Harper, too, shall pass

Brian Jones
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Almost three decades have passed, but it feels a lot like 1984.

Among the 60 per cent of Canadians who voted Monday for something other than a Conservative majority government, there must be millions who felt a shiver of revulsion eerily similar to that felt in September 1984, when Brian Mulroney was elected prime minister.

Personally, the disgust and exasperation while watching the results being tabulated Monday were the same as those in 1984 upon seeing Mulroney’s smug mug as he celebrated his victory and basked in his newfound popularity.

If you had to pick a single adjective to describe both Brian Mulroney and Stephen Harper, you couldn’t go wrong with “vile.”

In the course of one generation, Canadian politics has come full

circle, from a hateful but popular right-wing majority government in 1984 to a hateful but popular right-wing majority government in 2011.

In 2011, as in 1984, Canadians knew exactly what they were doing and what they were getting, which is the most disheartening aspect of each election.

Voting with vision

Politicians habitually use exaggeration, manipulation and obfuscation — “spin,” as it has come to be called — but any citizen can be immune to such influences simply by paying attention.

There were loud, insistent voices in 1984 warning against Mulroney’s plan to implement “free trade” — a euphemism for “untaxed trade” — and the long-term damage it would do to Canada’s economy.

Conservatives and the business crowd have spent so long boasting about the success of “free trade” that it’s seldom challenged anymore.

And yet, in 1984 you could walk into a retail store and easily find “Made in Canada” items among the occasional doodad marked “Made in China.”

In 1984, “rust belt” was still a witty if somewhat bleak description of North America’s declining manufacturing centre, rather than a seemingly unchangeable fact.

In 1984, there were no “big-box” stores full of Chinese junk.

In 1984, the concept of a “jobless recovery” would have been alien and laughable.


Ugly issues

In 2011, Canadians can look forward to more prisons in which to put people who are on the losing side of the puritanical war on drugs.

In 2011, Canadians voted to endorse the purchase of fighter jets that even the Pentagon says will cost twice as much as the Harper government claims they will — there’s that spin again.

In 2011, Canadians elected a government that will likely make privatization a major issue in health-care reform, rather than doing what has been obviously needed for years — dramatically expanding medical schools to produce more doctors.

Tories can enjoy Harper’s smug grin for now. They might even get a second term to bask in his victorious glow.

Pro-Harperites as well as anti-Harperites should bear in mind that Mulroney, at the height of his popularity and power, seemed invincible and unbeatable. And yet, within a mere nine years and after only his second term, his party was decimated in the 1993 election, reduced to two seats.

Why? The goods and services tax. The GST was a central issue that prompted Canadians to realize this unfair and unjust tax was reflective of the harsh and mean-spirited Mulroney government. (Ironically and shamefully, in 2011 many NDP members defend the GST.)

Mulroney’s defenders, in a gargantuan effort of spin at its most dastardly, tried to pin the 1993 devastation of the Tories on then-leader Kim Campbell.


By then, Mulroney was held in such widespread contempt that some nicknamed him The Jaw That Walks Like a Man.

Inevitably, Harper will push his ideology too far. And then Canadians will push him out.

Unfortunately, in the meantime he will do a lot of damage.


Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached by email at bjones@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: Pentagon, NDP, The Telegram

Geographic location: Canada, China, North America

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Recent comments

  • bewildered
    May 18, 2011 - 09:56

    i would rather be ruled by a coaliation of the majority then by a dictator of the minority.

  • Herb morrison
    May 06, 2011 - 18:53

    Interesting that comments pertaining to Brian Jones column fall into two categories. Category one being the realm of the premature. Example, Mr Coates assertion that the electorate have made the right choice. Unfortunatel, Sir, unless you have psychic ability to predict the future, which has eluded most mere mortals, only time will determine whether or not the electorate have made the right choice in giving Harper a Majority. The comment that Mr. Jones should suck it up falls into the category of the immature. Such comments should be relegated to the schoolyard from which they originated.

  • Harry Coates
    May 06, 2011 - 14:50

    Did Editor Jones have to eat humble pie? Fortunately for all of us, the electorate, not minor editors, is always correct. Suck it up, BJ, and move on!!

  • Herb Morrison
    May 06, 2011 - 12:06

    Heads up for Harper and other victorious politicians, as they exercise their "bragging rights" following last Monday's Federal Election. Once again, I subit something which I submitted for publicaation, however, it fits within the context of this editoeial. Some time when you're feeling importan, sometime when your egos' in bloom. Sometime when you think that you are the best qualified in the room. Sometime if you think that your passing, would leave an unfillable hole, try out this simple experiment, and see how it humbles your soul. Get a bucket, fill it with water, put your hand in it up to the wrist. Pull it out, and the hole that's remaining, is a measure of how much you'll be missed. the moral of this little story, as told by poets anon, be proud of yourself, but remember, there's no indespensable one." This is especially true in the political arena in particular

  • Wicked
    May 06, 2011 - 10:49

    This sounds like a Trevor Taylor rant, some people really get pissed when they lose.

  • Fintip
    May 06, 2011 - 10:41

    Where to start with a column that so thoroughly managles the truth and distorts history? I find myself doing something distasteful - defending Brian Mulrooney - at least insofar as any comparison of him with Stephen Harper. Indeed there might be a better analogy between Harper and the man Mulrooney effectively displaced - Pierre Trudeau. Recognizing that he faced a hostile national electorate in 1984, Trudeau resigned and turned the party over to John Turner. Resentment toward Trudeau was particularly strong in Newfoundland - for good reason. Trudeau had developed an intense personal dislike for Peckford and from the period 1981 to 1984 did everything possible to undermine Newfoundland's economy (sound familiar?). In any event, Mulrooney's landslide (211 seats) was not down to vote splitting; his party received more than half of all votes cast in that election. One of his first priorities was to make restitution for some of the damage inflicted on this province by his predecessor. I understand that you and many others dislike things like Free Trade and the HST. Fair enough, but it is unfair to suggest that these policies were part of a hidden Mulrooney agenda. Indeed on almost any substantive criteria, Mulrooney and Harper were world's apart in terms of their political and personal demeanour as well as their respect for Parliamentarians, the provinces, the press and the public. The Parliamentary contempt finding, violation of the Elections Act, buying of votes, perverting the work of watchdog agencies, proroguing Parliament to avoid confidence votes, breaching agreements and promises, supressing civil liberties, and generally engaging in 'petty vindictive' behaviour (internal American assessment) are traits that distinguish Harper from Mulrooney. Jets, jails and jettisioning public health care are only a few of the backward policy worries that convinced 60% of Canadians to vote against Harper. Indeed you'd be hard pressed to find a respected historian or political scientist to agree with your characterization of Mulrooney's government as being a right wing match of Harper's. One of the few accuracies in your column is that, by 1993, Mulrooney had squandered his initial popularity with a series of scandals, lavish personal spending, and residual fallout from both Free Trade and the GST. And, based on what we now know of Mulrooney's conduct at the point of stepping down, I can concur with the word 'vile'. I will only say that at no point during his nine year stint as Prime Minister did Mulrooney or his government pose a significant threat to the constitution, institutions and laws that safeguard the democractic culture of Canada. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the present incumbent.

  • Michael
    May 06, 2011 - 10:28

    1) In 1984, Mulroney won 50 percent of the vote and 211 of 288 seats in the Commons. 2) His government embarked on a series of privatizations and deregulation that was not undone by the liberal government that succeeded it. 3) His government negotiated and enacted the US Canada Free Trade Agreement and the NAFTA, neither repealed by the liberal government that succeeded it. 4) His government enacted the GST and it was not repealed by the liberal government that succeeded it and was supported by the NDP when Harper promised to reduce the rate. 5) His government negotiated a series of environmental freshened including the Acid Rain Treaty and the Montreal Protocol on the Ozone Layer and took a leading role in the RIo Summitt that led to Kyoto. 6) His government negotiated the Atlantic Accord and Western Diversification, neither of which was repealed by the Liberal government that succeeded his. 7) His government was a major player in ending Aparthied in South Africa so much so that Nelson Mandela's first trip abroad upon release from Robbins Island, was To Canada. Now, which part of this was mean spirited? As to being smug, perhaps, but after this list of accomplishment, who could blame him? this is the short list of accomplishments. you can cry in the corner all you

  • james
    May 06, 2011 - 09:51

    time to suck it up and move on, not hard to know who owns this paper sure you are not from quebec

  • Ursula Dowler
    May 06, 2011 - 09:17

    No hiding behind behind pseudonyms or anonymous blogs , no shrinking violet here . That was very gutsy Mr. Jones .