Memoirs show Mulroney's wounds resist healing

L'affaire Mulroney-Schreiber

Montreal — So many guests plan to attend Brian Mulroney's launch of his memoirs Monday in Montreal that by the end of last week, organizers were sending out emails urging people to show up promptly at 5 p.m.
Mind you, in the wake of the publication of a first set of excerpts, those who are not die-hard Mulroney fans may be having second thoughts.
The former Tory prime minister waited 14 years to give his version of his two stormy mandates. By comparison, Jean Chrétien – who will publish his own memoirs next month – has been retired only four years. But time, it seems, has done little to salve Mulroney's wounds. Judging from the abrasive tone of published excerpts and advance interviews with the author, this memoir will be as polarizing as the former prime minister turned out to be.
Predictably, Mulroney has expended some of his harshest words on Pierre Trudeau, whose key role in the Meech Lake debacle has been a long-standing obsession. To this day, he sees Trudeau's battle against his failed constitutional accords as a personal vendetta and responds very much in kind.
Just as predictable but less familiar is Mulroney's take of his breakup with Lucien Bouchard – the friend he brought under the Tory tent only to have him set it afire in the heat of the Meech Lake constitutional crisis.
It is a topic on which the normally verbose prime minister had been largely mum over the past decade. He must have deep grooves in his tongue from biting it for so long.
Mulroney may have been waiting for Bouchard to move out of politics to unleash his pent-up frustrations about his decision to quit his government. But the fact is, as in the case of Trudeau across Canada, Bouchard in Quebec is a figure whose stature remains greater than that of his former leader.
Mulroney's efforts to cut both his nemeses down to size come at a time when events were in the process of levelling the playing field.
It has taken over a decade but time has been kinder to Mulroney's legacy than many of his critics expected when he bowed out in 1993.
His free-trade initiative is widely recognized as landmark event in the modern history of Canada.
His role in forcing the dismantling of the apartheid regime in South Africa has come to be associated with a golden age of Canadian activism on the international scene. Just last year Mulroney was anointed as the greenest prime minister ever by some of leading voices in the Canadian environment movement.
From beyond the political grave, he has also won a key argument with a vocal faction of the Canadian Conservative movement.
Once a chief critic of Mulroney's approach to Quebec, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is talking the same language of federal inclusiveness to the province's nationalists these days.
Just last fall, Harper led the House of Commons in recognizing that Quebecers make up a nation, a resolution supported by the bulk of the federal Liberal caucus and the Reform rump of the government.
For 14 years, Mulroney has clearly been dying to set the record straight.
Paradoxically, the vitirolic tone of key sections of his memoirs only stands to cloud the reality that the issues that pitted him against so many of his contemporaries are now a source of wide consensus right across the political spectrum.

Chantal Hébert's national affairs column appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday

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