As a successful television host, Ben Mulroney has carved out a niche well outside the political world. But the eldest—by one minute—of his two sons born at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital last week won’t have to look far to find a reminder of his family’s connections to power. That’s because Ben and his wife, Jessica Brownstein, named him Brian Mulroney.
Ben had reportedly struck a pact with his siblings to ensure his first-born son would carry the paternal grandfather’s name. (The younger Brian’s twin, John, is named after his grandfather’s older brother, who died just hours after birth.)
Canada may never have grand political dynasties like the Kennedy and Bush clans, but it won’t be for lack of trying. In naming his son after his politician dad, Ben is carrying on a growing tradition inside some of Canada’s most powerful political families. A long list of former PMs—including Lester Pearson, Joe Clark, Pierre Trudeau and now Mulroney—have grandsons bearing their names.
Not all names are created equal, however. UCLA psychology professor Albert Mehrabian has written extensively about the impact baby names can have on a person’s chances of success. When it comes to those carrying a name that’s widely associated with someone else, he says the impact very much depends on their famous relative. “If it’s a name with positive associations, it could be helpful,” Mehrabian says. “But if it’s somebody who is widely disliked, that tradition isn’t doing [the child] any service.”
Among the former PMs’ namesakes, the newest Brian Mulroney would appear to have the heaviest load to bear. A poll last month showed 24 per cent of Canadians think Mulroney was the worst prime minister since 1968. Trudeau was the most popular ex-PM in a landslide, while Joe Clark barely registered in either category. The younger Brian Mulroney could well find his name to be a mixed blessing—if he inherited his grandfather’s famous Irish charm, he’ll have a much easier time defending the former PM’s political legacy.