PHOTOS: Caroline Mulroney (Photo: Wikimedia Commons). Below: Former Canadian Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney in his heyday (Photo: Wikimedia Commons), lobbyist Robin Sears, conservative godfather Preston Manning, and Ontario Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne.
It’s now been more than a decade since Stephen Harper ordered all members of his government’s Parliamentary caucus to sever their ties with Brian Mulroney.
Canadians then viewed the previous Conservative prime minister with such disdain and derision in the wake of RCMP allegations he had accepted cash kickbacks on Airbus airliners sold to Air Canada that newly elected prime minister Harper may have felt he had no choice but to declare Mr. Mulroney persona non grata.
While those allegations were never proved, an inquiry into Mr. Mulroney’s dealings with his amigo Karlheinz Schreiber later excoriated the former Conservative PM for accepting envelopes stuffed with cash from the German arms dealer and ne’er-do-well to promote sales of military vehicles.
Mr. Mulroney took $225,000 or more in cash because he wanted to hide what he was up to, Mr. Justice Jeffrey Oliphant, then Associate Chief Justice of the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench, concluded in 2010. “The reason Mr. Schreiber made the payments in cash and Mr. Mulroney accepted them in cash was that both wanted to conceal the fact that the transactions had occurred between them,” Justice Oliphant stated.
But what a difference a decade can make! Especially when high-zoot lobbyists like former NDP national director Robin Sears have been busy throughout trying to restore the original lustre to Mr. Mulroney’s tarnished image!
Well, perhaps the polishing has not achieved the full original shine yet. So the time may not be quite right for Mr. Mulroney, now 78, to be welcomed back with scattered palm branches on the ground at Preston Manning’s annual devotionals in Ottawa, where the Canadian conservative movement bows down to its heroes.
But on Friday Mr. Mulroney’s daughter was there, and if mainstream media coverage was anything to go by, Caroline Mulroney’s welcome at the Manning Networking Conference was positively rapturous.
According to the effusive media coverage that followed, at any rate, the 43-year-old Ms. Mulroney’s arrival to pitch her candidacy to fill an unexpected opening at the top of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party’s leadership was greeted with swoons and huzzahs by the movement conservatives assembled in the Ottawa Convention Centre for the annual conservative clam bake and booze-up.
Naturally, many hectares of space in major mainstream media were devoted yesterday to Ms. Mulroney’s bloviations on the job she’s running for just now, and perhaps also on the one she may be running for in future in the nation’s capital.
Predictably, it turns out she has set her course against Ontario’s carbon tax – the conservative hive mind apparently having reached the conclusion that while acknowledging global climate change may be necessary in a risky sort of way, actually doing something about it would be suicidal with The Base.
This even seems to include the strategy advocated by poor old Mr. Manning himself, who back in 2013 told his Ottawa guests they’d better get cracking at coming up with a scheme for “green conservatism” lest they lose the next generation of voters.
No, Ms. Mulroney told the congress of cons, she’d make up for the $4 billion in revenue that would be lost by dismantling Ontario’s carbon tax by trimming government waste. Everyone knows Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals have been wasting money, she told the congregation, so … “We’re going to look there.”
Well, good luck with that. Ontario’s budget is more than $140 billion, but even just $4 billion would still leave a pretty big hole in it. And Ontarians have to have a pretty good idea where Conservatives would make such cuts. So Ms. Mulroney’s strategic team may eventually want to give some thought to applying some leftover Mulroney PR polish to her carbon tax policy.
Then again, her eyes may not really be on Queen’s Park – as, just to be clear, the Ontario Legislature in Toronto is known, so this observation is not intended as a cheap shot at any Mulroney Family ambitions.
Speaking of polish, if the objective of all the attention paid to Ms. Mulroney’s father’s reputation these past 10 years or so is to make like the Trudeaus and create a family political dynasty, the long rehabilitation project has to be called at least a partial success.
Ms. Mulroney may be advocating the same old improbable nostrums as all the other Conservatives running for this and that, and she may be doing it just now in a strictly provincial venue, but for all that she’s definitely on the national radar.
NOTE: Just to be completely clear, your blogger was in Ottawa when the assembled Tories gathered in town, and he was in the bar at the Westin as Ms. Mulroney was showing the flag to assorted drinkers and Mr. Manning was stumbling through the door, but he wasn’t there for that.