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Caroline Mulroney, the anti-Trudeau, enters the political fray

Andrew MacDougall on Caroline Mulroney’s decision to follow in her father Brian’s footsteps—and what she can learn from the current PM


 
The Shoebox Project co-founder Caroline Mulroney, daughter of former prime minister Brian Mulroney, is photographed in Ottawa, alongside completed shoeboxes filled with personal items, to be given to women in shelters over the holiday season on Monday, Dec. 2, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

The Shoebox Project co-founder Caroline Mulroney, daughter of former prime minister Brian Mulroney, is photographed in Ottawa, alongside completed shoeboxes filled with personal items, to be given to women in shelters over the holiday season on Monday, Dec. 2, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Andrew MacDougall is a London-based columnist and commentator. He was a director of communications to Stephen Harper.

Caroline Mulroney’s resume is so blinding, the biography section of her freshly launched campaign website can afford to ignore the very thing Ontarians are most likely to know about her: that she’s Ben Mulroney’s sister.

All kidding aside, Mulroney’s campaign site—launched in support of her just-announced run for the Ontario PC nomination in York-Simcoe—also forgoes all mention of father Brian, Canada’s 18th prime minister (and mother Mila, while we’re at it).

It’s certainly not that Mulroney is thin on material. She’s a Harvard graduate who then studied law at NYU before working in finance for 20 years while starting a charity on the side—all the while helping to raise four children. It’s not supply teaching and snowboard instructing, but it’ll do.

Mulroney’s choice to stand on her own two feet is therefore admirable, even if it is an abnegation of reality. Whether she likes it or not, every single piece of news copy about her candidacy will be festooned with “Muldoon” references.

Her father’s absence is undoubtedly part of a strategy to underplay her ambition; this isn’t the second coming, even if some Ontarians might be praying to be rid of Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals.

York-Simcoe is a safe Tory seat and the Ontario PC Party has a new, young leader in Patrick Brown. Mulroney is meant to be part of an impressive crop of candidates, not the silver bullet to ending 14 years of Liberal rule.

But there’s underplaying it, and then there’s dosing your candidacy in NyQuil, which is where Mulroney is headed. If you didn’t know Mulroney’s pedigree you’d think her identikit campaign launch video was that of a no-hope candidate in an unwinnable riding.

“I’ll stand up for you and work for a better future for your family,” Mulroney says in her video. “I love this province and I believe that Ontario can once again be the engine of the Canadian economy,” she adds on her website. Was the degree from Harvard a PhD in boilerplate?

This is where a little behind-the-scenes (if not above board) counsel from the old man might have helped. You might not have liked Brian Mulroney, but he could command a stage. She needn’t warble “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling”, but a twinkle of stardust would have helped her launch in this, the Rolling Stone era.

Lord knows Justin Trudeau—another political scion—doesn’t shy away from invoking his father’s memory. Most of us only found out about Justin Trudeau because he delivered the eulogy to his father at his funeral.

Now, Brian Mulroney isn’t about to gift his daughter with a similar “hello” moment, but the comparison with Trudeau can still be instructive for Caroline Mulroney as she sets out on her political career.

In many ways they’re polar opposites. Mulroney is hyper-credentialed, where Trudeau is not. Trudeau is intensely charismatic, where Mulroney has demonstrated little to date. Mulroney’s expectations are lower, while Trudeau’s were sky high (in part due to the dire health of his party at the time of his arrival).

What the Trudeau phenomenon should highlight to Mulroney is that credentials are no longer enough to carry the day. Style can help override substance (for a time, anyway) but the reverse isn’t now as likely to be true. You can have a CV like Caroline Mulroney’s, but if you can’t sell yourself like Trudeau can—particularly to younger voters who don’t watch television—you’ll have trouble catching on in the digital age.

Of course, Trudeau’s unique blessing is that his resonance with younger voters is echoed by the older voters who still revere his father. Caroline Mulroney’s father isn’t nearly as loved, and so she’ll enjoy no similar boost on that front, even if she isn’t looking for one.

Again, the lo-fi aspect to Mulroney’s launch might also be by design. It could be that Caroline Mulroney’s ambition is limited to serving the fine people of York-Simcoe well, as her predecessor Julia Munro has done for the past 22 years.

But there’s a reason Tories—both provincially and federally—have dreamt for a Mulroney candidacy for years; she’s the closest thing the Tories have to royalty. That goes double for the ever-shrinking progressive conservative wing of the federal party.

If Caroline Mulroney had wanted to scotch rumours of an ambition greater than what she signposted today, then it would already have been done. Her low-key launch, then, is better read as a play for the long haul.

And so the journey of a thousand miles begins with today’s first tentative step. Let’s see if she learns Trudeau’s lessons along the way.


 

Caroline Mulroney, the anti-Trudeau, enters the political fray

  1. Why the hell not? The kardashians are the epitome of modern politics.

    The sad part is that people think these dumb symbolic caricatures make good leaders.

    Bring on technological democracy. Internet voting on everything.

    Make politicians obsolete.

    • YAY!! I agree!! Belgium went for 1 1/2 years without a government. Just the civil service. Probably the best times of their political lives!!

  2. We don’t need snarky, petty, small minded cracks about snowboarding and supply teaching. Read what Brian has said about Trudeau in the past. He warned this smart aleck Harperite and was ignored.
    I know Caroline Mulroney will not take this low mean spirited tone. She’s too smart. Did it ever occur to anyone to wonder why she’s not going federal?

  3. Helicopter candidate. Safe riding. Little in common with her constituents. Much of her life spent studying & working in the US at elite universities and companies.
    Caroline Mulroney … she didn’t come back for you.

    • Correct me if I’m wrong. She went to Harvard, worked a few years in USA and then onto Law school. Hardly MOST of her life.
      She made her home in Toronto with 4 children. Are you saying that because the average Canadian family has 1.9 kids and the she has 4 kids that she won’t be able to relate to her consituents?

    • Perhaps, eventually (if we wait long enough) bigoted commentators who know hardly anything about her will suggest an alternative for the position. They will, probably, continue the attacks when she is voted by her peers as party leader.

  4. As much as I genuinely disliked her father, I’ll give Ms. Mulroney credit where credit is due. Unlike another child of a certain former PM, Caroline Mulroney has shown all indications of being hardworking and intelligent. Both of these qualities are wholly absent in Mr. Trudeau.

    • Since you “disliked her father” it won’t matter that he said exactly the opposite, ie Trudeau is hard working and smart.
      UN, G 7, G20, E U, Merkel, all seem to respect him. No respect at home, I admit.

    • The main problem is that her father lied to Canadians and should have been put in jail. He took slush money under the table and then avoided paying his fair share of taxes. Maybe that’s how Mr. Mulroney could afford to put her through Harvard. I will give her every change to make it on her own but I have zero respect for her father. He is a good speaker and knows how to spin.

  5. Gotta love the shoe boxes … wonder if she got them from her Mom … “Imelda” Mulroney…

  6. about her: that she’s Ben Mulroney’s sister… hmmm just cant resist the Harper government zeal ( sic )

  7. I hope she succeeds. The progressives in the Conservative rankds need to take back their party. It won’t be easy. The wacko, Bible-thumping, Evangelical, Reform troglodyte fringe (not to mention the Rebel gang) is always there, lurking and wanting to push further right. Good luck to Mrs Mulroney.

    • Umm .. it’s Mrs. Lapham … or Ms. Mulroney .

  8. Andrew MacDougall is contributing opinion pieces to just about every mainstream media venue in the country.
    All of his contributions have a stated focus – this particular one focuses on Caroline Mulroney.
    But a closer look at everything he writes betrays a singular obsession: Justine Trudeau. His “secondary” focus ( like Ms. Mulroney) is simply a prop to allow him to continue his not-so-subtle ongoing mission to undermine all things Trudeau.
    Sometimes he will even give Mr. Trudeau a backhanded compliment in order to temper his intense narcissistic fascination with the man that ate his lunch.
    Maybe it’s time now for him to realize that the election is over – to get over it and to focus on his new life in England.

    • Exactly. The crazy anti Trudeau hate group called the Reform opposition in Ottawa is heading down a path to self destruction. Apparently even Ambrose realized it, somewhere along the line!!
      Mulroney has realized the only hope for the future lies with Patrick Brown in Ontario. The hope for a responsible, mature, forward thinking Party not warped out of shape by hatred, envy, and pointless partisan flailing at Trudeau over frivolous one day wonder personality issues.
      These Harperite pundits dominate the Ottawa bubble. Smart move Mulroney.
      Seen the Brown ads? He’s pivoted 180 away from Ottawa Cons.

      • We (conservatives) are heading on a path to self-destruction? You didn’t read the Venezuela thing did you? Pretty much lays out our future path if we don’t start tossing left wing (a la Trudeau, etc) governments into the deepest and coldest parts of Lake Superior.

        • Comparing Canada to Venezuela is moronic. Nothing else can be said other than your partisan blinders are really working well.

  9. EE Gods!! Has Canada got nothing else to offer other than pathetic children of pathetic politicians??

    • Not everybody can be perfect like you are. If you are so smart why don’t you enter politics and help Canada.

      • My intelligence led me away from the swamp and to a much more rewarding career ….

        • Good for you but that dictates you can’t complain. It is very easy to criticize but not so easy to actually do something about it.

          • We don’t live in China or Russia … we live in a democracy and the right to create an opinion is our right. If enough people express the same opinion, the politicians take notice because they don’t want their snouts removed from the trough.

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