For its second annual Portrait of Two Nations issue, Maclean’s conducted interviews with both Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and President George Bush, asking their views on global issues, hemispheric affairs, relations between their countries—and themselves. During a 45-minute interview at his official 24 Sussex Drive residence with Editor Kevin Doyle and Ottawa Bureau Chief Anthony Wilson-Smith, Mulroney began by discussing his relations with Bush, relating an incident on the day before the President’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 1989. Excerpts.-
Mulroney: I was at home by myself upstairs. It was about half past five in the afternoon and it was a nasty day. The phone rang. I picked it up and this guy said, ‘Brian?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘It’s George.’ And I said, ‘George?’
‘Yeah, George Bush.’ Then he said: ‘Look, the inauguration is tomorrow. The first trip I want to make is to Canada. I’ve got some dates here.’ So we talked about it. This was brand new to me. I didn’t have any schedule. So I said, ‘Let me jot them down.’ He suggested a date. He said, ‘If that date’s not fine, we’ll get another.’ Then he said, in a style that’s become entirely illustrative of the relationship: 'Lookit, I’ll leave it with you. Let’s agree on a date. I’ll tell [national security adviser] Brent Scowcroft to get in touch with Derek Burney [then Mulroney’s chief of staff, now Canadian ambassador in Washington],’ whom Bush knew, of course, from the free trade stuff. He said, ‘They’ll work it out and I’ll call you later.’ That was it. That’s the way he does it all the time.
Maclean’s: About the Mexican-U.S. free trade proposal, which seems to be moving.pretty quickly, does it concern you that it may undermine the Canadian-American accord?
Mulroney: Well, first I am not sure it is moving as quickly as some people suggest. As I indicated to President [Mexican President Carlos] Salinas when he and I chatted about it, even for two mature and in many ways complementary economies, like Canada and the United States, the preparation for this was intense and the negotiation was no less so. It took from March of 1985, the Quebec summit, to the signature in January of 1989. And so my guess is that some of the ambitious views that we hear discussed will be difficult to achieve. You will see a substantial opposition to this in the United States, for example, from the trade unions, for obvious reasons.
Maclean’s: Do you want to be involved in the talks? Mulroney: Well, we will be involved if we feel that at any time our interest is required. At the moment, they are at the most preliminary of stages. I think the concept is an attractive one and a beneficial one. And it brings benefits to the United States, as well. The largest one being, I think, rather an indirect one: it is the only instrument that is going to ensure prosperity and stability in Central and Latin America. There is not another mechanism devised by man that will have a more civilizing influence on the lives of nations than trade. Fair and freer trade. So I think it is to their advantage, as it is to ours, to encourage this process. If you believe in trade as an instrument at least as powerful as aid, if not more so—and I believe it is much more— to developing economies, then you have to give them access to your markets.
Maclean’s: The changes in Eastern Europe have meant a realignment of global politics. How do you define Canada’s role in the new global climate?
Mulroney: We have a stand-alone relationship with the United States which is probably unique in the world—which is not unhelpful, by the way, in getting things done. We are developing a good stand-alone relationship with the Soviet Union. When President [Mikhail] Gorbachev arrived here, we spent 2V2 hours having lunch upstairs and we were supposed to meet with officials the next day and we just kept the meetings going, just the two of us, for about three hours. Then we had lunch together. Then we drove out to the airport. I suppose we had five or six hours of private discussions. It is no surprise that The New York Times reported that President Bush had called me. I didn’t call him. So we were able to do some things on both sides that contributed to making their talks a little more easy for both of them. Maclean’s: How did that process work?
Mulroney: I will give you an illustration of how unheroic but important it could be. When President Gorbachev talked to me about what was going to happen in Washington if he didn’t get some accommodation, to say he was firm was the understatement of the year. He didn’t want to hear anything about NATO, his view being that if NATO absorbed a united Germany, NATO would become the only instrument for economic and social progress and military strength in Europe, from the Atlantic to the Urals. And he would be out in the cold. As he said, ‘You have taken our common enemy in. Destabilized Europe. Put the Soviet Union in a position of legitimate concern.’ So I talked to him at great length about Lester Pearson’s and the Canadian contribution to the foundation of NATO, which is the famous Article 2, which is known as the Canadian article, to give it a political vocation rather than a military one as well, if the time came. The time came. Maclean’s: How was that relevant to President Bush? Mulroney: I raised this with the President [Bush]. When he called me back, he said to me, ‘Brian, I’ve got the Canadian article right in front of me and it’s very attractive and it’s very persuasive.’ So he used that himself then in a complementary fashion with President Gorbachev. There is an indication of how we can work these things out. You know, Canada is the only country that is a G7 member, a Commonwealth member, a member of la francophonie, and the OAS [Organization of American States]. If you have the personal relationship to go along with it, you’re off to the races.
Maclean’s: So in this new world, there is a different role? Mulroney: I believe so. I believe that you have to assert it and you have to go out and try to build on it. One Sunday, we had a problem and I picked up the phone to call Jacques Delors at home, or Kenneth Kaunda will call me out of the blue, or Michael Manley or Margaret Thatcher. That is because the relationship is there. But national interests can move along only if they are aided by a degree of goodwill that comes from good personal relationships.
Maclean’s: Are you giving any thought to substantially raising the quotas for Eastern European immigrants?
Mulroney: I tell you, we were very surprised, when East Germany went, to find how few, if any, wanted to come to Canada. We were ready to take thousands upon thousands and view them with favor. I can remember talking to Barbara [Employment and Immigration Minister Barbara McDougall] and saying, ‘Barbara, we have to.’ She’d say: ‘Prime Minister, before you get at it again on this issue, let me tell you we have done A, B and C to facilitate the inflow and I have to tell you that they are attracted by a Canada which is right next door, and it’s called West Germany. Everybody speaks German, they have the same kinds of prosperity and the same kinds of Western outlooks and values and democracy.’ And so we have to say we’re rather surprised with the fact.
Maclean’s: Should a reunited Germany still be a part
Mulroney: That united Germany says, ‘We want to be part of NATO.’ That is what is going to happen. And Canada is going to support that very actively. Canadians fought in the war with great courage, and so did the Americans. But the battlefield was thousands and thousands of miles away. For the Soviet Union, the battlefield was in their own backyard, and they lost the equivalent of the population of Canada. So they view it in an entirely different light. It’s very important that we be extremely sensitive to that.
Maclean’s: In what ways?
Mulroney: We have to reassure the Soviet Union that its fears, while legitimate and deeply rooted in history, will never materialize. Otherwise, if we fail to do that, President Gorbachev, who is under challenge in the Soviet Union, may find himself challenged not by [those] who want him to go to the left, but by others who want him to go to the right.
Maclean’s: What does he need to survive? Mulroney: He needs a period of indefinite respite to focus on consumer goods and focus on making a better life for Soviet citizens. He sat in this house and he said, ‘You know what, Brian, you know what we gossip about Canada when we come over here?’ ‘No.’ ‘We are absolutely mystified.’ I said, ‘About what?’ ‘How 26 million people can produce such enormous wealth. We are absolutely flabbergasted at the enormity of your achievement.’ I suppose, when you think about it that way, here is Canada, 26 million people—less than onetenth of the population of the Soviet Union—sitting at the G7 table.
Maclean’s: When would you expect to see Canadian troop levels in Europe reduced?
Mulroney: I don’t know. I’m sorry, I can’t answer that. It is going to be part and parcel of the approach I’ve just described to you.
Maclean’s: But months rather than years? Mulroney: I can’t say that. I’d rather not speculate. Maclean’s: In our Two Nations poll, there is a question where Canadians and Americans are asked, basically, “Should the two countries be one?” Mulroney: It will never happen, ever. I believe that, 123 years from now, the editor of Maclean’s will be sitting right here talking to the prime minister of Canada. I cannot foresee what all the questions are going to be, obviously. But there are two I am absolutely certain of: one is English-French relations, and the second is Canada-U.S. □
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