Brian Mulroney, soon to become Canada's prime minister after his landslide election victory yesterday, is known here as the "Red Tory," more interested in compromise than confrontation with his ideological opponents.
Although 211 Progressive Conservatives will be seated in the new Parliament's 282-member House of Commons, their huge majority is unlikely to trigger a bitter Conservative-Liberal confrontation.
And while Mulroney advocates better ties with the United States and discussed the shaping of his campaign with White House officials, the Conservative leader is seen here as an independent political figure, not a replica of Reagan or of British Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Mulroney has been a strong advocate of strategic arms talks with Moscow and a consistent backer of the kind of social programs that Reagan and Thatcher have sought to dismantle. He also has made it clear that he places Canadian business and industrial interests ahead of any need to harmonize ideologically with Washington.
The White House said that Reagan, campaigning in Chicago, telephoned his congratulations to Mulroney Wednesday and expressed his readiness to work with the Canadian leader "to the mutual benefit of both Canada and the United States," according to Reuter. The State Department said it expects continued "close and effective" ties with Canada, The Associated Press reported.
More than anything else, as his sweeping triumph indicates, Mulroney has shown himself to have a broad appeal, carrying a centrist message of restraint and hope.
The Toronto Globe and Mail reported today that Mulroney and outgoing Liberal Prime Minister John N. Turner will meet by early next week to plan the transfer of power. Mulroney, like Turner a Catholic, is said to want to be sworn into office by Sept. 17, while Pope John Paul II is still in Canada. The pope's visit, to begin next week, will end here in the capital Sept. 20.
Interest in the pontiff's tour, which is already strong, has been matched by heightened apprehension for his safety after the blast in Montreal's central railroad station that killed three on Monday. Police have detained a 65-year-old American, Thomas Brigham, in connection with their investigation of the blast, which injured 47.
Mulroney's timing also will be affected by a meeting of the Commonwealth finance ministers scheduled to open Sept. 19 in Toronto. The new Tory finance minister would chair the sessions.
Mulroney and Turner are expected to set a date for the installation of the new Cabinet and for Mulroney's swearing-in by the governor general. The two leaders also will set a date for Mulroney to move his family into the prime minister's official residence at 24 Sussex Dr. He and his wife, Mila, have three children. Turner spent barely two months there, the second shortest tenure at the top for any leader in the country's 117-year history.
The broad nature of Mulroney's victory is reflected in the fact that the Tories won one vote out of every two, drawing strength in every region of the country and appealing to every economic and cultural segment of Canada's 25 million citizens.
The landslide was generated both by a palpable demand for change after nearly 20 years of Liberal domination and by Mulroney's repeated assertion that his will be a government of reconciliation.
In his victory speech early this morning at a hockey arena in Baie-Comeau, the small city on the north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence where he was born, Mulroney, 45, underscored his determination to embrace many factions as prime minister. "I invite the provincial governments, the trade unions, and business to work with us without reservation . . . so as to unlock our differences."
Mulroney's task of easing traditional federal-provincial strains, exacerbated during the long reign of Pierre Trudeau, will be eased by the fact that the Tories control seven of the 10 provincial legislatures.
Mulroney's penchant for compromise was honed during more than four years when he negotiated a series of shutdowns and cutbacks as president of the Iron Ore Co. of Canada. During the campaign Mulroney endorsed expenditures for social welfare programs fashioned by the Liberals since the early 1960s. His views on these domestic programs have earned him the nickname, "The Red Tory." Although he has pledged to reduce the federal debt and tackle Ottawa's growing bureaucracy, Mulroney also has advocated job training and other expensive federal programs to help Canadian business and industry reduce unemployment, which stands at about 12 percent.
And although he advocates improved relations with the United States, there is what one long-time observer here calls "an agenda of down-home issues" that have troubled U.S.-Canadian relations for years, sometimes overshadowing the fact that the two nations are the world's largest trading partners.
These issues cover a wide range, from Canadian complaints about acid rain to historic Canadian worries over U.S. economic penetration. Canada is concerned about U.S. regulations that long-haul truckers say have impaired their business and about protectionist sentiments in Congress that could further erode markets for this country's hard-hit steel industry. There has been bilateral friction over offshore oil rights, fishing rights and energy programs.
"There might be a readiness in the new government for 'affinity' with Washington," one observer said, "but relations between us often are governed by very concrete economic concerns." Mulroney has pledged to expand the Canadian job market by as much as 1 million, a task that will not be easy even with complete cooperation from Washington in expanding this nation's industry.
In addition, whatever their domestic politics, Canadians in the past two years have voiced increasing alarm over Reagan's sharp anti-Soviet rhetoric, the breakdown of strategic arms negotiations, and the massive U.S. military spending program. A recent assertion by British military experts that Canada's own defenses are in need of substantial improvement has sparked little discussion here compared with the concern expressed over U.S. military spending.
In his victory speech, Mulroney fervently pledged to press for world peace. During the campaign he drew applause when he told audiences that he had urged Reagan to seek peace with the Kremlin.
Canada's financial markets seemed unimpressed, as stock and bond prices fell and the Canadian dollar weakened, Reuter reported from Toronto. "The Canadian economy hasn't yet gone over the brink but it's close," said Carl Beigie, chief economist of Dominion Securities Pitifield, Canada's largest brokerage firm.
[Investors seemed to be withholding any jubilation over voter rejection of the Liberal Party until Mulroney makes clear how he will deal with Canada's struggling economy, said Reuter. Even so, some analysts were surprised that markets showed no response to the expectations that Canada now will be more pro-business and have a better climate for domestic and foreign investors.]