A master friend


Bruce Anderson makes a case for Brian Mulroney.

Mr. Mulroney built friendships like Tiger Woods plays golf: with incredible discipline, study and practice – but also with evident joy and occasionally crushing pain.

The city of Ottawa is full of people who feel lousy about the Karlheinz Schreiber relationship but can’t help but remember a Mulroney gesture that touched them – a call expressing friendship, a note of consolation, a thoughtful invitation, a kindness offered without condition. And lest anyone think these gestures were limited to Tories, lots of people in all corners of our political spectrum know better.


A master friend

  1. Unfortunately for the Canadian taxpayer, who is already on the hook for the $2 million libel settlement (that turns out now to have been dubious and premature) and the $20 million Oliphant inquiry, this Mulroney act of influence building/buying/peddling friendship building has been very expensive.

  2. "Bruce Anderson makes a case for Brian Mulroney."

    He was the most left wing PM in Canadian history. That's why there's never been a book written on his tenure (a few have been written about aspects of his tenure like Airbus but none are comprehensive) – because it would destroy the left wing media's narrative.

    It's always puzzled leftists – Peter Newman, to name one – that Mulroney was such a good, likeable guy. I met Brian years ago, that's just the way he is, it's not an act.

    • You must be off your meds again.

  3. Never having received a phone call from a Prime Minister wishing me strength and courage on the fourth anniversary of my poodle's death, I can only begin to imagine the frisson of picking up the phone and hearing those deep-burgandy tones with hints of walnut. But I can tell you right now it would be enough to buy my friendship for a lifetime, game set & match. Brian, Brian, why won't you call? My feelings are for sale too!

    • Most politicians would call about your poodle. As a contractor here in Ottawa I end up being in contact with quite a few of them. I have no influence or power but my job has put me in the same room with several dozen politicians from 1985 to the present day. Anyway, most will remember your face and your recently deceased poodle even if you aren't (as I am not) a move and shaker.

      Anderson is talking about something else and it's true enough. You can hate him or love him, but Mulroney really does stand out for his making friends and standing by them. Sometimes it worked for him, sometimes it worked against him.

      • That's interesting about his talent for friendship. Perhaps I'm just suspicious of people who already have a lot of friends and want to add me to their collection. And perhaps I'm being way too cynical about a genuinely friendly guy.

        I find it interesting that Mulroney was very much a telephone guy. Since his day, the culture has divided into people who strongly prefer the (cell) phone and people who strongly prefer email. As an email person who really dislikes the phone, I find the portrait of PM Mulroney always calling people up rather bizarre; but I'm sure I would applaud if had merely been emailing everybody.

  4. …and then he accepted money in incredibly dubious circumstances, and lied about to bilk the taxpayer out of even more $.

  5. I can kind of see that about Mulroney. When I was little I thought the news was a fictional show for adults, that happened to be my parent's favourite program. Brian Mulroney was my favourite character because he always seemed so confident, charming and witty. He scored even more points with me when I wrote him a letter about the closing of the cod fishery. I got a letter back which included a folder full of stuff about Canada – mostly maps and stuff. I realize he didn't answer my question (and it was likely the work of some anonymous bureaucrat) at all, but it contained a lot more than I got from Clyde Wells. I think that is what makes Mulroney an expert charmer. Even when he is confronted with an unpleasant question, he (or I suppose the anonymous bureaucrat) was able to buy my continued affection.

    • Good thing he got you young!

      With inflation and the amazement required to placate adults, that is the equivalent of a cottage in PEI today.

    • I'm one of those anonymous bureaucrats who used to respond to letters from the public. We'd include information material in most responses, regardless of who was in office at the time. If you think that signature was real, you haven't heard of the autopen. Google it!

  6. Mulroney used his public office, as PM and as MP, to sell access and influence for cash he never reported and went to great lengths to hide. He lied under oath about having any dealings with Schreiber and yet was never disbarred in Quebec. The reality is that may of the "friends" he cultivated were members of the press, some of whom have buried and spiked stories about his corruption and lies for many years. When it became impossible to avoid, given Mulroney's own admissions, his "friends" ran editorials questioning the need or value of continuing inquiries, despite new evidence and his ever evolving explanations (no cash from Airbus; no dealings with Schreiber whatsoever; well, only a pasta business; only Bearhead; only international arms sales, etc.). We have a long way to go before we are a mature nation in terms of our political culture and our news media's commitment to truth-seeking. Rehabilitating Brian because he was a hell of a guy will not advance either cause.

    • You need to insert 'allegedly' a few times as there is no court in Canada that will convict a former prime minister of breaking the law.

  7. I'm always surprised by how maudlin and gushy our political class can sound. The men are the worst. And I'm disappointed by the degree to which the public eats this stuff up.

  8. There are solid reasons why the PC Party got annihilated after Mulroney's tenure. No number of nice-guy gestures, however vaguely referenced in the Globe, can cancel them out.

    • I've always thought his biggest problem was that he failed to deliver for his own base. He delivered, and delivered big time, on Free Trade but after that not much. After a while any small-c conservative had to be asking themselves, why am I voting for this guy if he keeps doing the same things a liberal would be doing?

  9. I remember hearing or reading a story about his kindness to NDP stalwart Pauline Jewitt at the time of her death that was particularily touching.

  10. Speaking of Karlheinz Schreiber, remember when he was close to being carted off to Germany, he claimed that his return would be devestating to the political fortunes of Angela Merkel due to his past corruption of her party.

    So, haven't heard much lately about that. If she isn't toppled in a landslide, I might start questioning his credibility.

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