From today’s Toronto Star, a report on TVO’s Steve Paikin’s interview with former Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney, who goes out of his way to withhold praise from Stephen Harper. He does, however, offer effusive praise for the other party leaders, even saying that the Liberals could win this election under Michael Ignatieff. Ouch. He also praises former Liberal prime minister Lester Pearson, whom Mulroney cites as an example of how much a minority government can accomplish. Double ouch.
“You’re voting for Mr. Harper, I take it,” said Paikin, coincidentally the moderator of Tuesday’s English-language leaders’ debate.
“At this point,” replied Mulroney with a pause that seemed to hang in the air longer than its mere second, “I’ll vote for the Conservative candidate in my constituency.”
Although the architect of decisive Progressive Conservative victories in 1984 and 1988 conceded that Harper is “clearly a competent Prime Minister,” his unease with the current Tory leader was barely concealed.
He praised Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff (“an intelligent man, hard-working guy”), NDP Leader Jack Layton (“an outstanding leader of his party”), and even Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe (“respected in Quebec”), whose party began in 1990 as a separatist offshoot of Mulroney’s Tories.
He suggested Ignatieff could win despite polls indicating otherwise: “You never can tell what happens in political life. I’ll tell you this, in 1984, when the campaign started I was 14 points behind. We ended up in a rather different fashion.”
He touted former Liberal prime minister Lester Pearson, who endured similar political uncertainty to Harper, but had far more to show for his tenure, including medicare and the Maple Leaf flag: “You can do big things — even if you have a minority Parliament. Witness what happened with Mr. Pearson, who achieved great things with minority status.”