Pierre Poilievre must make an appeal to Canada’s political centre if he wants to win government, former prime minister Brian Mulroney says he told the new Conservative Leader this week over dinner.
Recounting the three-hour Monday gathering at Stornoway, the residence of the leader of the Official Opposition, Mr. Mulroney said Mr. Poilievre can only go so far with his own caucus and constituencies, and therefore has to go beyond them.
“You have got to go fish where the fish are and so we talked about that,” Mr. Mulroney said in an interview with The Globe and Mail on Thursday. “You only win elections in Canada from the centre. You cannot win an election from either extreme. This has been proven time and time again. And anyone who wants to test that theory? Be my guest.”
Mr. Poilievre invited the Mulroneys to dinner when he knew that the former Progressive Conservative leader would be in Ottawa this week to deliver a eulogy to Queen Elizabeth. Mr. Poilievre’s wife, Anaida, also attended.
“I said to Mila, ‘What would you like to do?’ She said, ‘I think we should accept, stop by and see them,’ ” said Mr. Mulroney, now 83.
Mr. Mulroney said the new Conservative Leader asked “perceptive questions” about politics and listened carefully to the answers. “It doesn’t mean he agreed with my answers, but he took it all in,” Mr. Mulroney said.
Mr. Poilievre wanted to know how he led the Progressive Conservatives to victory in the 1984 election with a massive majority, Mr. Mulroney said, and then how he won another majority in 1988.
“He was very interested in the strategic aspects of the decisions I had to make that brought us the first back-to-back majorities of a Conservative prime minister in a hundred years.
“I answered all of his questions, and pointed out both the pitfalls and the benefits of doing certain things.”
It would be the first time, said Mr. Mulroney, that he had been at the residence since he was opposition leader himself between 1983 and 1984.
Mr. Mulroney said the invitation was a wise move on Mr. Poilievre’s part.
“As Churchill said, ‘In victory, magnanimity,’ ” he said. “If you have a leader who reaches out to his opponents, people who didn’t support him in the party, bringing them together in focus of winning the next election, then you’ve got the right leader, and he has the right attitude.”
In addition to an appeal to the political centre, Mr. Mulroney said Mr. Poilievre will need a “grand vision” for Canada, a good environmental policy and an informed international approach to guide the Conservatives to victory.
He said Ms. Poilievre – “a dynamite wife” – can help the new leader as Mila Mulroney was of assistance to him. “Mila helped me enormously secure the leadership of the party, and to win the election. My sense is that [Ms. Poilievre] is cut from the same cloth. She can be a major asset to Pierre Poilievre, softening the edges, giving him good counsel and developing her own band of supporters across the country.”
Mr. Poilievre has been reaching out to prominent Conservative outsiders to his campaign as he settles into his new job as opposition leader.
Jean Charest who bore the brunt of scathing attacks from Mr. Poilievre during the months-long leadership race, had a recent telephone conversation with the new leader, says Laurence Tôth, a spokesperson for the former Quebec premier.
“The conversation was polite and courteous,” she said in a statement.
And Erin O’Toole, who was ousted by the Conservative caucus last February precipitating the leadership race that Mr. Poilievre won, has talked with Mr. Poilievre.
“I had a very good conversation with the new leader by phone a few days after his victory,” Mr. O’Toole said in a statement. “I congratulated him on the win and we spoke about the issues facing the country and need for unity. He knows I am here to help or provide advice as needed.”
The dinner with Mr. Mulroney took place after former Conservative MP Alain Rayes, a Mr. Charest supporter, was targeted by a Conservative texting campaign. It urged party members in his Quebec riding to seek his resignation because he had stepped down to become an independent in the wake of Mr. Poilievre’s win. In a tweet, the party apologized.
“That was a blunder,” Mr. Mulroney said. “You can’t set out on a charm offensive with the party, the caucus and the country and have situations where your people go off and do things like that.”