HAVING WON HIS SECOND MANDATE, BRIAN MULRONEY NOW MUST FILL SOME KEY GOVERNMENT POSTS
HILARY MACKENZIE,THERESA TEDESCODecember191988
THE TALENT HUNT
HAVING WON HIS SECOND MANDATE, BRIAN MULRONEY NOW MUST FILL SOME KEY GOVERNMENT POSTS
The scene was familiar: party loyalists, business friends and cronies were packed tightly into the BaieComeau, Que., hockey arena on the night of Nov. 21—as they had been on Sept. 4, 1984—to hear Brian Mulroney give the victory speech that would cap the Conservative election victory. In 1984, many of the key players who had helped Mulroney win his first mandate received plum government positions as their rewards—which extracted a high price in subsequent allegations that the new administration was riddled with conflict of interest, cronyism and inefficiency. Now, having won his second consecutive mandate, Mulroney again faces the daunting task of filling senior government positions. But many Mulroney advisers say that the mistakes of the past will not be repeated. Said one longtime Tory strategist, looking back to the old style: “It was an embarrassment—but this time it will be very different.”
Indeed, by early 1987, the chaos within his government resulted in many of Mulroney’s oldest associates moving from the Prime Minister’s Office—among them senior adviser J. Alfred (Fred) Doucet, an old university chum. Mulroney also replaced Bernard Roy as chief of staff, apppointing Derek Burney, a highly respected career foreign service officer who quickly brought discipline to the PMO. But now, with Burney set to replace Allan Gotlieb as ambassador to the United States in January, Mulroney must try to choose an effective successor. Said deputy chief of staff Marjory LeBreton: “Burney will be hard to replace. He knew the players and the machinery and how to get things done. He restored confidence.” Conservative advisers say that Mulroney has already loosened his ties to the small group of old friends that surrounded him during the early days. As a result, they say, he is free to focus on competence, not friendship, in the hunt to replace Burney. The list of front-runners cited by insiders includes deputy Transport Minister Glen Shortliffe, 51, a former deputy secretary to cabinet who has a reputation as a strong manager, and Reid Morden, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, regarded as a tough administrator since his appointment last year in the wake of scandals that plagued the agency. Also in the running is Norman Spector, cabinet secretary for federal-provincial relations, who now has the responsibility of ensuring that the Meech Lake constitutional accord—still awaiting approval by two provinces—is implemented.
But the real test of Mulroney’s new political will could come when he sits down to make the dozens of patronage appointments that await his signature. According to LeBreton, 250 of 2,566 cabinet appointments on government boards, agencies and commissions are now vacant, or shortly will be. Included in those are the presidency of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., which pays $178,000 to $221,000 annually. President Pierre Juneau will vacate at the end of his term in July, 1989. As well, the vacancies include the five-year post of chairman of the Canada Labour Relations Board and some directors of the Atomic Energy Board. And Mulroney will clearly face the temptation to use those appointments to reward party stalwarts—including the many defeated Tory MPs who have already started calling the Prime Minister. But, said civil service expert Nicole Morgan, a freelance writer and the author of three books on the public service: “I think the Prime Minister knows he is being watched—and he will be very careful.”
Other major appointments awaiting Mulroney’s attention include two vacancies in the Supreme Court of Canada, one from Ontario and the other from Quebec. A third vacancy will likely be created next March when Mr. Justice William McIntyre, 71, is expected to retire. Among the candidates being considered for the current vacancies are Mr. Justice Walter Tamopolsky of the Supreme Court of Ontario, and Jean Louis Beaudoin, a law professor at Montreal’s McGill University.
Still, Mulroney faced more immediate business last week. The Conservative caucus met for the first time since the election. The Tories also prepared their strategy for a special sitting of the House starting this week whose main business will be the passage of a bill implementing the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Because six cabinet ministers went down to defeat, Mulroney gave other ministers additional responsibilities until he names a new cabinet early next year: External Affairs Minister Joe Clark, who is not a lawyer, will act as justice minister; Perrin Beatty, the minister of defence, will become acting solicitor general; Senator Lowell Murray, government leader in the upper house, will also handle the communications portfolio; Secretary of State Lucien Bouchard will also act as environment minister; Supply and Services Minister Otto Jelinek will head public works; and Frank Oberle, minister for science and technology, also will take on the forestry ministry.
But the opposition caucuses also met last week to discuss their tactics in the impending free trade debate—strategies that could frustrate the Tories’ plan to have the FTA approved by the House in time for its scheduled implementation on Jan. 1. The eventual passage of the agreement seemed all but assured as a result of the Tories’ 170 seats—increased by one on a recount last week—but both the Liberals and the New Democrats vowed to speak out strongly in the House against the agreement. Said Liberal Leader John Turner, who led the anti-free-trade fight during the election campaign: “Although we may have lost the first battle, the war is far from over.” Liberal members, and Turner himself, were evasive about the question of Turner’s continued leadership of the party after its second straight loss to the Conservatives. But the caucus meeting appeared to open old wounds within Liberal ranks over the controversial Meech Lake accord—which Turner supported despite opposition within his party. Said Liberal MP Sergio Marchi, who opposes the pact: “There is clearly a change in dynamics about the deal that has to be addressed.”
At the same time, the NDP also showed signs of divisiveness. MPs, defeated candidates and party workers openly criticized leader Edward Broadbent and campaign strategists George Nakitsas, William Knight and Robin Sears for what they said was an ill-conceived election strategy that did not focus on party opposition to the FTA. Outside the caucus, Robert White, president of the Canadian Auto Workers and a vice-president of the NDP, attacked the party’s free trade position in a seven-page letter to Broadbent that subsequently became public. Other high-profile members such as Howard Pawley, former NDP premier of Manitoba and defeated federal candidate, and Stephen Lewis, former leader of the Ontario NDP, also complained openly that the party’s campaign was not effective in mobilizing opposition to free trade. As a result, they said, the Liberals were able to win most of the anti-free-trade vote—and frustrate the NDP’s electoral chances.
Mulroney’s longer-term agenda also embraced a new session of Parliament, likely to begin in March, and his appointment list. With terms of office running out for many of the senior appointments made by his Liberal predecessors, he will be in a position during his second term to significantly reshape the look of the government and its agencies. Said Gordon Osbaldeston, former clerk of the Privy Council and now a senior fellow in the school of business administration at the University of Western Ontario in London: “The changes will mean that we see more Mulroney men than Trudeau men.” But in filling those and other appointments, Mulroney is widely expected to use caution—especially given the fallout from cronyism that marred his first term in office.
HILARY MACKENZIE and THERESA TEDESCO with LOUIS LAFORTUNE in Ottawa
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