Brian Mulroney will announce plans Wednesday for a new $60-million institute bearing his name at St. Francis Xavier University – with the former prime minister raising $55-million himself and personally donating $1-million to the school.
The Brian Mulroney Institute of Government will be housed in the yet-to-be built $40-million Mulroney Hall on the picturesque campus in Antigonish, N.S., where Mr. Mulroney graduated with a political science degree in 1959, university president Kent MacDonald said.
"It absolutely will be the most transformative project in the history of this university in 164 years," Mr. MacDonald said from his office in the small town on the Northumberland Strait.
The institute will offer a four-year degree in public policy and governance, he said, with the potential to add one or two more programs in the future. The goal, however, is to keep the school small – while building a broad appeal to tourists and researchers.
Mr. MacDonald said the 77-year-old Mr. Mulroney, who developed an interest in politics while on campus, exemplifies the qualities the tight-knit school seeks to hone in its 4,000 or so students – public service and giving back to the community.
"He is one of our greatest sons," Mr. MacDonald said. "This is a remarkable place for producing leaders." Other graduates include Conservative MP Lisa Raitt, House of Commons Speaker Geoff Regan and Frank McKenna, deputy chairman at Toronto-Dominion Bank and former New Brunswick premier, who will attend Wednesday's announcement alongside Mr. Mulroney's family, including his wife, Mila, and daughter, Caroline Mulroney Lapham.
Mr. MacDonald said the hall will house memorabilia from Mr. Mulroney's nearly nine years in office, including correspondence with former South African president Nelson Mandela, a replica of the Prime Minister's Office including Mr. Mulroney's original desk, and a signed painting from the late U.S. senator Ted Kennedy.
"I am absolutely convinced that this is going to get people off the highway, and drop in, and see the centre – the Mulroney Institute," Mr. MacDonald said.
"We don't want to say 'Go down that hall and you'll find something.' We're going to immerse it throughout the building. So wherever you're at, you'll hear and see and read and learn about what's the life of becoming a prime minister like."
It will also feature a replica of Mr. Mulroney's prime ministerial portrait, donated from his home, and a gift Mr. Mulroney received from the Conservative Party as a parting gift – the desk of former prime minister John A. Macdonald.
"He has a lot of artifacts. What he and his wife Mila have said is, 'Whatever St.FX wants, you can have,'" Mr. MacDonald said.
Mr. MacDonald said Mr. Mulroney travelled across the country as well as to New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, London and Paris to solicit donations for the institute – on the condition that all donations go directly to the school and not to cover fundraising overhead.
"There are very few people in this country that can pick up the phone with a Rolodex like Brian Mulroney and have people actually answer the phone and want to speak with him," Mr. MacDonald said.
"Brian Mulroney has said 'I am only doing this if every single cent that I raise goes into the program.'"
More than $20-million will go toward four academic chair positions and for scholarships and bursaries, including $1-million in bursaries for indigenous students, Mr. MacDonald said. The Nova Scotia government will also donate $5-million to the school.
High-profile donors include Ron Joyce, the billionaire co-founder of Tim Horton's who is donating $5-million, and grocery magnates David and Donald Sobey, who are donating $1-million each for student scholarships.
The 75,000-square-foot hall is expected to be built by late fall 2018, Mr. MacDonald said. "I hate to project what [the final total of donations] will be when we open in 2018, but it absolutely wouldn't surprise me if the number is up over $75-million by that time."
He said the school has three national companies bidding on design and one is expected to be chosen by February, with a plan to tear down the existing Nicholson Hall on campus next April to make room for the new building.
Mr. MacDonald said plans for the institute have been in the works for more than decade, when Mr. Mulroney was approached by former university president, Sean Riley. When Mr. MacDonald took helm of the school two years ago, the project gathered steam.
The school has also created a four-member advisory committee to oversee the project in the years to come – to be chaired by Ms. Mulroney Lapham.
"[Mr. Mulroney] knows he's not going to be – none of us – will be around forever," Mr. MacDonald said. "But he just wants to know that this is going to continue."