Former prime minister Brian Mulroney has endorsed Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole’s bid to become Canada’s next prime minister, a high-profile political boost in the last days of an election campaign during which the Tories have sought to make gains in Quebec.
Wednesday’s public show of support at a rally in the Quebec township of Orford marks a rare entry into politics for Mr. Mulroney, who has largely kept his distance from the Conservative Party that succeeded his Progressive Conservatives.
In remarks to about 200 Conservative supporters, Mr. Mulroney said he was not there to attack anybody. He said all leaders in the current election campaign are courageous and well intentioned.
“I am here for one reason: to help elect Erin O’Toole as the next prime minister of Canada,” Mr. Mulroney said.
Mr. Mulroney’s connections to Quebec, a key battleground in this election, run deep. He was born there, and was a member of Parliament in the province throughout his term as prime minister. He was elevated to the top role in 1984, when he led the Progressive Conservatives to the largest majority in Canadian history.
He served two terms before resigning as leader in 1993, leaving a record that included the Meech Lake Accord, an agreement aimed at securing Quebec’s endorsement of constitutional reform.
Mr. Mulroney said Mr. O’Toole is well equipped to offer the “steady, strong and visionary” leadership Canada needs to manage the next stages of the pandemic. “I know he and his government will persist and implement their agenda, and will be looked upon then and throughout history with favour.”
Mr. Mulroney has not always been considered an electoral asset by the Conservative Party. In 2009, Stephen Harper ordered members of his government – including those who considered themselves personal friends of Mr. Mulroney – to sever ties with the former prime minister.
Mr. Harper was wary of negative publicity stemming from a public inquiry into Mr. Mulroney’s business dealings. Some Conservatives expressed concerns about the order at the time.
Mr. Mulroney did not explain in detail why he decided to enter the election fray to endorse Mr. O’Toole.
The former prime minister declined to answer media questions as he left a hotel ballroom with his wife, Mila, following his remarks.
Earlier Wednesday, and in remarks after Mr. Mulroney’s speech, Mr. O’Toole made an appeal for support from Quebeckers. He touted his campaign commitments to increase Quebec’s power over immigration, and to respect the province’s right to pass its own laws to protect its language and culture.
At dissolution, the Conservatives had 10 of 78 seats in Quebec. The Liberals had 35 seats, the Bloc Québécois had 32 and there was one New Democrat.
Mr. Mulroney was not the only former prime minister on the campaign trail this week. Jean Chrétien, the former Liberal prime minister, participated in a rally in the Toronto region with Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.
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