His first term in office was a stormy one, marked by the launch of the Meech Lake Accord and the Free Trade Agreement with the United States. In 1988, however, he was re-elected after a rollercoaster campaign, and his second term in office was just as controversial, featuring the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords — still a source of bitter regret for him, as opportunities missed.
This book falls into two main sections: first, his rise out of a working-class family in Baie-Comeau. Second, his immersion into the world of Ottawa politics, in opposition and then in power.
The years in power are dealt with in fascinating detail, and we receive his candid accounts of backstage dealings with Trudeau, Clark, and other Canadian leaders and on the international scene with Reagan, Thatcher, Mitterrand, Kohl, Gorbachev, Mandela, Clinton, and many more. This big book has a huge cast of major players.
Brian Mulroney is determined to make this the best prime minister’s memoirs this country has ever seen, and a full-time researcher has been helping him for three years. This account of his career is colourful and forthright, and a number of opponents will be sorry that they caught his attention.
The manuscript is full of personal touches and reflects the fact that he wrote it by hand, reading it aloud for rhythm and impact. Studded with entries from his private journal, this book — by a son, brother, husband, and father — is deeply personal, and includes some surprisingly frank admissions.
The book establishes the scale of his achievements, and reveals him as a man of great charm. Memoirs will allow that little-known Brian Mulroney to engage directly with the reader. This book is full of surprises, as we fall under the spell of a great storyteller.
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About the Author
Since retiring from office in 1993 (the point at which this book ends), he has worked as a lawyer with Ogilvy Renault in Montreal, and on the boards of a number of major companies.
Read an Excerpt
It was rainy and cold in Baie-Comeau when Mila and I left the victory celebration at about one o’clock in the morning and returned to our hotel suite in what I had grown up calling “the Mill Manager’s House.”
Earlier, at eight o’clock, the CBC decision desk had announced that “Brian Mulroney has led the Progressive Conservative Party to a majority government and will become Canada’s eighteenth prime minister.” I stood before the TV set with Mila, surrounded by cheering friends, as the beauty of the moment washed over me. I turned to my old pal Sam Wakim and joked, “I always said the CBC was an intelligent network.”
As promising returns had come in from Newfoundland, I had asked Fred Doucet, my long-time friend and chief of staff, to call into Madawaska for a poll — any poll — result. French-speaking nothern New Brunswick had been Liberal territory forever, but a promising young candidate, Bernard Valcourt, was running for us there, and Mila and I had campaigned tirelessly with him, trying for a breakthrough. I knew that if we were ahead in a rural poll there, we were in for a big night. When I saw the grin on Doucet’s face as he concluded the call, I realized that we were looking at a landslide. Valcourt was rolling to victory, and so were we.
My own constituency was vast and remote. Owing to reporting difficulties, for some hours the returns from Manicouagan were limited to one large Indian reserve that had overwhelmingly voted Liberal, conveying the impression to the watching nation that, while we were winning everywhere else, I was in serious danger of losing my own seat. This began to be reported almost as fact. Watching at Stornoway, our Ottawa home, ten-year-old Caroline was deeply dismayed. “I’m outta here!” she announced. She gathered her brothers silently and went upstairs to bed, awakening the next morning to the refreshing news that her father had indeed made it back to the House of Commons.
Toward the end of the evening, when the dimensions of the PC sweep looked historic, I got a call from Prime Minister John Turner, conceding the election. I’m sure it was a very painful moment for him — once the golden boy of Canadian politics, now defeated after barely two months in office. He was extremely gracious, congratulating me on a strong campaign, promising a smooth transition and wishing me well. I congratulated him on winning Vancouver Quadra, and we both chuckled over the tremendous effort his sister Brenda had put into the fight, just as my sister Olive and brother Gary had won Manicouagan for me. We agreed to an Ottawa meeting to finalize the transition.
Immediately after John’s call, I changed from the old pair of slacks and green V-neck sweater I had worn all evening to a blue business suit, so that Mila and I could speak to our supporters (by now in varying degrees of lubrication) gathered in the local arena. The atmosphere was electric when we arrived, as the band belted out our campaign song and thousands of Baie-Comeauites — including hundreds of childhood friends who had encouraged me all my life — chanted “Brian! Brian! Brian!” just as countless supporters had done across Canada. When we ascended the stage, the cheering was almost intoxicating, so joyful was the mood, with people surging forward in waves. I could sense the great pride this hard-working crowd took in watching one of their own achieve the highest office in Canada. It was like a réveillon, St. Patrick’s Day, and Pierrette Arsenault’s wedding all rolled into one. I could hardly believe what I was seeing, and what I knew was really happening.
For a few days I had worked on a victory speech. Although a little too long, it was well received by the enthusiastic crowd. After the speech we returned to our suite in the Annex, the former manager’s house, where Mila and I changed into sweaters and slacks before joining friends and the travelling staff for a party at Le Manoir Comeau, a hotel I had worked at as a waiter and bellboy when I was young and was now entering as prime minister-designate.
When the partying was over, back at the Annex I accepted congratulatory calls (everybody loves a winner), spoke to my mother, Mila’s parents, Conservative premiers from across Canada, our key organizers, and Robert Bourassa. Finally, at about five in the morning, we headed up to bed. Mila, exhausted from an almost nonstop eighteen-month campaign (beginning in March 1983 for the PC leadership), was soon sound asleep. I went to an adjacent room to change. Not wanting to disturb Mila but too charged to sleep, I lay down on the room’s small bed and turned on the radio, which was carrying regular reports on our election success. Eventually I dozed off, only to be awakened, at three minutes to seven, by the mill whistle calling the men to work. That sound had shaped my childhood, because it governed my father’s life, telling him when to get up and go to work, when to leave and go home.
As the whistle pierced the grey of a drab September morning, and the rain beat down on the copper roof, I thought of my dad. I thought of his struggles and of the great courage that had allowed him, an electrician who held down two jobs most of his life, to support a wife and six children in an isolated community like Baie-Comeau. As I got up to look out the window at our home at 79 Champlain Street — the only house my dad ever owned — I wondered what he’d think and what he’d say today, although I already knew the answer. He’d look at me, smile proudly, hug my mom, sit down, and beam — just he way he always did when I was little and pleased him with my school marks, minor jobs, or athletic achievements. My father was my hero, and I knew that this moment would never have occurred without him. I was overwhelmed by emotion as I reflected on his death, nineteen years earlier, in that small mill home on Champlain Street not five hundred yards from my hotel room.
The sound of the whistle seemed to hang in the air.