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When Brian Mulroney hoped the PM's Oktoberfest fun was a political 'last waltz'

The party was happening regardless of who attended, but Brian Mulroney's Oktoberfest appearance certainly pleased a lot of potential supporters in 1983.

Tory leader visited famed Kitchener, Ont., festival the day after Pierre Trudeau did in 1983

In the fall of 1983, Conservative Leader Brian Mulroney visited a well-known annual Oktoberfest celebration in Kitchener, Ont. 1:44

The party was happening regardless of who attended, but Brian Mulroney's appearance at Oktoberfest in Kitchener, Ont., certainly pleased a lot of his potential political supporters.

In the fall of 1983, the Progressive Conservative leader was on a roll, having recently won a byelection that allowed him to take a seat in the House of Commons and seeing that his party was very popular with Canadians.

It was also a time when Mulroney was trying to contrast the PCs with the governing Liberals, who were then led by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

And the prime minister, as it turned out, had just made an appearance of his own at the same, famed Oktoberfest celebration in southwestern Ontario.

Beer and 'Irish blarney'?

Onkel Hans, the mascot of the Oktoberfest celebrations in Kitchener, Ont., is seen standing behind Brian Mulroney on Oct. 15, 1983, during the Conservative leader's visit to the annual festival. (The National/CBC Archives)

The timing of those visits formed part of the story that reporter Bill Casey filed for The National back on Oct. 15, 1983.

"Brian Mulroney came to Kitchener's famous Oktoberfest celebration today to mix a bit of Irish blarney with the beer," Casey told viewers.

"His visit came just one day after Prime Minister Trudeau had dropped in for a few dances at the Concordia Club."

The Conservative leader didn't pass up the opportunity to comment on his rival's drop-by at Oktoberfest.

'More time to practice'

Conservative Leader Brian Mulroney jokingly hinted that seeing Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau exit politics would give the Liberal leader further time to hone his dancing skills. (The National/CBC Archives)

"I understand that the prime minister was here last night tripping the light fantastic. It's nice to see him dancing the last waltz," Mulroney said while visiting Oktoberfest.

"He's a fine dancer," the Conservative leader said, adding "he needs more time to practice and we're going to try to give him that."

Mulroney seemed to be delivering a not-so-hidden hint that he and his party intended to effect Trudeau's exit from politics.

While Trudeau would announce his retirement in the months to come, his dancing skills were well known before his Oktoberfest appearance, even though that went unmentioned in Casey's report.

Dancing, also pretzels

Brian Mulroney and members of his family are seen accepting giant-sized pretzels being handed to them during a visit to the Kitchener, Ont., Oktoberfest on Oct. 15, 1983. (The National/CBC Archives)

Despite the joshing Mulroney had offered, the PC leader made a similar media splash while at Oktoberfest.

He danced with his daughter, Caroline, in full view of the news cameras, and also attended the festival with his wife, Mila, as well as sons Ben and Nicholas.

"It was that kind of a family day," Casey recapped for viewers, who saw footage of Mulroney's wife and children being handed giant pretzels on the screen.

Amid the merriment, Mulroney saw an opportunity to share his thoughts about his Liberal rival once again.

Big laughs, big polling numbers

Revellers in Kitchener, Ont., are seen enjoying the festivities at Oktoberfest on Oct. 15, 1983. (The National/CBC Archives)

 "When Mulroney found a few hundred happy revellers waiting to greet him at a beer hall after lunch, he couldn't resist trying out that line about Trudeau again," Casey said.

Mulroney repeated the "last waltz" line, drawing what Casey said was a bigger laugh from a bigger crowd.

At the close of his report, Casey said that at Oktoberfest "everyone, it seemed, was glad to see everyone else, especially the man who's at 62 per cent in the polls."

The number Casey referred to was from a recently released Gallup poll that showed the PCs as the favoured choice of 62 per cent of decided voters.

The Tories would continue to ride high in the polls through the following year, culminating in the majority government Mulroney and the party won in the 1984 general election.

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