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We've lost a transformative leader

Updated: Mar 8

Brian Mulroney changed my mind.

I turned eighteen just before the Free Trade election of 1988. I was weighed down with a suspicion of anything American, and I was on the left: opposing Mr. Mulroney was my obvious position.

The more I paid attention to the campaign, the more Mr. Mulroney convinced me. His arguments about free trade were forward-looking; his arguments about the values behind free trade forced me to consider where the money to support our social programs would come from. Since then, my faith in free trade between free peoples has only grown stronger.

When was the last time a politician changed your mind about something important?

With his power to communicate complicated ideas in simple terms Brian Mulroney could have been a demagogue. Instead, he spent his political capital on attempted transformation after transformation. Free trade followed by Meech Lake, when that failed the Charlottetown Accord, and then the GST on top of that.

The other week I spoke with retired General Rick Hillier, who said “great nations do great things.” That came back to me, on learning of Mr. Mulroney’s death: He never feared big battles he thought worth fighting. As important, when he lost, as he did twice on the Constitution, he accepted defeat with grace.

Again showing the power of trade to do good, Mr. Mulroney delivered Canada’s last foreign policy victory: the economic and moral isolation of apartheid South Africa, and the freeing of Nelson Mandela. When British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and US President Ronald Reagan supported the whites-only government because it was anti-communist, Mr. Mulroney wrenched them round to accept the moral responsibility that must support a capitalist economy: Free markets are a gift that should only be shared with countries whose citizens are free people.

Brian Mulroney was confident enough to lead multiple national conversations about intentionally changing our structure, as a country. And we were confident enough, as a country, to have those conversations, even when we disagreed with our Prime Minister.

He proposed change not because of fear of any person, of any group, of any country, or out of a desire to change opinion polls. No. He sought changes he believed would make Canada better.

Brian Mulroney knew Canada is a great country, and he showed we can do great things.

No democratic leader can ask for a better epitaph.

Dominic Cardy

Interim Leader

Canadian Future Party


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