New Brunswick

Bernard Valcourt compares Stephen Harper and Brian Mulroney

Bernard Valcourt is the only minister to serve in the cabinets of both Stephen Harper, the current Conservative prime minister, and former Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney. And that gives the New Brunswick politician a unique ability to compare the two men.

'Prime Minister Harper is not a product of Bay Street...He is really the common guy,' says Valcourt

Conservative Bernard Valcourt compares working in the cabinets of Brian Mulroney and Stephen Harper 2:28

Bernard Valcourt occupies a unique position: he is the only minister to serve in the cabinets of both Stephen Harper, the current Conservative prime minister, and former Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney.

And that gives the longtime New Brunswick politician a unique ability to compare the two men.

Valcourt was first elected in Mulroney's PC wave of 1984 and held several ministerial portfolios before losing in the 1993 election.

Mulroney 'much more linked, I think, to the business world'- Bernard Valcourt, Conservative candidate 

The aboriginal affairs minister and the Conservative candidate in Madawaska-Restigouche made a comeback under Harper in 2011.

"When I decided to run 2011, I looked carefully at the platform of the Conservative Party of Canada, and I compared this with the platform we had in those days with Mulroney, and honestly, there's no difference," he told CBC News.

"What was being advocated in terms of encouraging small business, trying to embrace innovation, technology, free trade — this is the same agenda, with better results."

Harper better relates to middle class: Valcourt

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney arrive at a dinner held in Mulroney's honour in 2007. (The Canadian Press)
Valcourt points out there is a difference between the two Tory leaders: Harper is better at tapping into the sentiments of suburban, middle-class voters.

"I think with Prime Minister Harper, what we must admit, the concern is about the taxpayers and the families," Valcourt said in an interview at his Edmundston campaign office.

"Prime Minister Harper is not a product of Bay Street. He's not from la rue St-Jacques [business district of Montreal]. He is really the common guy, and it's in his gut."

That dovetails with how other analysts describe Harper — raised in the Toronto suburbs, he's very good at responding to the preoccupations of people with similar economic backgrounds.

Mulroney, the son of an electrician from the working-class mill town of Baie-Comeau, Quebec, also has "common guy" roots, but, Valcourt said, Mulroney is also "much more linked, I think, to the business world."

Harper on the other hand, while trained as an economist to grasp the big picture, "has got this concern, this respect for taxpayers."

Still, Valcourt said, "you cannot compare individuals, or characters … When I look at the policies, Brian was, and Prime Minister Harper is, determined to make Canada a better place in the world."

About the Author

Jacques Poitras

Provincial Affairs reporter

Jacques Poitras has been CBC's provincial affairs reporter in New Brunswick since 2000. Raised in Moncton, he also produces the CBC political podcast Spin Reduxit.

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