By John Geddes - Tuesday, April 9, 2013 - 0 Comments
Brian Mulroney came to know Margaret Thatcher, who died yesterday at age 87, when they were both Conservative prime ministers. They remained friends after leaving politics. The former Canadian PM spoke with me about Thatcher from his law office in Montréal. This is an edited transcript of the conversation:
Q: Given Margaret Thatcher’s age and health, were you braced for her death?
A: No, frankly, I was shocked. While I knew Margaret had been in decline, I certainly didn’t think it was going to happen this quickly.
Q: You were friends, but you also famously clashed with her over South Africa, back when you were championing tougher sanctions against the apartheid regime and she was resisting the move. How did your personal relationship survive that strain?
A: She could dish it out, but she could take it. And I saw in her other qualities and other leadership dimensions beyond this serious policy difference that we had on South Africa. We used that to build our way back to commonalities of approach. We agreed on the economy. We basically agreed on Europe—not on the unification of Germany, on which we were in disagreement—but on the Soviet Union, the Warsaw Pact.
Q: Beyond her personal presence, what was it about her record, her policies, that made her such a watershed figure?
A: She inherited the sick man of Europe in 1979 and transformed it into a powerhouse. When she left office, it was Britain redefined. And of course the frosting on the cake was her action in the Falklands, where she gave Britain back some of its pizzazz, addressed some past yearning and great memories. So she gave them back their pride. That was the first great thing she did.
Q: Beyond how she changed Britain, though, what stands out for you about her impact internationally?
A: I was there watching as she played a very key role with President Reagan and Chancellor Kohl, others at the G7 and NATO, in terms of the decapitation of the Soviet Union. In her case, she was fully consistent. Every argument that she ever made internationally didn’t have a great deal to do with her contempt for Communism—she never really got into that. What she talked about was giving freedom to tens of millions of people in Central and Eastern Europe. She was an inspirational leader when it came to discussing her belief in freedom. More visceral and moral.
Q: You wrote in your memoirs that you saw other dimensions, not just the Iron Lady persona.
A: Like all of us, there were many facets to Margaret Thatcher’s personality. In private she was kind, thoughtful, charming. Very attentive to her interlocutors. She took time to be concerned—she knew all about my children and [wife] Mila and so on.
Q: And you kept in touch with her after you were both out of office.
A: Oh yes. I’ve told the story of Mila and I being with her and [her husband] Denis, and Nancy Reagan, as guests of Carroll Petrie in Southampton outside of New York. This would have been, I’m going to say, 1998, 1999. After dinner on a Saturday night, Peter Duchin sat down at the piano and started to play, Margaret got up and sang “The White Cliffs of Dover.” She had a lovely contralto voice. And I’m sitting there and I’m saying to myself, here’s one of the greatest prime ministers in history, after Churchill, singing the song that kept the Brit morale alive during the war. So obviously I got up and sang the second verse with her.
Q: In her heyday, the fact that she was a woman must have made her stand out at any summit of political leaders. Were you very conscious of that?
A: She was the only woman. Always perfectly coiffed, splendidly dressed—beautiful maroon or dark blue suits. That lovely diamond brooch. She would never speak to an issue without having absolutely exhausted the research on the file. She spoke very confidently because of it.
Q: That description of complete mastery of files will fit with the public impression of her as disciplined and unflappable. Was she always like that?
A: I saw some doubt and hesitation in her only after she was overthrown and left office.
Q On the subject of her being overthrown, you were with her in Paris on Nov. 20, 1990, the day many of her own MPs had turned against her. What do you recall about that dramatic moment?
A: I’m leaving to go to the [Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe] summit in Paris, and Robert Maxwell [the British Labour MP and newspaper baron], of all people, asks to see me at the Ritz in Montréal. He tells me that Margaret Thatcher is going to be overthrown. I think he’s nuts. But because he’s told me that, I pay attention. When I arrive in Paris, I’m seated across from Margaret at the conference table. I make detailed notes—what she’s wearing, what she says, just on the off chance that for once in his life Maxwell turns out to be right. Well, by God, he was.
Q: When did you realize his tip was correct?
A: That night, when the vote count [of Thatcher’s caucus] was in, and we met for dinner in Versailles, and she came to me and said, ‘Brian, tonight I need a friend.’ She was as courageous as they come, but she was badly, badly shaken. She conveyed that to Mila and me. But when she went back to the official dinner, 35 heads of government, she put on that smile. Yet when the dinner was over she came to me and said, ‘Will you walk me out?’ So she was on my arm, I walked her to her car. She flew back to London and resigned the next day.
By John Geddes - Monday, January 21, 2013 at 5:00 AM - 0 Comments
Brian Mulroney is out of political purgatory and only too happy to tell Canadians (and Stephen Harper) what real leadership is about
His large, impressive head swims into view, as he makes his unhurried way through the luncheon crowd assembling outside the hall of a Fredericton conference centre. That jaw line, which once seemed cut from granite, now looks more moulded from clay. Even with its edges softened by age, though, you would know the profile anywhere. His silver-grey hair is immaculate. The rich hue and perfect drape of his blue suit set him apart—no offence to the menswear purveyors of the New Brunswick capital—from the local businessmen and provincial politicians pressing in to shake his hand, share an old campaign anecdote, and maybe pose for a photo. But what really triggers the memories, good and bad, is his voice. Its bass notes don’t so much cut through as rumble beneath the conversational din. The plummy laugh penetrates to every corner.
And Brian Mulroney has been laughing a lot lately. His one-day, mid-November visit to Fredericton—where he delivered a speech at the lunch, met privately with the provincial government’s cabinet, and spoke to students at St. Thomas University before a reception at its Brian Mulroney Hall—was typical of his extraordinary 2012. At 73, Mulroney spent the year being feted on the 25th anniversary of his Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, consulted on Quebec by the Prime Minister, who once shunned him, and even being called “a classy individual” by Justin Trudeau. Can it really be less than three years since Justice Jeffrey J. Oliphant’s commission of inquiry found that Mulroney behaved “inappropriately” in taking envelopes containing hundreds of thousands in secret cash payments from a certain German-Canadian arms lobbyist? Continue…
By John Geddes - Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 12:06 PM - 0 Comments
In this week’s Maclean’s I write about Brian Mulroney’s surprising return to prominence in Canadian public life. The story was mostly prompted by a spate of major speeches the former prime minister, now 73, delivered last year. Mulroney’s 2012 road show seemed remarkably unhampered by the controversy that plagued him in office and dogged him long into retirement from active politics.
The larger-than-life performance style he brings to these events is something to behold—and he can barely contain his disdain for the timid, tentative speechmaking of the generation of Canadian politicians who came after him. But Mulroney also delivers content. So much, in fact, that I had space to barely touch on much of it in the story.
For a flavour of the subjects Mulroney tackles, and how he comes at them, here are four excerpts from key speeches.
By John Geddes - Saturday, December 29, 2012 at 1:44 PM - 0 Comments
How many senators did Prime Minister Stephen Harper appoint in 2012? How many years does the government allow, in its latest plan, for “development and acquisition” of F-35 fighter jets? How many premiers, provincial and territorial, attended the November economic summit in Halifax? (Hint: Saskatchewan’s just phoned in.)
In all cases, the answer is an even dozen. But for our purposes here—in this third annual installment of a year-capping look back—we’re interested in 12 only as the number of months in the calendar. Select just a single story for each, and 2012 might almost begin to show some semblance of coherence.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Stephen Harper is your statesman of the year for 2012 (as determined by the Appeal of Conscience Foundation), but he won’t be speaking to the UN General Assembly while he’s in New York to pick up the award. Campbell Clark deems this a “snub.”
Perhaps most pointedly, his disaffection for the UN is demonstrated by his willingness to fly to New York during the so-called UN week to meet other world leaders without agreeing to speak to the General Assembly.
The Prime Minister last addressed the UN General Assembly in 2010. In 2009, he was questioned about skipping the assembly to tour a Tim Hortons plant in Oakville. (We dubbed this the donut speech and, after Erin Weir raised questions about the significance of the moment, we fact checked the Harper government’s enthusiasm.)
A search of the UN database shows Jean Chretien addressed the general assembly five times—in 1995, 1997, 2000, 2002 and 2003—in his 10 years as prime minister. He also addressed the security council in 2000.
A search for Brian Mulroney turns up three speeches—in 1985, 1988 and 1990. (The archive only goes back to 1983.)
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, June 26, 2012 at 2:14 PM - 0 Comments
Whatever the impact of the attack ads run against him, one historical note on the challenge facing Thomas Mulcair. He will be attempting in 2015 to do something that most leaders of the opposition fail to do: lead their parties to a general election victory on their first try.
By my count, between 1921 and 2011, 15 opposition leaders* who had not previously been prime minister led their parties into elections. Ten of those leaders failed to lead their parties to government on that first try: Michael Ignatieff, Stephane Dion, Stephen Harper, Stockwell Day, Preston Manning, Robert Stanfield, Lester B. Pearson, George Drew, John Bracken and Robert Manion. Only two of those ten went on to become prime minister after losing the first time: Messrs Harper and Pearson.
On the other hand, the five who won were Jean Chretien (1993), Brian Mulroney (1984), Joe Clark (1979), John Diefenbaker (1957) and Mackenzie King (1921) and all of those five defeated governments that had been in power for at least two terms.
When Mr. Chretien become prime minister, the Progressive Conservatives had been in power for nine years. When Mr. Mulroney became prime minister, the Liberals had been in power for 20 of the previous 21 years and won six of the previous seven elections. When Mr. Clark became prime minister, the Liberals had been in power for 16 years covering five elections. When Mr. Diefenbaker became prime minister, the Liberals had been in power for 22 years covering five elections. When Mr. King became prime minister, the Conservatives (on their own and then as a coalition) had been in power for 10 years covering two elections.
When Mr. Mulcair faces the Conservatives in 2015, the Conservatives will be at the end of their third mandate and been in power for nine years.
*Preston Manning was not technically the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition in 1997. Officially that title belonged to Gilles Duceppe, but the Bloc Quebecois had no chance of forming government and at dissolution the Bloc and Reform Party had the same number of seats.
By Paul Wells - Friday, June 22, 2012 at 11:59 PM - 0 Comments
Stephen Harper doesn’t announce many of his most important meetings. He routinely meets one-on-one with provincial premiers without either party mentioning the encounters to reporters. And from Stephanie Levitz at Canadian Press comes news that he met Brian Mulroney and, separately, Jean Charest last week. Why? Levitz’s sources have a hunch:
A provincial by-election in Quebec last week saw the sovereigntist Parti Quebecois win a riding that’s been held by the Liberals for 46 years.
It suggests the party’s strength is growing as support for the current Liberal government melts from the heat of sustained student protests and a provincial election is expected in the fall.
If another national unity debate springs from a PQ victory, Harper would be in an enfeebled position relative to his predecessors: his Conservative party polls in the low teens in Quebec and there is no effective spokesperson for federalist forces in the governing party.
The sit-down with Mulroney signals how skittish the federal government is about their continued failure to connect with Quebecers.
It’s a good guess. Harper’s tiny Quebec caucus makes as many brave noises as it can, but I know the prime minister is spooked by the prospect (not the guarantee, because of course there is none, but the non-negligible possibility) of a Parti Québécois government returning to power within 15 weeks. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 30, 2012 at 4:00 PM - 0 Comments
The Conservative MP for Calgary Centre rose after QP today to announce his resignation. Mr. Richardson was first elected as a Progressive Conservative in 1988—here is his maiden speech—but he first worked on the Hill as an executive assistant to John Diefenbaker and later served in the Prime Minister’s Office of Brian Mulroney.
Last spring, he sought the Speaker’s chair, finishing third in balloting. He will be returning to Alberta to serve as principal secretary to Premier Alison Redford.
Below, the text of Mr. Richardson’s remarks in the House. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 14, 2012 at 6:56 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Thomas Mulcair challenged the government side to live up to the principles Stephen Harper once championed and so John Baird stood and claimed a different high road altogether.
“Mr. Speaker, this Prime Minister, this Minister of Finance and this government are focused like a laser on the economy,” he assured the House. “They are focused on economic growth, job creation and not on partisan games.”
The Foreign Affairs Minister proceeded then to lament that the NDP’s Peter Julian had spoken for too long in response to the Finance Minister’s budget speech.
A moment later, Bob Rae stood to review the budget bill one clause at a time. “Mr. Speaker, under these proposed budget changes, the Inspector General of CSIS will be gone,” he reviewed from a piece of paper he held in front of him. “The Centre for Rights and Democracy will be gone. The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy will be gone. The First Nations Statistical Institute will be gone. The Governance Institute will be gone. The National Aboriginal Health Organization will be gone. The National Council of Welfare will be gone, environmental assessment will be gutted, Parks Canada will be gutted and old age security will be gutted.”
There was some degree of mumbling and grumbling from the government side. Mr. Rae proceeded to his point. “These are basic protections for Canadians. These are basic ways in which Canadians have rights and governments do not have all the rights,” he explained. “When will the government learn it is taking the wrong path?”
The question was rather rhetorical and the answer surpassed the question in this regard. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, February 17, 2012 at 9:30 AM - 0 Comments
Brian Topp tells the CBC that, if he’s elected leader of the NDP, he’ll ask an NDP MP in Quebec to step aside so that he can run in a by-election.
Fun fact: the last three leaders of the opposition who went on to become prime minister weren’t MPs when they won their party leaderships.
Stephen Harper was elected leader of the Canadian Alliance in March 20, 2002 and then ran in a by-election to fill the seat for Calgary Southwest that was left vacant when Preston Manning resigned in January of that year. Not until May 21, 2002 did Mr. Harper make his first appearance in the House as the leader of the opposition.
Jean Chretien was elected leader of the Liberal party on June 23, 1990. Fernand Robichaud, the Liberal MP for Beausejour, resigned, so that Mr. Chretien could run in a by-election there. Mr. Chretien then took his seat as the leader of the opposition on Dec. 21, 1990.
Brian Mulroney was elected leader of the Progressive Conservatives on June 11, 1983. Elmer MacKay (father of Peter) then stepped down, allowing Mr. Mulroney to run in Central Nova. Mr. Mulroney then took his seat as the leader of the opposition on August 29, 1993.
By Paul Wells - Friday, September 23, 2011 at 9:15 AM - 24 Comments
Paul Wells on how Ted Byfield helped pave the way for Harper’s majority win
Stephen Harper sent his regrets and a note, which was read to the 300-odd revellers the other night at the Coast Edmonton Plaza Hotel. “Special greetings to Ted Byfield and Preston Manning, who have done so much to inspire, inform and lead the conservative movement in Canada,” the Prime Minister’s note said.
The occasion was a “victory celebration” for a defunct magazine that never made anyone rich. The magazine was Alberta Report. Well, sometimes it had other titles, but we’ll stick with that one. Its founder was Ted Byfield, an irascible right-wing coot—I do not believe his friends would disagree with that description—and a mentor to dozens of journalists who went on to other roles, including this magazine’s Ken Whyte, Mark Stevenson and Colby Cosh.
But as I’ve said, the Report shut down in 2003. So what’s to celebrate? Power. “The West Is In,” the party invitations read. The reference was to the Harper Conservatives’ majority government. The dinner’s souvenir program promised a “national gala to reunite the original authors of Harper’s historic victory.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, September 8, 2011 at 12:08 PM - 4 Comments
After consulting with the Twitter hive mind, it seems the most comparable precedent for what Brian Topp would be trying to do is Brian Mulroney. Mr. Mulroney worked within the Progressive Conservative party before becoming leader. He, though, only won the leadership on his second try and that, along with his public profile in general, makes the comparison to Mr. Topp imperfect.
Messrs Harper, Miliband and Cameron were party strategists, but each won election as an MP before seeking their respective party leaderships. Mr. Tory was a strategist for the Progressive Conservative before he was elected leader of the Ontario PCs, but there was an unsuccessful run for mayor in Toronto in between.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 2:58 PM - 6 Comments
Ian Brodie quibbles with the suggestion that luck explains Stephen Harper’s success.
Merging the Reform-Alliance into the Conservative Party may have looked easy to outsiders obsessed with the drama of David Orchard’s efforts to block his Party’s ratification of the merger deal. But Harper had worked long and hard to overcome years of Reform-Alliance hostility to Toryism, and reaped the benefit of that work when the time came to do the deal. Keeping the new party unified and focused in the face of predictions of the coming Martin “juggernaut” may have looked easy to outsiders, but required careful internal leadership and work. Snatching victory from the jaws of victory in the 2005-06 campaign looks, in retrospect, like the inevitable unfolding of history, but required two years of brutal, disciplined work. And is it lucky to be in charge during a mammoth economic crisis? Does having an excuse for spending billions on economic stimulus lead to political success? Please, someone, ask Barack Obama.
If Brian Mulroney had been lucky enough to be in power during a long, global economic boom with very low interest rates, he and Mike Wilson would have balanced the federal budget. Instead, Jean Chretien and Paul Martin were the lucky ones. But let the Liberals keep on thinking that Harper’s success is the result of luck. Let them believe their current crisis is the result of bad luck. Whatever we do, don’t ever persuade them they need to change their approach. Let them keep rolling the dice and betting the house.
By Kate Lunau, Richard Warnica, Alex Ballingall and Emma Teitel - Thursday, August 18, 2011 at 8:15 AM - 0 Comments
Sean Avery gets arrested, the youngest Mulroney gets hitched and Amélie gets to say goodbye to all that
All grown up
Brian Mulroney’s youngest son, 25-year-old Nicolas, who was born while the Mulroneys lived at 24 Sussex, tied the knot this week at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church on McCaul Street in downtown Toronto. Nicolas and Katy Carlyle Brebner, 26, are both bankers at RBC, where they met. The former prime minister told reporters the service was “very, very nice” and his son’s new bride is “a beauty.” Three hundred guests attended the afternoon service, including Nicolas’s brothers Ben and Mark, who served as best men; Mila, with Brian close behind, walked her youngest child down the aisle.
The guidettes take Italy
The bronzed, undereducated, ever-intoxicated cast of Jersey Shore returned to the small screen this week for a fourth season, this time in Italy—you know, the country with the peso for its currency, according to Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi. Although her “Italian” was limited to ciao and gracias—yes, really—Deena Cortese was in her element in the homeland, though she hates the pizza’s “thin, thin crust.” The food, in fact, was a miss for the gang from Jersey. “They didn’t even have bagels!” complained Mike “the Situation” Sorrentino, now calling himself “The Situatione.”
Not a braid out of place
Ukrainian folk hero Yulia Tymoshenko appeared in court last week, trademark braids neatly coiffed, despite having spent the previous three nights in prison. Tymoshenko was arrested for contempt of court after refusing to stand before the judge and repeatedly mocking him on Twitter. She’s made her feelings clear about the trial, which she views as an attempt to block her from running in future elections. Tymoshenko, the darling of the 2004 pro-Western Orange Revolution and currently a fierce opponent of President Viktor Yanukovych, faces charges of abuse of power over gas deals with Russia. Apparently unbowed after her weekend behind bars, she refused, once again, to stand before the judge on her return to court, yelling, “Glory to Ukraine!”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, August 16, 2011 at 3:11 PM - 26 Comments
Angus-Reid asks a thousand Canadians to identify the best and worst prime ministers since 1968. The results below (with changes from four years ago in parentheses).
Trudeau 36% (+3)
Harper 19% (+5)
Chretien 12% (+4)
Mulroney 6% (-8)
Mulroney 19% (-1)
Harper 19% (+4)
Trudeau 13% (-)
Chretien 10% (-3)
Mr. Trudeau tops 36% in British Columbia, the Prairies, Ontario and Atlantic Canada and bests Mr. Harper in every region except Alberta. Quebec is the only jurisdiction that ranks Mr. Harper less than second.
By Mitchel Raphael - Monday, August 15, 2011 at 8:59 AM - 5 Comments
Laureen Harper… has gone on an annual summer hike for a few
Laureen Harper has gone on an annual summer hike for a few years now. It started off as a solo venture, plus the mandatory RCMP detachment, but soon blossomed into a group event that includes women such as Minister of Public Works Rona Ambrose. This year the group went to the Yukon, for a trek through Tombstone Territorial Park. Mrs. Harper noted, “It never got dark so we could hike until 11:00 at night.” Last year the group had to scare off bears. No bears this year, but Mrs. Harper says there was other company. “We did run into lots of hoary marmots [large ground squirrels]. The valley bottom was very boggy so we had to walk up on the mountain ridges, and the marmots would hike along with us for a while.”
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 18, 2011 at 10:43 AM - 65 Comments
Welcome to live coverage of this morning’s cabinet shuffle, wherein we find out which backbenchers we have to pretend to take more seriously for the next little while.
There’s been a steady stream of Conservatives arriving at Rideau Hall and the Prime Minister is due shortly. So far we seem only to know for sure that John Baird will be the next Foreign Affairs Minister. Presumably he will be counted on to bluster away opposition criticism of the government’s international endeavours, charm foreign officials and periodically convene breathless news conferences to report the latest breathtaking developments in our make-believe war with Russia. Presumably he’ll do fine. His image problem notwithstanding.
10:45am. Our Andrew Coyne is already deeply disappointed with all of this. Follow his Twitter feed this morning to watch his head explode repeatedly.
10:52am. The Prime Minister has now arrived. The swearing in is to commence in about 20 minutes.
11:04am. CTV reports a 39-member ministry, which equals an all-time high mark. Welcome to the new era of smaller government.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, April 21, 2011 at 11:55 AM - 29 Comments
I have a story in this week’s print edition about Michael Ignatieff’s position going into the last two weeks of this campaign and the complicated electoral math with which he is presently faced.
On Monday, somewhere between Yellowknife and Winnipeg, we sat for a chat. Some of what Mr. Ignatieff had to say made it into that story, but for your enlightenment—and as a demonstration of what a few days of travel does to my ability to form coherent questions—here is the transcript. Continue…
By Brian D. Johnson - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 at 12:33 PM - 1 Comment
The former PM’s life gets treated as a campy cartoon in Mulroney: The Opera
When they read the script for Mulroney: The Opera, the lawyers were anxious about the money shot: the scene of Brian Mulroney breast-stroking like Scrooge McDuck in a swimming pool full of cash. They feared it could be libellous. The former prime minister, after all, had admitted to taking a mere $225,000 from German lobbyist Karlheinz Schreiber, not enough to fill an entire pool. When director Larry Weinstein explained that the wads of bills wouldn’t actually fill the pool, just float on the water’s surface, the lawyers figured that was okay.
Mulroney: The Opera is one of the most bizarre concoctions this country’s eccentric film industry has ever produced: a $3.8-million musical satire, almost entirely funded by the federal government, that amounts to a snake-oil portrait of an ex-prime minister as a lying, delusional, power-mad showboat of grotesque proportions. An original work riddled with allusions to Wagner and Mozart, Bizet and burlesque, this campy biopic condenses Mulroney’s life story into a 75-minute cartoon.
It may invite comparisons to last year’s Score: A Hockey Musical, a $5.3-million folly that bombed at the box office. (Next to hockey, political satire is arguably Canada’s most popular, and vicious, national sport.) But while Score was earnest romance, Mulroney: The Opera is monstrous caricature. And, spooked by Score‘s failure, its producers at Rhombus Media have come up with a novel way to spring it on audiences, using high art as the commercial hook. Mimicking the format of Cineplex’s The Met: Live in HD series, the movie is set to play on 72 screens across Canada as a single Saturday matinee, on April 16, followed by just one repeat showing on April 27. The general manager of the Metropolitan Opera will even introduce it on video.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, March 3, 2011 at 9:18 AM - 51 Comments
Pollsters continue to debate the meaning and prominence of their work.
Gregg said the proliferation of sometimes conflicting polls and the hypeventilating analysis that frequently accompanies them does not strengthen democracy. On the contrary, he said: “Rather than have a public that’s informed, you have a public that’s misinformed.” He said he’s not arguing that polls should be ignored; only that their import needs to be interpreted much more cautiously. Rather than pontificate on weekly fluctuations in individual polls, he said it makes more sense to average the results of various surveys and look at the trends over longer periods of time.
It is probably important to consider, as Eric Grenier did this week, how much and how often polling responses change when an election campaign is conducted. Consider, for instance, that the last three changes in government were not obviously foretold by publicly available polling data released immediately before the election was called. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, January 24, 2011 at 2:50 PM - 25 Comments
Brian Mulroney offers some free advice to Stephen Harper.
“We make enough mistakes in politics but it’s important that you try to get the big things right,” the 71-year-old former Conservative prime minister says in an interview from his Montreal law office. “History remembers the big-ticket items.”
… His advice to Prime Minister Harper, especially given the partisan fighting that is so much part of a minority Parliament, is to create a blue ribbon panel of non-partisan, distinguished Canadians. “Someone has to provide some unbiased, thoughtful but effective leadership in the thinking on this,” he says. “Without some new thinking and some visionary approaches, health care is going to consume 70 to 75 per cent of provincial budgets.”
Setting aside what lessons Mr. Mulroney’s premiership may provide about the wisdom of striving for big change, Mr. Harper already dismissed this specific idea in an interview with Postmedia two weeks ago. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 30, 2010 at 12:42 PM - 138 Comments
From the Prime Minister’s statement today on last night’s by-election results.
“Though it is rare for a governing party to win by-elections, we are buoyed by the fact that the Conservative Caucus in the House of Commons has increased.”
As noted previously, and according to Wikipedia’s records, heading into last night 31 seats last held by the incumbent government have been contested in by-elections over the last 30 years, 22 of those—71%—remaining with the government.
Since taking office in 2006, the Harper government has now picked up four seats that were held by opposition parties. The Chretien government won an equal number of opposition seats between
19881993 and 2004. The Mulroney government retained sixtwo of its ninesix seats and picked up two opposition seats.* You have to go back to theThe Trudeau government to find an incumbent administration thatsignificantly struggled in by-elections—between 1968 and 19791984, 2025 Liberal government seats were contested, 1113 of those going to the opposition by my count. OverBut over the same period, the Liberals picked up threefour opposition ridings.
Going back to 1968 then, a total of
5753 seats last held by an incumbent government have been contested, 3432 of those retained by the incumbent. Over that same period, the governing party has picked up a dozen seats held by opposition parties.
*Wells checked my math and it seems I took a slightly wrong turn somewhere in the 80s. Larger trend still holds.
By John Geddes - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at 2:45 PM - 34 Comments
Worry about the cost of Canadian health care is growing among those who pay attention to how governments pay for programs, which is a good thing. But I think we should get straight on the strengths of the system before we start arguing in earnest about how to reform it.