Brian Mulroney become latest ex-PM to criticise Stephen Harper

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

Every once in a while, there’s talk about a “Prime Minister’s club”.

This, presumably, would be some sort of formal organization giving voice to the surviving former prime ministers.

According the online magazine, Leaders and Legacies, at least four former prime ministers have mused about the idea. 

"To the extent that [being a former PM] can give political capital to support something, then we do it," Kim Campbell recently said.

"We’re all very keen to be a part of something, especially to encourage young people to think seriously about public life.”

Even without a formal ‘club’, it seems Canada’s ex-prime ministers’ are finding ways to make their voices heard. 

On Thursday, former PMs Paul Martin and Joe Clark helped launch an organization aimed at improving the relationship between the indigenous people and other Canadians.

The not-for-profit initiative, dubbed Canadians for a New Partnership hopes to influence public policy by engaging Canadians in a dialogue about First Nations’ rights and conditions in their community. 

[ Related: Former PMs Clark, Martin join coalition to work with First Nations ]

And unlike in the United States, ex prime ministers aren’t averse to criticizing their successor.

On Thursday,  Brian Mulroney — who has embarked on a media tour to mark the 30th anniversary of his first government — took some subtle jabs at Stephen Harper during a CTV News interview. 

Mulroney disagreed with Harper’s position not to call a an inquiry into missing and murdered women and chided him for tiff with Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin over the Supreme Court appointment of Marc Nadon.

And, when talking about foreign affairs, Mulroney suggested that Harper didn’t have a good relationship with U.S. President Barack Obama claiming that a Canadian prime minister doesn’t “have much clout internationally” without a strong kinship with the White House. 

When asked about Mulroney’s comments regarding the foreign affairs file, on Friday, Harper quickly rebuked them.

"Canada’s ability to contribute concretely in international affairs has never been higher," the prime minister said at a post-NATO summit press conference. 

Regardless,  other prime ministers have criticized Harper about his international policies. 

In fact, it’s hard to find a living one that hasn’t. 

"I’m travelling the world. The image of Canada today is not what it was," Jean Chrétien told Global News last March.

"You know [Justin Trudeau] will be fiscally responsible and he will be socially preoccupied like a Liberal is. And he will want Canada to be what we were in the world under [Lester B.] Pearson, under his father [Pierre Trudeau] and under myself."

Others have also done some trash talking against their successor. 

In 2012, Postmedia News interviewed a series of ex-prime ministers.

Paul Martin said that Canada was no longer “well-positioned” to be a player on the international stage and put the blame on Harper.

"[The United Nations is] going to be looking for countries that have a role to play internationally," he told Postmedia.

"Well, if you have walked away from Africa, if you have walked away from climate change, you’re not going to have a great deal of influence in the rest of the world."

Kim Campbell said this:

"We have pulled back a little from our effort to be serious players, and I’d like to see us do more."

And Joe Clark told students at McGill University that it’s clear that the “strong and positive traditions” of the Progressive Conservative Party have been forced aside.

"It’s certainly clear in international affairs, where its focus has been very narrow on the military and on trade," he said according to the McGill Daily.

"Much of the emphasis upon CIDA, which had been upon actual development dealing with poverty, has been replaced now by a supportive role [in] trade arrangements, not necessarily in the poorest countries.

"Our relations with many parts of the world where we had historically strong partnerships have deteriorated."

[ Related: NATO to ask Canada to increase defence spending ]

Club or no club, the former residents of 24 Sussex are certainly not shy about sharing their voice and offering their advice. 

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