Mulroney could mediate end to Alliance-Tory wars

by Margret Kopala

Published by the Ottawa Citizen, 22nd June, 2000

Offering a less than convincing theory himself, David Warren speculates that Brian Mulroney ("Return of That Man", Sunday Spectator, June 18) doesn't understand what hit him when the Canadian public so vehemently turned on him. As one among many Canadians for whom Brian Mulroney has been their least favourite prime minister, allow me to set Mr.Warren straight.

Mr.Warren rightly ascertains the main cause was Meech Lake. The day Brian Mulroney and Lucien Bouchard ganged up on Clyde Wells, I silently wished there was some way to impeach our prime minister. In a crass display of bully-boy, win-lose, who-gets-how-much, worst-excesses-of-a-managerialist approach to constitution making, he was taking Canada to the brink! Like children about to be orphaned by self-destructing parents, Canadians lashed out in anger and fear. The impact on the Canadian psyche was more than deep, it was profound. A whole generation, including me, came of age politically.

Given the passing of time and the strength of Brian Mulroney's legacy in other policy areas, should we forgive and forget? In 1993, when he resigned, it seemed possible. As a conservative who believed in the PC party's nation building obligations, I signed up and later ran as its candidate in Ottawa West Nepean in the 1997 election. Then, experiencing first hand the conservative wars engendered by the Progressive Conservative and Reform splits that helped create the current Liberal government, I began to see Brian Mulroney in another light.

Surveying Canada's political history, it became clear to me that conservatives only govern as a coalition. The in-between periods, often 20 years or more, are characterised by zealous in-fighting. "Circle the wagons!", one faction shouts, failing to see that the other faction is the key to its renewal and survival. Social and economic conservatives, red and blue tories, libertarians, progressives and reformers shoot themselves in the foot and other conservatives in the knees. By the time someone comes along to pull them together, they don't know how to govern. Good ideas such as bringing Quebec into the constitution are botched by inexperience while dynamic and well intentioned politicians like Brian Mulroney are reviled and rendered inadvertent casualties of the fratricidal conservative wars.

Today, I have forgiven and, if it were possible, I would be willing to forget. I would be happier, though, if Mr.Mulroney - rather than exacerbate the conservative wars through partisan excess as he did in Markham recently - would instead put his talents to ending them. Having learned from the challenges of the national unity issue, he can put his mediation skills to work on behalf of Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservative unity. In so doing, he would restore Canadian conservatism to its nation building role and his stature as a statesman.

Margret Kopala

Editor's note: Ms Kopala recently withdrew her bid for the Canadian Alliance leadership.

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