Sunday, July 14, 2024

Remembering Mulroney

Reflections by Pontiacers Lucille Hodgins and Jon Stewart on the passing of the former prime minister

In the spring of 1968 there was a federal election and my dad, Lee Hodgins, was helping his old friend Paul Martineau who was running for the Progressive Conservatives.
There was a rally planned in Shawville and Dad called the PC headquarters in Ottawa and asked if they had a speaker to warm up the crowd.
Unfortunately, they said they didn’t have anyone available to go to the Pontiac. Dad pushed back and said, “Come on, you must have somebody you can send up here.”
After some back and forth, he was told about a young lawyer, but they said he wasn’t a part of their election campaign speaking roster, so they didn’t know how well it would work. Dad asked his name and where he was from, and the answer was Brian Mulroney from Baie-Comeau.
Dad said, “Mulroney, he’s Irish. Send him, he’ll fit in here just fine.” And he did. For years after, Dad would tell the story about how Pontiac gave the future Prime Minister his start on the hustings!

Lucille Hodgins, Shawville

When was the last time you had a civil discussion about politics? Not with someone you agree with, but with someone who disagrees? Forget politics, how about just having a civil disagreement with someone? It’s probably been a while.
With the passing of former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, I am reminded of a time when we could discuss important issues without resorting to name calling. The Mulroney-Turner debate of 1984 - with its iconic “you had an option, sir” moment - is often cited as the high point of Canadian political debate. Look at us now - shouting matches and sound clips designed to feed the rabid base of all colours - red, blue, orange and green.
When I do end up having civil discussions about politics, people are often surprised to hear that I define myself as a conservative. My beliefs don’t square with much of what the big “C” party is spewing these days. To avoid confusion, I often have to preface it by saying I’m a “Brian Mulroney Conservative” to distinguish myself from the current rabble.
I believe that climate change is real, that women have the right to choose, that sex and gender are not the same, and that wearing a mask to protect the vulnerable is the least I can do. I also believe in fiscal responsibility, that investing in business helps grow the economy, and that every new law should be scrutinized to ensure that it has the minimum infringement on our existing freedoms.
Mulroney wouldn’t be accepted as a new member of today’s Conservative Party. Do you want to stop acid rain? No… that’s fiction. End systemic racism in South Africa? No… that’s too woke. Raise taxes because we’re spending too much? Whoa, boy.
I grew up idolizing the big, tall, Irish man from a remote Quebec logging community not unlike ours. You might not have agreed with him, but at least you could get along - as former Prime Minister Jean Chretien put it, he and Mulroney were “adversaries, not enemies.” Brian Mulroney will be missed by his friends, family and those who knew him best. I will miss the symbol of how someone can be progressive and conservative at the same time - and still be civil when disagreeing.
We too have choices.

Jon Stewart, Ladysmith


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