Mulroney launches Canada on new course
Toronto — Canadians wanted change and they got it in one of the greatest political turnarounds in Canada's history. The election sweep of Brian Mulroney and his Progressive Conservatives will mean a change in the way Canada is governed in everything from defense and foreign investment to government involvement in industry.
''Our objective and our mandate is to create jobs and get the economy moving again,'' Mr. Mulroney told his supporters. He said the priorities of his new government would be to tackle Canada's 11 percent unemployment rate, high interest rates, and slow growth. Mr. Mulroney promised to make it easier for foreigners to invest in Canada. By that he means investment by Americans.
During the election campaign he promised to spend more on defense, to bolster Canada's commitment to NATO, and to attack the size of government, especially nationalized or crown corporations created during the Trudeau era.
But Brian Mulroney doesn't face an easy job.
The sheer size of the win - 211 out of 282 seats - will mean that many new members of Parliament will be left with little to do. A prime minister has only so many Cabinet posts to spread around.
And the Conservatives will have a hard time putting truly conservative policies in place because of the massive budget deficit left behind by the Liberals.
The biggest surprise of the election came in Quebec, where the Conservatives won 58 of the 75 seats in that province. In the last election the Tories won one seat in Quebec, the Liberals the rest.
Their new total of 17 seats in Quebec is the worst showing the Liberals have ever made. Jean Chretien, who ran second to Turner in the Liberal leadership race, said he knew the Tories were going to win but was surprised ''by the extent of it.''
Mr. Chretien kept his own seat, but many other Cabinet ministers were defeated, including John Roberts, another leadership candidate, who ran in Toronto. The Liberals took a shellacking in Ontario as the Tories took 30 seats from them there.
The New Democrats picked up seven seats from the Liberals in Ontario, including that of Cabinet minister Judy Erola in the nickel-mining district of Sudbury.
Across the country the New Democrats finished with 30 seats, off only one from what they started with. It was an amazing comeback for a party that, according to the polls, faced annihilation at the start of the election.
But with 40 seats in the House, the Liberals will be the official opposition. Turner, having won his seat in the British Columbia riding (district) of Vancouver-Quadra, will lead the opposition in the House. When he leaves 24 Sussex Drive to make way for the new prime minister, he will move to Stornoway, the official residence of the leader of the opposition.
The transition period can be two or three weeks, but it appears that Mulroney will be sworn in as prime minister on Sept. 17 along with his new Cabinet.
Many observers were surprised at Turner's victory in Vancouver. He had been running third in opinion polls. But the Liberal Party worked the riding and so did Turner's family.
Although the national defeat is an embarrassment, the local victory will forestall any immediate call for a leadership review in the Liberal Party.
Turner and Lloyd Axworthy from Winnipeg, Manitoba, are the only Liberal MPs in western Canada.
Despite rumors that he would return to the business world if he was defeated, Turner has said he will stay on as leader of the party and leader of the official opposition. ''I intend to devote all my energy to fulfilling my duties in that office.''
John Turner, who took office June 30, will hold the record as shortest-lived prime minister in this century. He may fall short of Sir Charles Tupper, who ruled for 69 days in 1896.
The Liberals have been in power in Canada for all but 22 years of this century. The Tory swing could mean a change and the start of period of Conservative rule. But maybe not.
Stanley Knowles, a retired parliamentarian with almost 40 years of experience in the House of Commons, said governments with large majorities don't work: ''In the past years when we've had parliaments with a large majority, they don't do a good job at all.''
Mr. Knowles was defeated in the Diefenbaker sweep of 1958, when the Conservatives won 208 seats. That was actually a greater victory, since there were only 264 seats in the House at the time. John Diefenbaker was in office until 1963, when the Liberals took over again. They had been in power since then except for nine months in 1979-80.
Mulroney is dealing with a divided caucus. When the right-wing Alberta Tory sits beside the nationalistic Quebec MP, will sparks fly - as they did in the Diefenbaker years - or will Brian Mulroney, the old labor negotiator, be able to bring about harmony?
The size of the Mulroney sweep and its base in every part of the country will make this the first truly national government since Pierre Trudeau won across the country in 1968.