By Scott Strasser, September 14 2016 —
Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was at the University of Calgary on Sept. 13 to give a lecture to the Faculty of Law.
Mulroney was on campus to perform the 2016 William A. Howard Memorial Lecture, an annual talk from a prominent figure presented by the U of C Faculty of Law and the law firm Borden Ladner Gervais LLP.
A capacity crowd of around 175 students, faculty and media packed into the Bennett Jones lecture theatre in Murray Fraser Hall to hear the lawyer and former politician speak. The topic of Mulroney’s lecture was “Role of a Prime Minister: Responsibilities and Leadership.”
Mulroney was Prime Minister from 1984 until 1993, as leader of the Progressive Conservative Party. His tenure included multiple economic reforms, such as implementing the Canada–U.S. Free Trade Agreement in 1988 and the national Goods and Services Tax in 1991.
After cracking jokes for the first 15 minutes, Mulroney got into the crux of his speech — the need for strong leadership from a Prime Minister.
“It’s called leadership — that ineffable and sometimes magical quality that sets some men and women apart, so that millions will follow them as they conjure up new visions and invite their countrymen to dream other big and exciting dreams,” Mulroney said.
A considerable focus of Mulroney’s lecture on Tuesday was his support for TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline — a 4,500 kilometre, $15.7-billion pipeline that would transport oil from Alberta to New Brunswick.
While Energy East has faced opposition from environmental advocacy groups, aboriginal groups and municipal mayors in Quebec, Mulroney urged current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to take a leadership role in finishing the project.
“Canada cannot expect to expand trade with Asian markets if we deny ourselves the opportunities to build infrastructure that will enable us to deliver exports to these markets,” Mulroney said. “Energy East is a made-in-Canada solution that would replace foreign oil in our market and keep $17 billion a year in Canada.”
Mulroney compared the public and media perceptions to Energy East with the reactions to the Canada–U.S. Free Trade Agreement while he was in office.
“The issue of pipelines should not be a binary choice between development of our massive energy resources and sustaining our pristine environment. What we need is a responsible, principal balance between the two. One that improves the quality of our environment and one that facilitates energy production,” he said.
During the question and answer period that followed his lecture, Mulroney faced audience questions about Energy East, what Trudeau’s priorities should be and — most amusingly — his thoughts on American Presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Mulroney, who knows both Trump and Hillary Clinton personally, said Clinton has the upper hand in the U.S. presidential race due to her political experience, but Trump has caught a wave with his stance on immigration.
He said the first televised debate on Sept. 26 between Trump and Clinton will likely play a big part in who wins the November election.
“This is a most unusual choice that Americans have to make,” Mulroney said.