Friday, December 28, 2007

Mellowing on Mulroney

The festive season has mellowed me. It is time to cut Brian Mulroney some slack.

Consider this: He has accepted responsibility for his dealings with Karlheinz Schreiber.

"I realize I made a serious error in judgment...” "That mistake in judgment was mine alone,” he told the Commons Ethics Committee.

Like Frank Sinatra he has some regrets. He regrets taking cash payments in brown envelopes, regrets stashing them in safety deposit boxes and mostly he regrets knowing Schreiber.

We all make mistakes. And as my MP, Mike Wallace (Burlington) said of Martin Brian Mulroney, 18th Prime Minister of Canada:

“(H)e wasn’t really thinking that well at that particular moment.”

Like Wallace I want to focus on the good this man has done.

The Legacy

There is the Free Trade Agreement, of course, and the Acid Rain Treaty, the Goods and Services Tax, Ben Mulroney, and more.

Significant accomplishments all but it says here there are even positives in his dealings with Schreiber. In time these will be better understood and become part of his splendid legacy.

Take those light armoured peacekeeping vehicles. I’m for peace and so is Brian Mulroney. Along with the two hundred and twenty five thousand dollar bills (or was it three hundred bills?) came a “mandate” to move these vehicles. Not surprisingly Mr. Mulroney took his responsibilities seriously. If Yeltsin and the Russians hadn’t been a little short of cash, is there any doubt that the peacekeeping vehicles would have helped with the “problems” in Chechyna?

We eagerly await more details on that other project the former Prime Minister was assigned by Schreiber so as to further “the international dimension of the mandate.” That would be the anti-obesity pasta project where Mulroney was to seek help from his amigo Bill Gates. Schreiber speculated it could lead to Nobel Peace Prize. Pasta for peace - once again Mulroney on the international stage.

The Point

So what does all this have to do with municipal politics?

American politician Tip O’Neil once said: “All politics is (sic) local politics.”

Mulroney, a most successful practitioner of the second oldest profession knows that. I too, as a recovering local politician should know that.

And yet many years ago at a committee dealing with the Official Plan how could I not have understood? The lobbyist who repeatedly fibbed in response to my questions was kind enough to contact me the next day to say that “I can’t tell the truth in that sort of public forum.” If we could just get together for a beer, he suggested, he could explain.

Silly me. I should have taken the beer. It might have contributed to world peace.