Brian Mulroney says economy, security record gives Harper election 'advantage'

In an interview with BBC News, former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney says Stephen Harper's economic stewardship, combined with his anti-terrorism efforts, may give Stephen Harper the advantage he needs on the campaign trail this fall.

Former prime minister tells BBC News his constitutional reform failures remain a 'regret'

Ex-PM Brian Mulroney says that Stephen Harper's record on economic and security issues gives him an advantage "at least at the moment," but it will be "tough for anyone to break through" in the 2015 election. 0:30

Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney says Stephen Harper's economic stewardship, combined with his anti-terrorism efforts, may give Stephen Harper the advantage he needs on the campaign trail this fall.

Mulroney made the comments in an interview with BBC News.

"It's going to be a tough election," he noted.

"There are three major parties, almost neck and neck, one Conservative, the Liberals and the NDP, which is our socialist party, and it's going to be pretty tough for any one to break through. But I think that on the basis of his economic record, and his stand on terror, Prime Minister Harper has, at least at the moment, an advantage."

The British broadcaster also invited Mulroney to share both his regrets, and the things he "looks back on with pleasure" from his ten years in office.

Constitutional reform 'remains a regret'

'I think the role that Canada assumed in the liberation of Nelson Mandela, our fight against apartheid, the Canada-United States acid rain treaty that I negotiated with President Bush, and the Canada-United States free trade agreement that I did with President Reagan, on the positive side," Mulroney said.

As for his regrets it would seem his failures on the constitutional front still top the list. 

"There was a constitutional initiative that we brought forward, that, while unanimously endorsed by all of the premiers and the federal government, at the end … didn't pass, and that remains a regret for me today," he said.

"By and large, I view the whole experience, with the ups and downs of political life, as having been extremely positive."

Praise for Harper's economic record

In an interview with CBC Radio in Montreal last fall, Mulroney described Harper as a "very consequential prime minister."

"I've said dozens of times that I think on the economic record alone … the government should be re-elected with a majority just on the basis of the quite impressive way that they've handled the economy now for eight years," he said.

But in conversation with CBC Radio's The House, Mulroney noted that all three federal party leaders are "very tough and effective people."

"[There's] Prime Minister Harper, who's tough, and able and a strong leader with a good economic record, you've got Justin Trudeau, who's attractive and young with a resilient political party behind them … and Thomas Mulcair, who is probably the best Opposition leader since John Diefenbaker," he told Evan Solomon.

Former PM fan of debates

He also suggested to Solomon that the debates — which, at the time, were generally expected to follow the traditional format established by Canada's major television networks in the past  — could be a factor in the ultimate electoral outcome.
In an interview with BBC News, former prime minister Brian Mulroney said he thinks Stephen Harper will have an advantage when voters head to the polls this fall. (BBC)

"I think a lot is going to happen prior to the campaign of course, but in the television debates I think it could be a replay of what happened in 1984. There could be something significant happen," Mulroney suggested, adding that he wouldn't count any of the leaders out.

"They're all extremely able. They can punch above their weight too. And all it takes is nine or 10 seconds in a television debate and the world has changed."

Earlier this month, the Conservative Party announced that Harper would not be taking part in any debates run by the major broadcasters.

Instead, the party has chosen to accept invitations extended by stand-alone media outlets, including Maclean's/Rogers, French-language network TVA, a joint proposal from The Globe and Mail and Google and the Munk Debates.

It is not yet known which, if any, of those debates will be televised live across the country.

Brian Mulroney talks to BBC News about Stephen Harper's chances for re-election as well as his own record as prime minister. 4:13


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