Brian Mulroney's name has been in the news quite a lot lately. First the book, in which the former PM slags the deceased Pierre Trudeau somewhat harshly, which I'm guessing only five people have gotten to due to the size of the memoir. Now, though, is something a little more nefarious, and it's got the Liberals' backs up in a big way. They want an inquiry into whether or not Mulroney illicitly accepted $300,000 (no small chunk of change) from a German businessman whose name is really not relevant and 99.9% unknown outside the chattering classes. Canadians hate Brian Mulroney, not only dyed-red-in-the-wool Liberals but many Canadians at large. My favourite pub & eatery in Kelowna has a framed photo of him, tilted sideways, covered in spitballs. I don't know of a single family member that has much good to say about him. So trying to tar Brian Mulroney--15 years after he left office--is something fun and cathartic for the Liberals, who, let's face it, can use some fun these days.
Here's the problem I have with the whole thing: it's not relevant to the Canadian national interest. Not one little bit. Kinsella may want to cast Harper in a negative light for not being interested in pursuing the Liberals' request, nay, demand, for a full and thorough investigation into the matter, but he's talking into an echo chamber on that one. I don't too often disagree with W.K., but I just don't see the point in spending millions of dollars on lawyers to find out if the guy before the last guy's predecessor at 24 Sussex Drive lined his pockets for a couple hundred thousand dollars. It's greasy, it's slimy, and it sure does make Mulroney look bad, but there's really nothing for anybody in the current political environment to either gain or lose by having an inquiry. Harper's team may look at Mulroney as something of an intellectual/ideological/strategic godfather, but it's not as if Harper's got any intention of appointing him to the Senate or giving him a job on the taxpayer dime. The Liberals may get to feel good that Mulroney is getting dragged through the mud again, but it opens up the door to investigations into Shawinigate and Martin's CSL operations--if it's good for the goose... And, of course, Layton will get to gadfly around a bunch but it's not like he'll suddenly shoot up five points in the national polls. Any gains would be surface-level and fleeting, while the millions spent pursuing the inquiry would be lost to much more important and pressing programs. They could pump the money back into Status of Women Canada instead, that'd be swell.
Going back to the Liberals, I'm really astonished that they're pressing this as hard as they are. There's any number of salient issues they could target to rebuild their fortunes and attempt to knock Harper off stride. For example, there's a new poll which suggests that Canadians still lack a global conscience--er, I mean, don't want to follow George Bush's hard-right neo-conservative search and destroy so-called war on terrorism agenda--and want to get out of Afghanistan before the government's suggested 2011 withdrawal timetable. I know why it's a mission worth supporting and pursuing to a successful conclusion, but many Canadians still don't and many can't even point Afghanistan on a map. That's still fertile territory for any of the parties to seize upon and frame in a national interest perspective. Make up something tangible about peacekeeping and why we should be somewhere else instead and you may receive a boost in the polls. There's still no real social agenda blueprint put in place by the Conservatives other than some tax credits; after waking up one morning and collectively deciding that Canada must have a national daycare program, they've been pretty quiet about that lately. Oil is getting close to $100 a barrel. Given the Liberal leader's supposed penchant for the environment and competitive sustainability, where is he on the charge to finding fossil fuel alternatives? Where's the big policy blueprint that makes Canada an innovator in eco-friendly fuels and energy?
I know that it's not easy to make priorities, but seeing the Liberals flailing in an effort to put Brian freakin' Mulroney back in the spotlight instead of real issues affecting Canadian interests and, dare I say, values, is sad to see. Rather than giving Canadians an idea of where they want to take us, the Liberals are trying to re-visit the late 20th century. Harper may not be big on the vision thing but at least his ship has a setting (gotta love the North Star) that may take us into a better future.