Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Transforming the Nation: Canada and Brian Mulroney

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Transforming the Nation: Canada and Brian Mulroney

Article excerpt

Raymond B. Blake (ed.), Transforming the Nation: Canada and Brian Mulroney (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2007), xix + 456pp. Cased. $85. ISBN 978-0-7735-3214-4. Paper. $29.50. ISBN 978-0-7735-3215-1.

This fine volume comprises an editor's introduction, a foreword, 16 essays by academics and commentators, plus tributes from John Crosbie and Bob Rae. Mulroney's government was elected in a landslide in 1984, his party destroyed by an avalanche in 2003. It was always likely that his record would be more kindly assessed in retrospect, especially among academics, if only because most of them hated him when he was in office. As L. Ian Macdonald puts it: 'In his first term, he took the centre and held it. In the second, he set the agenda and dominated it. In both, he made history.' (p. 432) Contributors offer a balanced appraisal of the Mulroney record. He was superb at electioneering. In economic policy, his government struggled to curb debt, but its deregulatory policies created a surplus. Free trade was not initially the driving force, but quickly became the symbolic centrepiece. In social policy, he was never a red-blooded Thatcherite. Formal advances in women's rights probably stemmed from the 1982 Charter of Rights. Contributors regret rather than condemn the Mulroney legacy on national unity. Alienating both Quebec and the West complicated intergovernmental relations, while the failure of his constitutional project limited what could be done for aboriginal people. Mulroney rates surprisingly well on environmental issues and gets credit for stressing human rights in external policy, although overall defence and international seem unimpressive. …

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