Mulroney would frequently tell stories about newspaper publisher Robert R. McCormick, whose company had founded Baie Comeau. Mulroney would sing Irish songs for McCormick, and the publisher would slip him $50. He grew up speaking English and French fluently.
In 1991, Frank magazine ran a satirical ad for a contest inviting young Tories to "deflower Caroline Mulroney", the then-Prime Minister's youngest child. The magazine took the position that they were simply commenting on Mulroney's perceived habit of using his daughter as a prop. Many groups and commentators joined Mulroney in denouncing the ad as an incitement to rape, although it did not advocate using force to accomplish the act.
On September 16, 2000, Caroline married Andrew Lapham, the son of Harper's editor Lewis H. Lapham. Among the 400 guests were many dignitaries and business leaders, including former US President George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush, Queen Noor of Jordan, Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia and his Greek-born wife Katherine, Dino Goulandris, Galen Weston and Ontario Lieutenant-Governor Hilary Weston, former talk show host Kathie Lee Gifford, and media magnate Ted Rogers. She is currently associate director of the Stern School of Business at New York University, having graduated there with a law degree.
Mulroney is the grandfather of Lewis H. Lapham III, and twins Pierce Lapham and Elizabeth Theodora Lapham.
Mulroney became a youth delegate and attended the 1956 leadership convention in Ottawa. While initially undecided, Mulroney was captivated by John Diefenbaker's powerful oratory and easy approachability. Mulroney joined the "Youth for Diefenbaker" committee which was led by Ted Rogers, a future scion of Canadian business. Mulroney struck an early friendship with Diefenbaker, who won the leadership, and received telephone calls from Diefenbaker.
Mulroney won several public speaking contests at St. Francis Xavier, was a star member of the school's debating team, and never lost an interuniversity debate. He was also very active in campus politics, serving with distinction in several Model Parliaments, and was campus prime minister in a grandiose Maritimes-wide Model Parliament in 1958.
Mulroney also assisted with the 1958 national election campaign at the local level in Nova Scotia; this led to the biggest majority in Canadian history.
After graduating from St. Francis Xavier in 1959, Mulroney at first pursued a law degree from Dalhousie Law School in Halifax. It was around this time that Mulroney also cultivated friendships with the Tory premier of Nova Scotia, Robert Stanfield, and his chief adviser Dalton Camp. Mulroney significantly assisted with Stanfield's successful 1960 re-election campaign, in the role of an advance man. Mulroney neglected his studies, then fell seriously ill during the winter term, was hospitalized, and, despite getting extensions for several courses because of his illness, flunked out of Dalhousie his first year. He then applied to Université Laval in Quebec City, and restarted first-year law there the next year.
In Quebec City, Mulroney befriended future Quebec Premier Daniel Johnson, Sr, and frequented the provincial legislature, making connections with politicians, aides, and journalists. At Laval, Mulroney built a network of friends that would play a prominent role in Canadian politics for years to come, including Lucien Bouchard, Bernard Roy, Michel Cogger, Michael Meighen, Jean Bazin, and Peter White. During this time, Mulroney was still involved in the Conservative youth wing and was acquainted with the President of the Student Federation, Joe Clark.
Mulroney secured a plum temporary appointment in Ottawa during the summer of 1962, as the executive assistant to Alvin Hamilton, minister of agriculture. Then a federal election was called, and Prime Minister Diefenbaker appointed Hamilton as the acting prime minister for the rest of the campaign. Hamilton took Mulroney with him on the campaign trail, where the young organizer gained valuable experience.
It was in 1966 that Dalton Camp, who was by then President of the Progressive Conservative Party, ran for re-election in what was widely believed to be a referendum on Diefenbaker's leadership. Diefenbaker had reached his 70th birthday in 1965. Mulroney joined with most of his generation in supporting Camp and opposing Diefenbaker, but due to his past friendship with Diefenbaker, he attempted to stay out of the spotlight. With Camp's narrow victory, Diefenbaker called for a 1967 leadership convention in Toronto. Mulroney joined with Joe Clark and others in supporting former Justice minister E. Davie Fulton. Once Fulton dropped off the ballot, Mulroney helped in swinging most of his organization over to Robert Stanfield, who won. Mulroney, then 28, would soon become a chief adviser to the new leader in Quebec.
Mulroney's professional reputation was further enhanced when he ended a strike that was considered impossible to resolve at the Montreal newspaper La Presse. In doing so, Mulroney became friends with the paper's owner, Canadian business mogul Paul Desmarais. After his initial difficulties, Mulroney's reputation in his firm steadily increased, and he was made a partner in 1971.
Mulroney's big break would come during the Cliche Commission in 1974, which was set up by Quebec premier Robert Bourassa to investigate the situation at James Bay, Canada's largest hydroelectric project. Violence and dirty tactics had broken out as part of a union accreditation struggle. To ensure the commission was non-partisan, Bourassa, the Liberal premier, placed Robert Cliche, a former leader of the provincial New Democratic Party in charge. Cliche asked Mulroney, a Progressive Conservative and a former student of his, to join the commission. Mulroney would ask Lucien Bouchard to join as counsel. The committee's unravellings, which showed Mafia infiltration of the unions, made Mulroney well-known in Quebec, as the hearings were extensively covered in the media. The Cliche Commission's report was largely adopted by the Bourassa government. A notable incident included the revelation that the controversy may have involved the office of the Premier of Quebec. Although Bouchard favoured calling in Robert Bourassa as a witness, Mulroney refused, deeming it a violation of 'executive privilege'. Mulroney and Bourassa would later cultivate a friendship that would turn out to be extremely beneficial when Mulroney ran for re-election in 1988.
By late 1982, Joe Clark's leadership of the Progressive Conservatives was being questioned in many party circles and among many Tory members of Parliament, despite his solid national lead over Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in opinion polls, which stretched to 19 per cent in summer 1982. Clark's reputation as a leader had taken a beating when, as Prime Minister, he carelessly lost a non-confidence motion over his minority government's budget in December 1979, leading to the fall of his government; the PCs subsequently lost the federal election held two months later when Trudeau rescinded his announced retirement, and returned to lead the Liberals to a majority. Many Tories were also annoyed with Clark over his slowness in dispensing patronage appointments after he became prime minister in June, 1979.
Mulroney, in spite of publicly endorsing Clark, organized behind the scenes to defeat Clark at the party's leadership review. Clark's key Quebec organizer Rodrigue Pageau was in fact a double agent, working for Mulroney, undermining Clark's support. When Clark received an endorsement by only 66.9 per cent of delegates at the party convention in January 1983 in Winnipeg, Clark resigned and ran to regain his post at the 1983 leadership convention. Mulroney, despite still not being a member of Parliament, ran against him again, and he campaigned more shrewdly than he had done seven years before. Mulroney had been criticized in 1976 for lacking policy depth and substance. He addressed that weakness by making several major speeches across the country in the early 1980s, and collected them into a book, Where I Stand, published in 1983. Mulroney also avoided most of the flash of his earlier campaign, for which he had been criticized. Mulroney was elected party leader on June 11, 1983, beating Clark on the fourth ballot. He attracted broad support from the many factions of the party and especially from representatives of his native Quebec. Two months later, Mulroney entered Parliament as the MP for Central Nova in Nova Scotia, winning a by-election in what was then considered a safe Tory seat after Elmer MacKay stood down in his favour. This is standard practice in most parliamentary systems.
Mulroney had realized from a young age that when Canadian federal elections were called, the Tories needed to perform much better in Quebec, in order to form a majority government. Throughout his political career, he worked steadily toward that goal; his fluent bilingualism in English and French, with Quebec roots in both cultures, gave him two trumps which eventually proved decisive.
Because of health problems shortly after becoming party leader, Mulroney quit smoking in 1983.
By the start of 1984, the Tories had taken a substantial lead in opinion polling, as Mulroney quickly learned the parliamentary ropes in the House of Commons. It was almost taken for granted that Trudeau would be heavily defeated by Mulroney in the general election due no later than 1985. Trudeau announced his retirement in February, and the Liberal Party chose John Turner, previously the Minister of Finance under Trudeau in the 1970s, as its new leader. The Liberals then surged in the polls, to take a lead, after trailing by more than 20 percentage points. Only four days after being sworn in as Prime Minister, Turner called a general election for September. In doing so, he had to postpone a planned Canadian summer visit by Queen Elizabeth II, who makes it her policy to not travel abroad during foreign election campaigns. But the Liberal election campaign machinery was in disarray, leading to a weak campaign.
The campaign is best remembered for Mulroney's attacks of a raft of Liberal patronage appointments. In his final days in office, Trudeau had controversially appointed a flurry of Senators, judges, and executives on various governmental and crown corporation boards, widely seen as a way to offer "plum jobs" to loyal members of the Liberal Party. Upon assuming office, Turner, who had been out of politics for nine years while he earned a lucrative salary as a Toronto lawyer, showed that his political instincts had diminished. Turner had been under pressure to cancel the appointments, but chose not to, and instead proceeded to appoint several more Liberals to prominent political offices, per a signed, legal agreement with Trudeau.
Ironically, Turner had planned to attack Mulroney over the patronage machine that the latter had set up in anticipation of victory. In a televised leaders' debate, Turner launched what appeared to be the start of a blistering attack on Mulroney by comparing his patronage machine to that of the old Union Nationale in Quebec. However, Mulroney successfully turned the tables by pointing to the recent raft of Liberal patronage appointments. He demanded that Turner apologize to the country for making "these horrible appointments." Turner replied that "I had no option" except to let the appointments stand. Mulroney famously responded:
Turner froze and wilted under this withering riposte from Mulroney. He could repeat only, "I had no option." A visibly angry Mulroney called this "an avowal of failure" and told Turner, "You had an option, sir. You could have done better." The exchange led most papers the next day, with most of them paraphrasing Mulroney's counterattack as "You had an option, sir--you could have said 'no.'" Many observers believe that at this point, Mulroney assured himself of becoming prime minister, as the exchange made Turner look weak, indecisive, and a carbon copy of Trudeau.
In September, Mulroney and the Tories won the largest majority government in Canadian history. They took 211 seats, three more than their previous record in 1958. The Liberals won only 40 seats, their worst performance ever. At the time, it was also the worst defeat for a governing party at the federal level in Canada. The Conservatives won just over half of the popular vote (compared to 53.4% in 1958) and led in every province, emerging as a national party for the first time since 1958. Especially important was the Tories' performance in Mulroney's home province, Quebec. They won 58 seats out of a possible 75 (up from only one seat in 1980) after winning the most seats in that province only once since 1896. Mulroney himself yielded Central Nova back to MacKay to run in the eastern Quebec riding of Manicouagan, which included Baie-Comeau.
In 1984, the Canadian Press named Mulroney "Newsmaker of the Year" for the second straight year, making him only the second prime minister to have received the honour both before becoming prime minister and when prime minister (the other being Lester Pearson).
The first Conservative majority government in 26 years – and their fourth in the 20th century – was considered by many to be a breath of fresh air at first, but growing pains soon surfaced. Many of his ministers had little government experience, resulting in conflicts of interest and embarrassing scandals. Many Tories expected patronage appointments due to the long time out of government. Indeed, Mulroney made a number of unscripted gaffes regarding patronage, including the reference to Ambassador Bryce Mackasey as "there's no whore like an old whore". The new Prime Minister's handlers were concerned by his seeming unpredictability and rumours of drinking.
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 parliamentary 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, and received death threats for exerting pressure on Manitoba over French language rights.
One of Mulroney's main priorities, at least publicly, was to rein in the deficit, which was running into the billions of dollars. However, the country's debt increased substantially through his term. His attempts to cut spending limited his ability to deliver on many promises. Also impeding his progress was the Liberal controlled Senate, led by Allan MacEachen, which took on a very assertive role in legislation, forcing the government to compromise some points.
A major undertaking by Mulroney's government was an attempt to resolve the divisive issue of national unity. Quebec was the only province that did not sign the new Canadian constitution negotiated by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in 1982, and Mulroney wanted to include Quebec in a new agreement with the rest of Canada. In 1987, he negotiated the Meech Lake Accord with the provincial premiers, a package of constitutional amendments designed to satisfy Quebec's demand for recognition as a "distinct society" within Canada, and to devolve some powers to the provinces.
Another priority of Mulroney's was the privatization of many of Canada's crown corporations. In 1984, the Government of Canada held 61 different crown corporations. It sold off 23 of them. Air Canada was completely privatized by 1989, although the Air Canada Public Participation Act continued to make certain requirements of the airline. [Petro-Canada]] would later be privatized.
The Air India Flight 182 bombing which originated in Montreal happened during Mulroney's first term. This was considered to be the largest terrorist act before September 11, 2001, with the majority of the 329 victims being Canadian citizens. Mulroney sent a letter of condolence to then Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, which sparked an uproar in Canada since he did not call families of the actual victims to offer condolences. Gandhi replied that he should be the one providing condolences to Mulroney, given that the majority of victims were Canadian or lived in Canada. Many Indo-Canadians considered this to be a racist act because they felt Mulroney did not consider them to be true Canadian citizens as they were not of Anglo descent. Furthermore, there were several warnings from the Indian government to the Mulroney government about terrorist threats towards Air India flights. Questions remain as to why these warnings were not taken more seriously and whether the events leading to the bombing could have been prevented. A public inquiry into the Air India bombing is currently underway to answer some of these questions.
Mulroney's government actively opposed the apartheid regime in South Africa. Mulroney met with many opposition leaders throughout his ministry. His position put him at odds with the American and British governments, but also won him respect elsewhere. Also, external affairs minister Joe Clark was the first foreign affairs minister to land in previously-isolated Ethiopia to lead the Western response to the 1984 - 1985 famine in Ethiopia; Clark landed in Addis Ababa so quickly he had not even seen the initial CBC report that had created the initial and strong public reaction. Canada's response was overwhelming and led the US and Britain to follow suit almost immediately — an unprecedented situation in foreign affairs at that time, since Ethiopia had a Marxist regime and had previously been isolated by Western governments.
The government took a strong stand against the U.S. intervention in Nicaragua under Reagan, and accepted refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala, and other countries with regimes supported directly by the Reagan administration.
Near the end of his first term, Mulroney closed a dark chapter in Canadian history with a formal apology and $300 million compensation package for the families of the 22,000 Japanese Canadians who had been stripped of their property and interned during the Second World War.
During his tenure as prime minister, Brian Mulroney's close relationship with U.S. President Ronald Reagan helped result in both a landmark treaty on acid rain and the ratification of a free-trade treaty with the United States under which all tariffs between the two countries would be eliminated by 1998.
Critics noted that Mulroney had originally professed opposition to free trade during the 1983 leadership campaign. This agreement was controversial, and the Senate demanded an election before proceeding on voting, although Mulroney planned on calling an election before the treaty had been signed. The free trade was the central issue of the 1988 election, with the Liberals and NDP opposing it. With the Liberals gaining the initial momentum, a successful counterattack by Allan Gregg resulted in the PCs being re-elected with a solid but reduced majority and 43% of the popular vote. Mulroney thus became the only Conservative to lead his party to two consecutive majority governments in peacetime during the 20th century. In this election, Mulroney was elected as the MP for Charlevoix, which included Baie-Comeau after redistribution of the electoral boundaries.
On the day of election, 1988-11-21 Mulroney made a controversial order in council which allowed the establishment of the AMEX Bank of Canada (owned by the American Express Company).
Mulroney's second term would be marked by an economic recession. He proposed the introduction of a national sales tax, the Goods and Services Tax (GST), in 1989. When it was introduced in 1991, it replaced the Manufacturers' Sales Tax (MST) that had previously been applied at the wholesale level on goods manufactured in Canada. A bitter Senate battle ensued, and many polls showed that as many as 80% of Canadians were opposed to the tax. Mulroney would have to use Section 26 (the Deadlock Clause), a little known Constitutional provision, allowing him in an emergency situation to ask the Queen to appoint 8 new Senators. Although the government argued that the tax was not a tax increase, but a tax shift, the highly visible nature of the tax was extremely unpopular, and many resented Mulroney's use of an "emergency" clause in the constitution.
The Meech Lake Accord would also meet its doom in 1990. It was not ratified by the provincial governments of Manitoba and Newfoundland before the June ratification deadline. This failure sparked a revival of Quebec separatism, and led to another round of meetings in Charlottetown in 1991 and 1992. These negotiations culminated in the Charlottetown Accord, which outlined extensive changes to the constitution, including recognition of Quebec as a distinct society. However, the agreement was overwhelmingly defeated in a national referendum in October 1992. Many blamed the GST battle and Mulroney's unpopularity for the fall of the Accord.
The worldwide recession of the early 1990s further exacerbated the government's financial situation. His inability to improve the government's finances, as well as his use of tax increases to deal with it was a major factor in alienating the western conservative portion of his power base. Canada also suffered from the "Made in Canada Recession", in which the Bank of Canada experimented with a zero inflation policy. With Mulroney's permission, the Bank of Canada raised interest rates, exacerbating the hardship experienced by Canadians. The Bank of Canada was the only central bank in the industrialized world to attempt to reach zero inflation and the experiment was an abject failure, which saw many ordinary people lose their jobs. Annual budget deficits ballooned to record levels, reaching $42 billion in his last year of office; this sent the national debt towards dangerous standards, further weakening the Canadian dollar and damaging Canada's international credit ratings.
Mulroney supported the United Nations coalition during the 1991 Gulf War and when the UN authorized full use of force in the operation, Canada sent a CF18 squadron with support personnel and a field hospital to deal with casualties from the ground war as well as a company of The Royal Canadian Regiment to safeguard these ground elements. In August he sent the destroyers HMCS Terra Nova and HMCS Athabaskan to enforce the trade blockade against Iraq. The supply ship HMCS Protecteur was also sent to aid the gathering coalition forces. When the air war began, Canada's planes were integrated into the coalition force and provided air cover and attacked ground targets. This was the first time since the fighting on Cyprus in 1974 that Canadian forces participated directly in combat operations.
For the Canadian Forces, the Mulroney years began with hope but ended with disappointment. Most members of the CF welcomed the return to distinctive uniforms for the three services, replacing the single green uniform worn since unification (1967-70). A White Paper proposed boosting the CF's combat capability, which had, according to Canadian Defence Quarterly, declined so badly that Canada would have been unable to send a brigade to the Gulf War had it desired to. The CF in this period did undergo a much-needed modernization of a range of equipment from trucks to a new family of small arms. Many proposed reforms, however, failed to occur, and according to historian J.L. Granatstein, Mulroney "raised the military's hopes repeatedly, but failed to deliver." In 1984, he had promised to increase the military budget and the regular force to 92,000 troops, but the budget was cut and the troop level fell to below 80,000 by 1993. This was, however, in step with other NATO countries after the end of the Cold War. The Mulroney government would undertake a defence policy review, publishing a new statement in late 1991, but political considerations meant that no comprehensive policy for the post-Cold War era was arrived at before the government's defeat in 1993. According to Granatstein, this meant that Canada was not able to live up to its post-Cold War military commitments.
The decline of cod stocks in Atlantic Canada led the Mulroney government to impose a moratorium on the cod fishery there, putting an end to a large portion of the Newfoundland fishing industry, and causing serious economic hardship. The government instituted various programmes designed to mitigate these effects but still became deeply unpopular in the Atlantic provinces.
The environment was a key focus of Mulroney's government, as Canada became the first industrialized country to ratify both the biodiversity convention and the climate change convention agreed to at the UN Conference on the Environment. His government added significant new national parks (Bruce Peninsula, South Moresby and Grasslands), and passed the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
Mulroney entered 1993 facing a statutory general election. By this time, his approval ratings had dipped into the teens, and were at 11% in a 1992 Gallup poll, making him one of the most unpopular prime ministers since opinion polling began in Canada in the 1940s. When Mulroney announced he was stepping aside as leader of the party, his standing was 21% in the latest Gallup Poll in February 1993. The consensus was that Mulroney would be heavily defeated by Jean Chrétien and the Liberals if he led the Tories into the next election--ironically, the same situation that led to Trudeau's departure from the scene nine years earlier. He announced his retirement from politics in February and was replaced as Prime Minister by Defence Minister Kim Campbell in June.
In his waning days in office, Mulroney made several decisions that hampered the Tory campaign later that year. He took a lavish international "farewell" tour mostly at taxpayers' expense, without transacting any official business. Also, by the time he handed power to Campbell, there were only two-and-a-half months left in the Tories' five-year mandate. Mulroney also did not immediately vacate 24 Sussex Drive after Campbell was sworn in as Prime Minister--as their new private residence in Montreal was still undergoing renovations, Brian and Mila Mulroney did not move out of 24 Sussex until their new home was ready. Instead, Campbell took up residence at Harrington Lake, the Prime Minister's official summer retreat.
In her memoirs, Time and Chance, and in her response in the National Post to The Secret Mulroney Tapes, Campbell complained that Mulroney left her with almost no time to salvage the Progressive Conservatives' tattered reputation once the bounce from the leadership convention wore off. Campbell went as far as to claim that Mulroney knew the Tories would be defeated regardless of who led them into the election, and wanted a "scapegoat who would bear the burden of his unpopularity" rather than a true successor.
The 1993 election was an unmitigated disaster for the Tories. The oldest party in Canada was reduced from a majority to two seats in the worst defeat ever suffered for a governing party at the federal level. The 149-seat loss far exceeded the 95-seat loss the Liberals suffered in 1984. As an example of the antipathy toward Mulroney, his former riding fell to the Bloc by a lopsided margin; the Tory candidate finished a distant third, with only 6,800 votes--just a few votes shy of losing his electoral deposit.
In 1997, Mulroney settled a libel lawsuit he had brought against the Government of Canada two years previously. Mulroney received an apology and a $2.1 million reimbursement for legal and public relations costs. At issue were allegations that Mulroney had accepted bribes in the "Airbus affair" concerning government contracts. The government said the charges could not be substantiated. The principal Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) investigator on the case resigned a year later. The government later dropped the investigation entirely.
But a key fact was unknown in 1997. Mulroney had accepted at least $225,000 in cash from Karlheinz Schreiber, a German-Canadian businessman who had been a middle man for Airbus and other companies. The cash changed hands in three meetings in hotels in Montreal and New York. The payments occurred over an 18-month period, beginning in 1993 when Mulroney had stepped down as Prime Minister but was still a member of Parliament. In 2007, Mulroney stated that he had kept the cash in a New York safety deposit box (and not carried it undeclared across the US-Canada border) and in a safe in his Montreal home.
Schreiber had at his disposal $20 million from Airbus for the payment of secret commissions. CBC Television reported on February 8, 2006 that the money Schreiber paid to Mulroney originated in a Swiss bank account code-named "Frankfurt". Schreiber used the same account to pay the secret Airbus commissions. Schreiber transferred $500,000 from "Frankfurt" to an account in Zürich code-named "Britan" on July 26, 1993 and used these funds to make the three cash payments to Mulroney in 1993 and 1994.
Five years after the payments began, Mulroney and Schreiber met again in a suite at the Hotel Savoy in Zurich, Switzerland. Schreiber claims Mulroney tried to extract a promise: Schreiber would never reveal the payments. Schreiber also claims Mulroney's attorneys later tried to induce him into perjury by asking that he sign an affidavit falsely stating that he had never paid any money to Mulroney. Mulroney denies the charge. He also denies Schreiber's claim that the payments totaled $300,000.
Testifying before the House of Commons Ethics Committee on December 13, 2007, Mulroney said the cash payments were for lobbying foreign leaders to buy armored vehicles from Thyssen industries, a company Schreiber represented. Mulroney said Schreiber had paid him as a consultant for this task only. Mulroney said he never had a written contract, made written reports, or issued receipts for the cash payments. Mulroney said he had destroyed records related to the transactions and received the payments in cash at Schreiber's insistence. Mulroney denied any legal wrong doing. He admitted to errors in judgment and apologized for any appearance of impropriety. Mulroney described the affair as "a near death experience" and said his family had suffered greatly.
For many years, Mulroney had not acknowledged receiving money from Schreiber. The payments were not disclosed in Mulroney's 1995 lawsuit against the Government of Canada. Mulroney had testified under oath that he "never had any dealings" with Schreiber, knew him only "peripherally" and they had a cup of coffee "once or twice". In his 2004 book A Secret Trial, former law professor William Kaplan describes Mulroney's testimony as evasive, incomplete and misleading.
In his testimony, Schreiber made allegations that imply "...a Canadian party leader subverted and deposed by foreign interests, of federal contracts being used to funnel money back to those interests, of bid-rigging and kickbacks." (Andrew Coyne in Maclean's magazine, January 14, 2008, p. 27).
Mulroney and Schreiber question each other's truthfulness and credibility. In his testimony to the Canadian House of Commons Ethics Committee on December 13, 2007, Mulroney pointed out contradictory statements Schreiber has made over the years, including statements made under oath. Mulroney also stated that the work he had performed for his arms-trading business associate Schreiber was out-of-country, rather than lobbying his own Canadian government - such as lobbying the late President Boris Yeltsin that Russia buy arms yet to be made in Canada. Schreiber had been incarcerated in Canada following his 1999 arrest on a German warrant for tax evasion, and is currently (June 2008) free on bail. Mulroney did not declare the income or pay taxes on it until years later, when Schreiber had come under criminal investigation in Germany. Erik Neilsen, former Deputy Prime Minister for Mulroney, has stated disbelief in Mulroney's account and credibility
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper had called a public inquiry in November, 2007, and appointed David Lloyd Johnston as a special adviser, to study the matter and prepare terms of reference for the inquiry - although Johnston had once reported directly to Mulroney during his term as prime minister. Johnston reported to Harper on January 11, 2008 that he had found 16 significant questions which required further examination. Harper accepted the report, and stated that a limited public inquiry process would begin once the House of Commons Ethics Committee finished its work.
Schreiber is fighting extradition to Germany, where he is at the center of a bribery scandal that helped bring down a government and damaged the legacy of former Chancellor Helmut Kohl. He appeared before the House of Commons Ethics Committee three times in late November and early December 2007, and again in February 2008, and will likely be called upon to testify at the future limited public inquiry. Mulroney appeared before the Ethics Committee on December 13, 2007. Six weeks later, his lawyers submitted a letter to Paul Szabo, the Ethics Committee chairman, indicating that their client would not appear again before the committee because of his "unfair" treatment on December 13. On February 26, 2008, two days before that scheduled appearance, CTV News reported that Mr. Mulroney's lawyer had reiterated Mulroney's refusal to reappear before the Committee.
He remains a partner with the law firm Ogilvy Renault. His experiences as prime minister, such as trying to reconcile the western provinces and Quebec and his close relationship with former President George H.W. Bush, have served him well.
In 1998, Mulroney was accorded Canada's highest civilian honour when he was made a Companion of the Order of Canada.
In 2003, Mulroney received the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars of the Smithsonian Institution at a ceremony in Montreal. The award was in recognition of his career in politics.
In January 2004, Mulroney delivered a keynote speech in Washington, D.C. celebrating the tenth anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement. In June 2004, Mulroney presented an eulogy for former U.S. President Ronald Reagan during the latter's state funeral. Mulroney and former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher were the first foreign dignitaries to eulogize at a funeral for an American president. Two years later, at the request of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Mulroney traveled to Washington, DC along with Michael Wilson, Canada's ambassador to the United States, as Canada's representatives at the state funeral of former president Gerald Ford.
In February 2005, Mulroney was diagnosed with a lesion on one of his lungs. In his youth, Mulroney had been a heavy smoker. He underwent successful surgery and was recovered well enough to tape a speech for the Conservative Party of Canada's 2005 Policy Convention in Montreal in March, though he could not attend in person. Though his surgery was initially reported to have gone on without incident, he later developed pancreatitis and he remained in hospital for several weeks. It was not until April 19 that his son, Ben Mulroney, announced he was recovering and would soon be released.
On September 12, 2005, veteran writer and former Mulroney confidant Peter C. Newman released The Secret Mulroney Tapes: Unguarded Confessions of a Prime Minister. Based in large part on unguarded remarks from the former prime minister which Newman had taped with Mulroney's knowledge, the book set off national controversy. Newman had been given unfettered access to Mulroney for a thorough biography. Newman claims Mulroney did not honour an agreement to allow him access to confidential papers. After the falling out, Mulroney began work on his autobiography, without Newman's help. Mulroney himself has declared that he showed poor judgement in making such unguarded statements, but he says that he will have to live with it.
This led Mulroney to respond at the annual Press Gallery Dinner which is noted for comedic moments, in Ottawa, 22 October, 2005. The former Prime Minister appeared on tape and very formally acknowledged the various dignitaries and audience groups before delivering the shortest speech of the night: "Peter Newman: Go fuck yourself. Thank you. Good night."
Thirteen years after leaving office, Mulroney was named the 'greenest' Prime Minister in Canadian history by a 12-member panel at an event organized by Corporate Knights magazine.
Mulroney's legacy is complicated and even emotional. Mulroney makes the case that his once radical policies on the economy and free trade were not reversed by subsequent governments, and regards this as vindication. His Deputy Prime Minister Don Mazankowski said that his greatest accomplishment will be seen as, "Dragging Canada kicking and screaming into the 21st century." Mulroney's legacy in Canada is associated mostly with the 1988 Free Trade Agreement and the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
Although the Tories were re-elected in 1988 campaigning on free trade, they won with only 43% of the popular vote, compared to 56% of the vote which went to the Liberals and the New Democratic Party who campaigned mostly against the agreement. However, when the Liberals under Jean Chrétien came to office in 1993 promising to re-negotiate key parts of the agreement, they continued the deal with only slight changes, and signed the North American Free Trade Agreement which expanded the free trade area to include Mexico. Environmentalists, social activists, nationalists, labour leaders and members of the cultural community continue to complain today of alleged injustices Canada faces due to free trade.
The visibility of the GST proved to be very unpopular. The GST was created to help eliminate the ever growing deficit and to replace the hidden Manufacturer's sales tax, which Mulroney argued was hurting business. Mulroney's usage of a rare Constitutional clause to push the tax through, prices not falling very much with the MST removed, and the "in your face" nature of the tax would infuriate politicians and the public. The succeeding Liberal government of Jean Chrétien campaigned in 1993 on a promise to harmonize the GST with Provincial Sales taxes across the country, but was only successful in doing this in the Maritime Provinces. This prompted two of their members Sheila Copps and John Nunziata to resign or be expelled in protest. Current Prime Minister Harper has lowered the GST to 5% from its initial 7%. Mulroney's supporters argue that the GST helped the subsequent government eliminate the deficit, and that the visible nature of the tax kept politicians more accountable.
At the international level, Mulroney was one of Canada's most influential prime ministers. His emphasis on strong personal relationships with other leaders made him a successful advocate in fighting apartheid within the Commonwealth and beginning the process of mobilizing international efforts to combat global warming. Chrétien, who attacked Mulroney for this, became good friends with Bush's successor Bill Clinton. Near the end of his tenure, Chrétien received some criticism as some of his subordinates made personal attacks against George W. Bush.
Mulroney's intense unpopularity at the time of his resignation led many Conservative politicians to distance themselves from him for some years. His government had flirted with 10% approval ratings in the early 1990s, when Mulroney's arrogance, honesty, and intentions were frequently questioned in the media, by Canadians in general and by his political colleagues. . During the 1993 election, the Progressive Conservative Party was reduced to just two seats, which was seen as partially due to a backlash against Mulroney, as well as due to the fracturing of his "Grand Coalition".
Social conservatives found fault with Mulroney's government in a variety of areas. These include Mulroney's opposition to capital punishment and an attempted compromise on abortion. Fiscal conservatives likewise didn't appreciate his tax increases and his failure to curtail expansion of "big government" programs and political patronage. While Mulroney's views on these issues helped him to be electable across Canada, the Canadian right wing would fracture during Mulroney's tenure.
In the 1993 election, nearly all of the Tories' Western support transferred into Reform, which replaced the PCs as the major right-wing force in Canada. The Tories only won two seats west of Quebec in the next decade and recovered only upon reunification the elements that had split from the party in the late 1980s. The Canadian right was not reunited until they merged with Reform's successor, the Canadian Alliance, in December 2003 to form the new Conservative Party of Canada. Mulroney played an influential role by supporting the merger at a time when former PC leaders Joe Clark, Jean Charest and Kim Campbell either opposed it or expressed ambivalence.
Mulroney's Memoirs: 1939-1993 was released on September 10, 2007. Mulroney offers an ad hominem critique of his late political rival Pierre Trudeau for avoiding military service in the Second World War, and favourably references sources that describe the young Trudeau as holding anti-Semitic views. Tom Axworthy, a prominent Liberal strategist, responded that Trudeau should be judged on his mature views, rather than "ridiculous" beliefs that he briefly entertained in his youth. Historian and former MP and Trudeau biographer John R. English has also noted that Trudeau's youthful views must be considered in the context of their age, saying "I don't think it does any good to do this kind of historical ransacking to try to destroy reputations". The name Karlheinz Schreiber, Mulroney's business associate, does not appear in the long memoir.