Brian Mulroney has stepped back into the public spotlight to promote his memoirs — and accuse former archrival Pierre Trudeau of having lacked the moral fibre to lead.
'This is a man who questioned the Allies when the Jews were being sacrificed.' — Former prime minister Brian Mulroney
In an interview with CTV on Wednesday, the former Conservative prime minister reached back more than 60 years to chide Trudeau for his antiwar activism as a university student, saying his refusal to serve in the Second World War rendered him unfit to provide moral leadership.
Mulroney's memoirs areto be released Monday.
When he retired in 1993, Mulroney was one of the most reviled prime ministers in Canadian history. The late Trudeau, who retired as Liberal prime minister in 1984, is accorded more respect and admiration than Mulroneyby Canadians in opinion polls.
In the interview, Mulroney blamed Trudeau for scuttling the Meech Lake accord, a 1990 pact aimed at securing Quebec's signature on the Constitution. He then launched into a diatribe about what he calleda lack of moral fibre shown in Trudeau's opposition to the Second World War.
"[Trudeau] is far from a perfect man," Mulroney said.
"This is a man who questioned the Allies when the Jews were being sacrificed and, when the great extermination program was on, he was marching around Outremont [Montreal] on the other side of the issue."
'Cheap and shoddy' shot at Trudeau
Mulroney acknowledged that many Quebecers were opposed to the war and that Trudeau was a rebellious young man at the time. But he noted thatone million young Canadians chose to fight the Nazis, knowing thattheirs was"the most evil machine ever known to man, trying to exterminate the Jews, everybody knew that.
"Pierre Trudeau was not among them. That's a decision he made. He's entitled to make that kind of decision, but it doesn't qualify him for any position of moral leadership in our society."
Trudeau's eldest son, Justin, declined to comment on Mulroney's assessment of his father, who died seven years ago this month.
Historian and Trudeau chronicler Stephen Clarkson was surprised that Mulroney dredged up the old complaint about Trudeau, whose refusal to serve in the war was used against him during the 1967 Liberal leadership contest.
"He's sort of scraping the barrel if that's the worst he can say. … It's kind of cheap and shoddy."
Trudeau 'haunted' Mulroney
Clarkson said Mulroney appears to be unaware of more damning revelations about the young Trudeau, uncovered in a recent book by Monique and Max Nemni. According to the book, the youthful Trudeau admired fascist dictators, including Hitler, held anti-Semitic views and supported Quebec independence.
Moreover, Mulroney's charge is not strictly accurate, Clarkson said, pointing out that most people did not know about the Nazis' systematic extermination of millions of Jews until after the war.
Trudeau "haunted" Mulroney throughout his years as prime minister, Clarkson said, and Mulroney always seemed to be trying to prove he could do better than Trudeau on the unity and constitutional files, the economy and foreign relations.