Thursday, May 03, 2007

Harper and Mulroney

On tonight's news, there was considerable discussion about today's testimony at the Air India Inquiry. The inquiry, about an event now 25 years in the past, seems somewhat irrelevant today. However, the discussion about negligence and other topics related to some of the going's on led me to wonder just who was Canada's Prime Minister at the time. Turns out it was Brian Mulroney's first term.

Okay, big deal - but reading the Wikipedia article's discussion of Mulroney's First Term made an interesting observation:

On paper, Mulroney entered office in a very formidable position. No other party crossed the fifty-seat mark, and he could have theoretically taken Canada in any direction he wanted. His position was far more precarious than his parlimentary majority would suggest. His support was based on a "grand coalition" of socially conservative populists from the West, Quebec nationalists, and fiscal conservatives from Ontario and the Maritimes.

Not surprisingly, such diverse interests became difficult for Mulroney to juggle. He attempted to appeal to the western provinces, whose earlier support had been critical to his electoral success, by cancelling the National Energy Program and including a large number of Westerners in his Cabinet (including Clark as minister of external affairs). However, he was not completely successful, even aside from economic and constitutional policy. For example, he moved CF-18 servicing from Manitoba to Quebec in 1986, even though the Manitoba bid was lower and the company was better rated,[10] and received death threats for exerting pressure on Manitoba over French language rights.[11]

Intriguingly, it reflects significant aspects of Stephen Harper's support today. His party is substantially supported from the West by "Social Conservatives", and it is not at all clear that he enjoys a great deal of support outside of that very narrow group in the West - how much support does Harper enjoy in Central Canada, or the Maritimes? The polls to date suggest that his support is shakey at best, and possibly in trouble as his government continues to fumble key issues for Canadians.

Although Harper regularly consults with Mulroney for guidance, and invokes his gravelly ghost quite frequently, I suspect that he only hears "what he wants to hear", and ignores the more important and awkward advice that he may receive.

One can only hope that Canadians will wake up to the reality that Harper is neither able, or ready to lead a majority government competently. He is more likely to do so in a small, spiteful way.

While I don't especially care for Danny Williams' grandstanding performances, he's got a few things right:

Williams broadened his assault on Harper, and reminded the businesspeople in his audience of recent issues that have dogged the Conservatives.

"Over the last month, I have cautioned the Canadian people about the trustworthiness of this government, and their propensity to provide misleading and inaccurate information to further their own interests," Williams said.

"Government's handling of the Afghanistan detainees situation confirms this, as well as the recent words of [climate change activist] Al Gore."


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