Mas­ter of Per­sua­sion: Brian Mul­roney’s Global Legacy by Fen Osler Hampson

Policy - - In This Issue - Re­view by John Baird

Fen Osler Hampson

Mas­ter of Per­sua­sion: Brian Mul­roney’s Global Legacy. Toronto, McClel­land & Ste­wart, 2018.

As Fen Hampson writes in Mas­ter of Per­sua­sion, Brian Mul­roney was a trans­for­ma­tive leader who pro­foundly al­tered the Cana­dian po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic land­scape.

In his new book, Hampson sets out to put Mul­roney’s im­pres­sive for­eign pol­icy record in a broader con­text. The lessons learned from his neardecade in power on the in­ter­na­tional stage are quite rel­e­vant to­day for po­lit­i­cal lead­ers and our coun­try.

Be­cause of the trust, con­fi­dence and re­spect he built with two suc­ces­sive Amer­i­can pres­i­dents, Mul­roney was able to se­cure ac­cess to the largest mar­ket for goods and ser­vices on the planet.

For­eign pol­icy is about two things: pro­mot­ing our val­ues and pro­mot­ing our in­ter­ests around the world. Chiefly, the val­ues of free­dom and plu­ral­ism and our eco­nomic and se­cu­rity in­ter­ests. In ex­am­in­ing the Con­ser­va­tive prime min­is­ter’s in­flu­ence on global events, Hampson high­lights the “ex­tent to which Brian Mul­roney’s care­ful cul­ti­va­tion of re­la­tion­ships with key for­eign lead­ers al­lowed him to play a sig­nif­i­cant role in the most mo­men­tous world is­sues of his time.”

Mul­roney’s “pas­sion, en­ergy, in­ten­sity, dis­ci­pline, and laser-like fo­cus” were cen­tral to that suc­cess, Hampson writes. Hampson chron­i­cles Mul­roney’s global lead­er­ship from the re­sponse to the famine in Ethiopia, to the moral strug­gle against apartheid in South Africa, his im­pres­sive record of lead­er­ship on the en­vi­ron­ment, and more. Mul­roney’s im­pact was sig­nif­i­cant on a wide range of in­ter­na­tional is­sues.

Hampson points out that even Nel­son Man­dela him­self had strong words of praise and deep re­spect for Mul­roney per­son­ally and his gov­ern­ment’s strong moral lead­er­ship.

The in­ter­na­tional agree­ment on bio­di­ver­sity, the Mon­treal Pro­to­col on ozone de­ple­tion, and the con­crete ac­tion to tackle acid rain with the United States are all mean­ing­ful and im­por­tant achieve­ments. These suc­cesses had Mul­roney’s fin­ger­prints all over them. While he did not get much po­lit­i­cal credit at the time, Mul­roney is widely con­sid­ered the most ef­fec­tive Cana­dian prime min­is­ter when it came to the en­vi­ron­ment. Not too bad for a free mar­ket, cap­i­tal­ist con­ser­va­tive. Most rel­e­vant for con­tem­po­rary ac­tors in for­eign pol­icy to­day are the lessons that can be learned from man­ag­ing our most im­por­tant re­la­tion­ship with our pow­er­ful neigh­bour to the south. It starts at the lead­er­ship level. If the per­sonal re­la­tion­ship be­tween the pres­i­dent of the United States and the Cana­dian prime min­is­ter goes well, the re­la­tion­ships be­tween the two coun­tries and their ad­min­is­tra­tions gen­er­ally go well.

Hampson ex­plains how Mul­roney re­jected and dis­posed of

the his­toric anti-Amer­i­can sen­ti­ment in much of Cana­dian elite think­ing. By 1984, the Canada-U.S. re­la­tion­ship had de­te­ri­o­rated con­sid­er­ably. The anti-Amer­i­can bent of some of­fi­cials at the De­part­ment of Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs did not help. Our 18th prime min­is­ter de­clared: “Cana­di­ans were now ma­ture enough as a na­tion and con­fi­dent enough in our­selves to rec­og­nize and take pride in our am­i­ca­ble re­la­tion­ship with a neigh­bour as pow­er­ful as the United States.”

With the United States, Mul­roney could have his cake and eat it, too. De­spite the deep per­sonal af­fec­tion be­tween Mul­roney and U.S. Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan, our prime min­is­ter was never hes­i­tant or timid to pub­licly split with the U.S. ad­min­is­tra­tion on is­sues rang­ing from apartheid to the en­vi­ron­ment.

Mul­roney also demon­strated the im­por­tance for Canada to work both sides of Penn­syl­va­nia Ave. Mul­roney cul­ti­vated re­la­tion­ships among the con­gres­sional lead­er­ship, which was a con­stant source of ag­i­ta­tion in the bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship.

Be­cause of the trust, con­fi­dence and re­spect he built with two suc­ces­sive Amer­i­can pres­i­dents, Mul­roney was able to se­cure ac­cess to the largest mar­ket for goods and ser­vices on the planet. The great de­bate on free trade with the United States in the late 1980’s was a turn­ing point for our coun­try. Be­cause of that, Cana­di­ans em­brace glob­al­iza­tion and see trade as cen­tral to our eco­nomic well-be­ing and fu­ture pros­per­ity. This is now a no­tably ab­sent sen­ti­ment in both the United States and the United King­dom.

Nei­ther the Canada-Euro­pean trade deal nor the an­nounce­ment of the suc­cess­ful con­clu­sion of the Tran­sPa­cific Part­ner­ship two weeks be­fore Elec­tion Day in 2015 caused a rip­ple in Cana­dian pub­lic opin­ion. We had that de­bate a gen­er­a­tion ago. Cana­di­ans had em­braced glob­al­iza­tion due to the work of the Mul­roney gov­ern­ment. Mar­garet Thatcher was once asked what her great­est achieve­ment was. Her re­sponse af­ter thought­ful con­sid­er­a­tion: “Tony Blair.” So too, one of Mul­roney’s great­est achieve­ments may very well be the ar­dent and en­thu­si­as­tic sup­port for NAFTA and free trade in gen­eral from the Lib­eral Party of Canada un­der the cur­rent gov­ern­ment.

Reach­ing out to Mul­roney and lis­ten­ing to his thought­ful ad­vice and coun­sel and has been cen­tral to the cur­rent gov­ern­ment’s con­struc­tive ap­proach in deal­ing with the chal­lenge that is Don­ald Trump.

Hampson’s book un­der­lines the crit­i­cal im­por­tance of lead­er­ship. Mul­roney led, and Canada was on the right side of his­tory be­cause of that lead­er­ship.

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