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Brian Mulroney praises Trudeau’s leadership, omits any mention of Tory leader

Former Conservative PM laud Liberal for his work on COVID, American trade talks
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, and former prime minister Brian Mulroney share a moment on stage during the Atlantic Economic Forum at St. Francis Xavier University, in Antigonish, N.S., on Monday, June 19, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is basking in the praise of Brian Mulroney after the former prime minister said “trash” talk against the Liberal leader will be forgotten in light of historic achievements.

The former Progressive Conservative prime minister made the comments on Monday night to delegates attending the Atlantic Economic Forum, at St. Francis Xavier University, in Antigonish, N.S. Mulroney said history will not be concerned with “the trivia and trash” or with the “rumours and gossip” that are heard in Parliament.

Trudeau will instead be remembered for handling the pandemic as well as any other world leader, and for negotiating the The Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement with former U.S. president Donald Trump, Mulroney, who was prime minister from 1984 to 1993, told delegates.

“The pandemic (was) the greatest challenge any prime minister has had to deal with for Canada in 156 years,” he said. “This is remarkable and everybody says that our prime minister and premiers conducted themselves as well as anyone around the world.”

Mulroney, who advised the federal cabinet during the trade talks with Trump, said Trudeau showed vision and a steady hand during negotiations and helped preserve the country’s economy.

Trump was “out to sabotage Canada” during the trade talks and was difficult to negotiate with, Mulroney said. “I saw the prime minister because he invited me in as an adviser to his cabinet and I saw the big decisions he had to take at crucial moments, and I saw the end result of this incredibly challenging negotiation. The end result was a significant victory.”

“History is only concerned with the big ticket items that have shaped the future of Canada,” he said.

Noticeably absent from Mulroney’s speech was any mention of Conservative Party Leader Pierre Poilievre.

Meanwhile, Trudeau seemed to criticize Poilievre, the Opposition leader, when he gestured to Mulroney and said, “There seems to be two kinds of politicians today: those that want to burn things down, and those more like you were, constantly who want to build things up.”

Lori Turnbull, director of the school of public administration at Dalhousie University, said in an interview that Mulroney’s speech appeared to encourage a return to more informed public debate, rather than as a subtle attack on Poilievre’s abrasive style.

She said it’s not surprising Mulroney has adopted a collegial approach to the Trudeau government, as have other members of the former Progressive Conservative party.

“I don’t take these to be partisan comments,” Turnbull said. “I think actually he’s talking about a style of politics and what it means to be prime minister. He’s praising how the prime minister has handled things, by staying out of the noise of Parliament and taking on his responsibilities.”

“Others would say Trudeau … has not been present and visible enough on Parliament Hill.”

Turnbull said it’s possible the former prime minister’s comments were an attempt to build Trudeau’s support by reminding Canadians that the Liberal government has had noted accomplishments.

“To be fair, (Mulroney) has also interacted with Poilievre,” said Turnbull, referring to a dinner that the Opposition leader hosted for Mulroney and his wife, Mila, last fall.

“It’s not like he (Mulroney) is icing him,” she added.

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