Only a month before his election with the largest majority victory in Canadian history, Brian Mulroney promised his fellow Quebecers that he would end their symbolic exclusion from Canada’s reformed constitution. “We are on the threshold of true national renewal,” he famously said in an election speech at Sept-Iles, Quebec. “Let us end the bias of confrontation with the bias of agreement. Let us open avenues to solutions instead of putting up obstacles. Let us listen in order to understand rather than condemn without hearing… To me, the Canadian federation is not a test of strength between different governments. Federal power is more than that of a policeman whose nightstick happens to be bigger than those of the others.”
Later, in political retirement, Mulroney reflected on this speech in his best-selling Memoirs. He described the speech as a “seminal moment” in his career. “I announced to Quebecers that we (the Progressive Conservatives) had no interest in constitutional reform, Trudeau-style,” he wrote. “Instead, we would accomplish change through the laboratory that is the economy. And when conditions were ripe, and economic conditions improved, Quebec, as I said that day, would want to sign the Constitution of Canada with ‘honour and enthusiasm.’”
Arthur Milnes is an accomplished public historian and award-winning journalist. He was research assistant on The Rt. Hon. Brian Mulroney’s best-selling Memoirs and also served as a speechwriter to then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper and as a Fellow of the Queen’s Centre for the Study of Democracy under the leadership of Tom Axworthy. A resident of Kingston, Ontario, Milnes serves as the in-house historian at the 175 year-old Frontenac Club Hotel.