BUSINESS WATCH

Mulroney prepares his takeover

Peter C. Newman November 14 1983
BUSINESS WATCH

Mulroney prepares his takeover

Peter C. Newman November 14 1983

Mulroney prepares his takeover

BUSINESS WATCH

Peter C. Newman

While the country clamors for Brian Muironey to reveal the details of the policies he hopes

will propel him into power, the Tory leader has quietly set up a parallel government-in-waiting that will guarantee a smooth takeover, if and when the Liberals finally hit the trail to political purgatory.

Unlike other Tory leaders who unexpectedly found themselves in office with ministers who literally did not know how to find the cabinet chamber, Mulroney is determined to be inaugurated on the run, his team in place, his policies ready to be implemented. The tactics learned from Mulroney’s defeat in 1976 allowed him to win the leadership seven years later. He now hopes to apply the lessons of Joe Clark’s 1979 debacle to help him avoid the rocky start that sank his predecessor.

The transition mechanism set up by Mulroney is already in operation, involving the 200 or so boy Tories and lady Conservatives who will eventually make up the core of the new administration. “It is very important,” Mulroney told me in an exclusive interview, “that if you move into office, you know exactly what you are getting into. If you do not, then automatically, by the force of circumstance, you deliver yourself into the hands of the public servants.”

Not that he has not been exploiting the bureaucracy’s best brains. Mulroney meets regularly with Gordon Osbaldeston to get firsthand briefings on the nuts and bolts of government and is convinced that the clerk of the Privy Council and deputies such as Mickey Cohen at Finance are “among the best that the public service can offer anywhere in the world.” Unlike John Diefenbaker, who thought that anyone who had been in Ottawa more than two weeks was bound to be a closet Grit, Mulroney does not automatically presume bad faith on the part of government employees. “But since the Liberals have been in power for most of 20 years,” he says, “there are people and policies in place that would make it difficult for a new government coming in without any preparation to provide a new direction for Canada. So we have the very strong obligation of being prepared.”

His transition team includes a flying squad of fund raisers (headed by David Angus, a Montreal lawyer, and Don Mathews, a London, Ont., busi-

nessman) and the election campaign committee (jointly run by Norman Atkins, of Big Blue Machine fame, and Jean Bazin, a veteran of former Mulroney wars). The national campaign committee has a membership of 40 Tory gunslingers, with David Crombie as the caucus’ main representative.

Future legislation is being co-ordinated by Charlie McMillan, the York University economics professor who

has become the Conservative leader’s chief policy adviser. Sinclair Stevens heads the external affairs and trade committee; Michael Wilson is in charge of coming up with economic development options; and Flora MacDonald runs the social policy committee. In charge of the transition team is Finlay Macdonald, Joe Clark’s former senior adviser of staff. Under him there is a group studying how existing government structures might inhibit new policies (headed by Harvie Andre, the Al-

berta MP who is also acting as defence critic); a task force on government machinery (concerned mainly with reforming the Prime Minister’s Office and the Privy Council Office), headed by Walter Baker and Fred Doucet, who also runs Mulroney’s office; a committee on government appointments (run jointly by Finlay MacDonald and Janis Johnson, who also runs PC headquarters); plus an organization busy recruiting staffs for the 36 hopeful Tory ministers, run by Peter White, the most politically astute of all the Mulroney advisers. Another key operative is Pat McAdam, who has been a Tory insider since the Allister Grosart days and now is in charge of Mulroney’s personal staff and appointments schedule.

On top of all this, there are members of the shadow cabinet and deputy critics for each government department plus a growing communications network headed by former Maclean's staffer Ian Anderson. Mulroney has also appointed separate task forces to draft policies in areas of his special concern: a group studying the simplification of tax laws, headed by John Gamble; a study of how to relieve youth employment, run by veteran thinker Alvin Hamilton; and a committee studying the enhancement of productivity in the public sector.

Mulroney himself drifts in and out of the deliberations of those various groups and each week meets with outside lobbies. “I recognize each is preaching for its own parish,” he says, “but at least we get to learn their problems and how to fit them into our policy stream.” In one recent week he met with Tom Galt and John Panabaker (the heads of Sun Life and Mutual) to discuss the insurance industry’s problems, as well as with representatives of the home-building industry.

The PCs’ overall strategy is being coordinated by deputy party leader Erik Neilsen and a policy and priorities committee which includes MPs John Fraser, Don Mazankowski, Jake Epp, Sinclair Stevens, Michael Wilson, Flora MacDonald, Ray Hnatyshyn, Roch Lasalle, John Crosbie, Bob Coates and Senator Jacques Flynn.

What is important about this political machinery is not so much the specific policy recommendations it may throw up, but the fact that the Tories will have become used to working together. Mulroney has watched two Progressive Conservative governments commit hara-kiri and is determined not to follow their example.