.
    Could this be Macbeth all over again [ yet again]? Not so good King Brian, is being pushed into his grave by the userper MacHarper. And who brings Birnam wood to 24 Sussex? MacHarper’s nemisis -Ignatieff – that can’t be right, i’m sure there weren’t any bloody Russian Counts in the original. Stil this is Canada, we’ll have to extemporize, in the best traditions of multi-culturalism.

    • Ouch – and history repeats itself – eh Harper?

  2. Absolutely terrific article. The last paragraph is perfect.

    I must say I’m surprised that Mulroney’s rolodex is so bulletproof. The guy annihilates his own party and is now found to have taken huge sums of cash from the sketchiest man in Bavaria. But he’s still got tons of friends? What does it take in this country for shame to kick in?

    • You incredulity toward the enduing Mulroney Rolodex is understandable– but he did a lot of favours for people and they still surely appreciate it Jack! Plus, remember, it wasn’t Mulroney’s fault the Tories were wiped off the map– it was the western populists’ and Quebec nationalists’ fault dontcha know…

      Harper is in a no win situation here, and has chosen the p.r. route of “you may not like us but we’ll keep government clean” on this issue.

  3. Whatever transpires between Harper and Mulroney, and no matter what Mulroney’s legacy, the one thing that will alway stay with me is, a former prime minister of Canada met with a shady German arms dealer in a hotel room and took envelopes stuffed with money. That’s what shady characters in movies and people on the take do…and that’s what Brian Mulroney did. No matter how skillfully he covered his tracks, what is fact is that he took money and lied about it. He may not have directly used the PMO on behalf of Karlheinz while he was PM. But he used the power and influence that comes with being PM for less than prime ministerial matters. That’s how he should be remembered.

    • Right you are! And what are we focussing on? You’ve put in a nutshell why the public at large has long ago passed judgement on Brian Mulroney.

  4. “Brian Mulroney was making people hurt for crossing him when Stephen Harper was still in short pants.”

    Heh.

  5. the other thing that bugged me here is at the very end. it’s `disarming’ that Mulroney’s own spokesman says he doesn’t know if the guy is a member of the party anymore? more like the usual weaselly crap and you let him get away with it. In contrast to that old redneck Don Plett who tells the truth. What about his comments is `clear as mud’?

  6. You ‘dance with the one who brung you.’

    Harper maybe frowns upon dancing.

  7. I see you have your own cheerleaders working today.
    On page 2 of the article you delve into the beginnings of Harper`s entrance into federal politics. Harper didn`t help form the Reform Party because of Trudeau or Turner or Chretien——it was his disillusionment with Mulroney and his ” good ole boy ” style of governing. That`s the style where you remember to call on birthdays and do all the things so folks will remember you`re a “good ole boy “. You live an extravagant lifestyle and you want to continue that into your retirement so you call in your favors and join large law firms, appointments to boards, etc——whether you take the cash below the table or above, the end result is the same. That was the style of Mulroney and of Chretien and Martin. Harper is different——so was Dion and I think Iggy as well.
    Harper had to be skillful to hold the 2 sections of the party together but I know he never liked Mulroney`s style. I had hoped you might mention that Harper is helping to usher in a new style of gov`t, one that is more fair and honest and I see that in Dion and Iggy as well. however, you spent the last few pages of the article doing a Kady——trying to tie the past sins of a former PM to our present PM, when no connection exists. You`re right about one thing——-you don`t have to be a card-carrying member to be one for life.

  8. Mr.Wells doesn’t like Harper. Mr.Wells doesn’t like Conservatives. Mr. Wells carries water for the Liberals. Mr. Wells is exactly like most of his horrific colleagues.

    Same old. Same old.

    • Pete – what hogwash. Harper put a little seed in his supporters minds and said we have a Liberal bias in Canada and you fell for it line, hook and sinker.

      Just check what media are Conservative and what a Liberal – do that for me won’t you? Just so that you are enlightened and aware.

    • He doesn’t like Paul Martin either, so what’s your point?

      • His point is: he [Paul Wells] doesn’t like Stephen Harper. To the hyper-partisan it doesn’t matter who else he doesn’t like, what matters is that he doesn’t like his guy.

        Though you could use Pete’s post as a wonderful example of making unsupported logical leaps. Just preface each sentence after the first “Therefore” and you’ll see what I mean.

          • Any chance to plug your book, eh Paul? (I kid. I kid.)

            I suppose, looking back at my initial post, that I really should have included the phrase “Pete perceives/believes that” at the very beginning.

          • Wells, you’re so demanding. You praise politicians when they make evidence-based policy decisions and build appeal to wider swaths of the electorate! Why don’t you, you know, just pick a side and shill for it– it’d make for easier reading for Pete there…

            In the past few years Macleans has shifted (slightly but noticeably) to the right in editorial tone– and only co-incidently have we had Conservative governments starting shortly after this shift– but I think sometimes that readers who’ve seen these two separate trends as not separate– as part and parcel– are a little jolted when they see journalists/columnists pointing out that Tories are just as vulnerable to human foible as Liberals, and make both policy and strategy mistakes with the best of them.

    • Have you even read “Right Side Up”?

      It is a balanced, more than fair view of how Harper achieved power and is complimentary of him. But what Paul is pointing out is the pattern of Harper’s worst tendencies getting him into trouble, repeatedly.

  9. Not a conservative member? Be serious.

  10. very funny article as usual that takes us into interesting inside baseball.
    HOWEVER.
    The thesis of your attack on Harper here really strikes me as a little silly, once all the interesting details are removed. As posters above me have stated:
    1) Mulroney took a wad of cash from a shady dude. proven fact. He denied it for years and it was revealed to be true in the end. As americanindian says, this is something that villains do in movies.
    2) the inquiry will probably tell us what happened after all these years. Do you really think Mulroney gets out of this one intact?
    3) and it’s somehow WEIRD or politically stupid that Harper wanted to sever ties with the guy? It should have been obvious this was going to happen.

    Harper’s choice was to keep Mulroney/Charest on side for, at most, 20 quebec seats or else be associated with a toxic brand in english canada. Easy choice in my books. Iggy may beat Harper by making him wear the recession, but he won’t be able to do it by referring to `Mulroney Sleaze’.
    he’s splitting his caucus yes but it’s not obvious to me that it’s the wrong thing to do long term – he can’t do worse than the 1993 Tory wipeout that Mulroney has never had the decency to take an ounce of responsibility for.

  11. Interesting view but you have to consider the source.Mr. Wells is a Liberal apologist of long standing.He has even bought into the current Liberal mythology that Harper’s lost opportunity in Quebec was due, of all things, to arts funding whereas all who live in Quebec know that it was the result of a crude ethnic moose call by the Bloc

    • Joan is wrong on every point except for one.

      She’s right to say that all of us who are Quebecers know full well that Harper lost his lead in the Belle Province because of Duceppe, not because of the art funding cuts but because of Duceppe’s brilliant campaign against Harper.

      Those cuts were announced during that summer, if I’m not mistaken, yes? And Quebecers – mis a part the arts community – didn’t really react to them at that time.

      What made the difference is that Duceppe was able to use those cuts and the Youth offender policy announcement made during the election to debunk the myths that had been created in Quebec around Harper’s so-called moderate political leanings.

      Duceppe was able to skillfully show Quebecers – who happen to be the most progressive voting block in the country – that Harper is a hardcore rightwinger from Alberta who is completely out of touch with Quebec values.

      On that last point, sound advice from Mulroney would have prevented such nonsense from Harper.

      • Meant to say…

        “She’s right to say that all of us who are Quebecers know full well that Harper lost his lead in the Belle Province because of Duceppe, not because of the art funding cuts.”

  12. Interesting speculation, almost long enough for a news novel, and Mr. Harper won’t confirm if Wells guess is correct. Why should he? I’m sure he has more important things to do than satifsy the curiosity du jour of the media.

  13. It seems to me from a great distance that what lead to the scorched earth move by Harper was proof in the form of Elmer Mackay’s draft letter for Schreiber.

    Whether or not Mulroney did raise Schreiber’s case with Harper at their families get together at Harrington Lake is secondary (though I’d be really pissed if I was Harper and it was raised even in some peripheral way). As Spector has pointed out, and Wells has concurred in some ways, Harper is the cleanest PM for quite some time. A core value he perhaps guards more than anything. Something that takes a career/ lifetime to establish which can be much more easily tainted through events outside of his control.

  14. It seems to me from a great distance that what lead to the scorched earth move by Harper was proof in the form of Elmer Mackay’s draft letter for Schreiber.

    Whether or not Mulroney did raise Schreiber’s case with Harper at their families get together at Harrington Lake is secondary (though I’d be really upset if I was Harper and it was raised even in some peripheral way). As Spector has pointed out, and Wells has concurred in some ways, Harper is the cleanest PM for quite some time. A core value he perhaps guards more than anything. Something that takes a career/ lifetime to establish which can be much more easily tainted through events outside of his control.

    • Only if one defines ‘clean’ from a Nixonian point of view. Remember Grewel and the taping; remember Cadman and the alleged payoff. In any event, and I am by the way a Conservaitive Party member, Harper’s problem is not of his own making. It is simply that he is not that bright and has chosen to surround himself with a staff of even lower wattage.

      • It was a relative term – “cleanest PM for quite some time” (I’m not sure, maybe Spector used 30 yrs or something like that).

  15. sorry for the ditto comment – Temporarily Lost in Space. “Danger”

  16. “Harper is the cleanest PM for quite some time. A core value he perhaps guards more than anything. Something that takes a career/ lifetime to establish which can be much more easily tainted through events outside of his control.”

    You mean like the Cadman affair which was settled out of court?

    • Hey, I’m not the one saying – it’s his perception of himself, shared apparently by others.

  17. As always, Mulroney sees this only as all about him. If a “Conservative” is one who takes care to promote the good of the party, then Mulroney is not a Conservative anymore. At worst, the inquiry will only confirm what most Canadians believe and/or already know about Mulroney. Whether Harper’s tactics are right or wrong, by so publicly contesting them, Mulroney risks shattering the party and ironically, further soiling his own reputation. He seems to always go for the short term, personal victory. That thinking destroyed the PC party. Now he’s doing it again.

    • Short term? US-Canada Free trade, The GST, abolishing the NEP, deregulation, privatization, fighting Apartheid, the first Gulf War, etc., etc. Harper should be so short term. Cutting the GST and the ability to losing the chance at two majorities, yeah, that’s your long term thinking.

      • Sorry, I was talking about his political instincts. On the broad policy front, Mulroney was probably one of our best PMs. But even here, his short term political thinking sometimes undermined his achievements. For example, his CF18 decision provided the Reform Party with the trigger issue they needed. His snap reversal on social welfare programs (or actually, his re-reversal – remember “Good-bye Charlie Brown”) caused the deficit to balloon, further adding fuel to the Reform fire. There are other examples, too. Mulroney accomplished great and important things, but sometimes he was his own worst enemy. And this is one of those times.

  18. Great piece! The definitive account (so far) of the Mulroney-Harper feud. No doubt it has already been read by many senior Conservatives. Perhaps it even had an impact on Harper`s efforts today to mend fences during the caucus meeting.

  19. All these Canadian taxpayers dollars being thrown down a blackhole in an ongoing purely partisan ‘witchhunt’ for some $300k in which it seems the ‘Liberal establishment left’ (including their ‘errand boys’ in the MSM) tries to pin something…anything on the Conservative Party of Canada by trying to ‘manufacture’ some kind of imaginary link or failing that a rift between Brian Mulroney and Stephen Harper.
    Nice bait and switch attempt but what of the missing and as yet unrecovered $48 million Canadian taxpayer dollars that the Liberal Party of Canada purloined during the Adscam/Sponorship scandal on the heels of the HRDC Boondoggle, Shawinigate, the failed Gun registry, the Canada Lands scandal etc etc . not to mention liberals doing actual prison time. Unprecedented… and on the record.
    That’s MILLIONS in corruption!
    Canadian taxpayers have not forgetten.

    It just goes to show that NO amount of Canadian taxpayer dollars are too many to waste for the liberals in their manic quest to return to power or failing that, to try and hijack democracy, a-la Koalition.
    It proves; once again; that the Liberals put the interests of their party and it’s vast coterie of bloodsuckers and hangers-on above the best interests of our country Canada and the Canadian people.
    Canadian taxpayers have not forgetten.

  20. This article made realclearworld.com. Congrats, Mr. Wells.

    • Yeah, that was fun. Helps our traffic too. Greetings, Mr. and Mrs. America!

  21. Hey Wells, what would have been better for the conservatives, 2 weeks of stories of infighting or two weeks of stories talking about Mulroney taking cash from an arms dealer?

    I really enjoy watching the MSM who tried to take down Mulroney over this issue a year ago, now defending him from the evil Harper. I think Mr.Mulroney needs to send PM Harper a thank-you card..

  22. Mulroney and Harper “two titans”

    C’mon now. There’s no way in which Haper resembles a titan.

    Conservative for life – gave me a giggle or two. The Conservatives surely have enough money to give Mulroney a free life-membership. But M. has been tagged as dirty so they won’t, or if they did, the probably retracted it.

    Some folk thought lyin’ Brian had charm. Too bad it’s not a saleable asset. anymore.

  23. Perhaps the edict from Harper was because he wanted to protect his Mr. Clean image. (just think of him as bald, and having biceps.) Alternately, since the PMO office has access to lots of files relevant to this case, Mr. Harper may know some stuff (or at least strongly suspect). If this happened after he agreed to an inquiry it seems fine… however if Harper knew during the time he was resisting an inquiry…

    • Ow. My eyes.

  24. I love love it!
    And I heard little Ben Mulroney has been approached by the Liberals to run in the next election.
    That would be just perfect – A Mulroney as a Liberal, as the Libs kick out the CPC of power.

    Election anyone?

    • What? Where did you hear this?

        • I want that scene where Mila throws Harper’s pic in the trash to make the cut in the mini-series they’ll make about Mulroney some day.

          Ben Mulroney needs to ditch the fake tan and plastic hair if he wants to be taken seriously as a politician.

          To be fair to Harper, if his stance was to stand by the former PM and declare him a member, everyone would be accusing him of valuing loyalty more than rooting out corruption.

    • I can’t stand ben mulroney…

      • He might make a good politician, you never know. I don’t like him as an entertainer, or whatever it is that he does.

  25. Harper needs to star rereading some of his old speeches, articles and public musings. His best out for the Mulroney affair is announce that ties were officially on hold until the inquiry’s findings were made public, with a further discussion at that time. Allow party members to speak with Mulroney but it has to be unofficial thus off the record.
    The membership issue is Muldoon’s fault of his own making but he’s juicing it for all it’s worth to gain sympathy. All he has to do is pay the fee. Once he’s cleared of wrong doing of course.
    Trouble with politics; Good ideas coming from bad vehicles.

  26. Hello! If you want to read a stories of ordinary people, this blog is yours. Just visit! You´ll like it! Enjoy it!
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    • No thank you. Please place me on your do not call list

    • hahahaha . . . lol. He’d be perfect.

  27. I am intrigued by the many Liberal articles pointing out how Mr.Harper “kicks over a chair”. It might help their propaganda machine if they could get one of their numerous friends, journalists,media anchors, etc. to have a photograph of one of these alleged events. Every time I’ve seen our PM on TV he seems cool, detached and reasonable. Perhaps you were using the Dr.Jekyll and Mr. Hyde scenario.to bolster your quest to destroy Mr.Harper.

    • There are numerous reports of Harper having a pretty bad temper behind closed doors. The same went for Paul Martin, and apparently John McCain. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide is bang-on. This is all secondary to policy discussion of course– but we don’t need to see him kicking over the chair on YouTube to believe it’s damn true.

  28. did someone mention ben mulroney? with all respect to success finding people… the guy is there doing whatever he does with plummeting ratings wherever he shows up… what did he do to earn this forced celebrity status? possibly taxpayer money?

  29. Mr. Harper is only doing what one would do in order not to have any of the fluff stick to him. Any politician would do that. I do feel great hope that Mr. Mulroney is found free of any guilt for I do not want that he has done wrong. I liked him as our Prime Minister.

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