Brian Mulroney was a pretty good politician. He had charm. He had the gift of the gab. He spoke the official languages with equal facility. He had the pizzazz and tools to keep his caucus loyal. He was Prime Minister for nine years.
Oh, he wasn't perfect. He was misguided and rash on some issues - i.e. Meech Lake and the Charlottetown Accord come to mind. He had some sleazy friends who to this day haunt him still. He pandered to Quebec.
And he talked too much. According to Mulroney, Canada was not only in debt. It was 'bankrupt.' If the rest of Canada rejected Meech Lake, they would 'humiliate' Quebec. On the verge of getting Meech Lake approved by the Provinces, he bragged about knowing when to 'roll the dice' to win the day. Holdouts in Newfoundland and Manitoba read about the braggadocio, and promptly scuttled Meech Lake. For further proof of this unfortunate penchant, one need only quickly skim Peter Newman's 'The Secret Mulroney Tapes.' As a result, Mulroney blew his cherished but (probably) misguided dream of being a constitutional giant as was his idol and bete noire at the same time, Pierre Trudeau. Quebec never did get 'a distinct society' designation in a Constitution finally containing its signature.
Mulroney's tongue got him into more trouble than enough. Most certainly it helped shorten his political days in the sun.
By 1993, Canadians were sick of him. They threw out the Tories leaving them with an embarrassing 2 measly seats. Thirteen years later, they edged back into power almost by default but this time with the Party changed and leaning decidedly far more towards the lunatic fringe right.
Bush's pal Steve Harper, the current Prime Minister, is certainly not a clone of Mulroney. Where Mulroney was charming and witty. Harper is brittle and humorless. Mulroney wanted to govern for everybody. Harper, in his heart of hearts, wants to govern for an economic elite.
Whereas Mulroney could usually exercise enough discretion so as to avoid being attacked for bribing Canadians with their own money, Bush's pal Steve, has no such fetters and just last week bribed the people of Quebec with new Equalization funding which supposedly addressed a 'fiscal imbalance.' In fact, it was a gift of Canadian taxpayers' money which Quebec Premier Jean Charest promptly used to give his people a 700 million dollar tax cut, designed to improve his fortunes in next week's Provincial Election.
Neither was Mulroney mean-spirited. He could debate with the best of them. He could make his points forcefully and with humor. Never in a public forum was he mean-spirited or nasty. With Mulroney it was Marquis of Queensbury rules all the way.
Yes, Steve Harper is no Brian Mulroney. The current Prime Minister is not only witless and humorless. He also has a very nasty side. In Steve's world, it's alright to accuse Paul Martin of supporting child pornography, or to accuse leading Liberals as being anti-Israeli. Its also OK for him to accuse, with the protection of privilege in the House of Commons, a Sikh Liberal MP of voting against the extension of Anti-Terror legislation to protect his father-in-law who was on a supposedly secret RCMP list of potential witnesses respecting the Air India Inquiry. And just last week Stevie found it fitful to accuse the Liberals of being more supportive of Taliban prisoners than Canadian soldiers.
Nasty, indeed. But it also shows the Mulroneyesque fault of both rashness, and not being able to keep his mouth shut.
What all this is leading up to is this. Stephen Harper has most, if not all, of Mulroney's negative attributes, but few if any, of his positive ones. While Mulroney had wit and charm. Harper has neither. While Mulroney was civilized and fair, Harper has a McCarthyesque penchant for character assassination. While Mulroney had a good relationship with the press most of the time, Harper's press relations are poisonous. While Mulroney handled the public finances with considerable discretion, Harper has no compunction of blatant vote buying beyond a scale seldom witnessed in Canada. While Mulroney actually tried to keep promises, Harper casts them aside with undue haste and little concern (Income trusts, resource revenues not to be included in Equalization). Whereas Mulroney appeared to be human, Harper appears as a highly partisan and nasty robot.
On the negative side, they were both reckless - Mulroney with Meech and Charlottetown and over-the top rhetoric, and Harper with his 'Quebecois as a Nation.' And both talked too much - Mulroney with his personal aggrandizement and 'roll of the dice' type bragging, and Harper with his reckless accusations against his competitors.
And so, I like the chances of Stephane Dion being the next Prime Minister of Canada after the next election. Bush's pal Steve Harper has had a pretty easy ride of it for the past few months. But any day now, the press and the Canadian people are going to wake up to the fact that he can't even be positively compared to an un-laundered Brian Mulroney - let alone to a man of impeccable character, honesty and brains. Then, they will reject him.