By BILL TIELEMAN, 24 HOURS
Former Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney can not only still draw a crowd, he can pry old Tories right out of the woodwork.
Former Social Credit Attorney-General Bud Smith, left, speaks to former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, with Conservative government political aide Colin Metcalfe in centre and longtime Tory supporter and lawyer Lyall Knott at right.
At a Vancouver appearance Tuesday to launch his book Memoirs 1939-1993, Mulroney charmed a gathering that included a large part of his 1984 campaign team, as well as an impressive list of politicians, not all Conservatives.
After entering to a rousing ovation Mulroney quipped: "What the hell - why not another term?"
But Mulroney's most eloquent words were for former South African president Nelson Mandela, who has thanked the former PM for helping free him and his country from apartheid.
"South Africa was a vulgar and vile prison for 90 per cent of its population," Mulroney said.
The crowd included former provincial Social Credit cabinet ministers Grace McCarthy and Bud Smith and former Mulroney cabinet ministers Mary Collins and John Reynolds.
Current office-holders included Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan and councillor Peter Ladner, B.C. Liberal cabinet ministers John Les and Stan Hagen, B.C. Liberal MLA Ralph Sultan, Conservative MP James Moore, cabinet minister Gary Lunn and Senator Gerry St. Germain and even New Democrat MLA Bruce Ralston.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION NOT PUBLISHED IN 24 HOURS
Also spotted at the Fraser Institute-sponsored event - the Pace Group's Norman Stowe, a longtime Conservative activist who remembered being in the same hotel in 1993 watching the disastrous federal election results that left the party with just two MPs and then-Prime Minister Kim Campbell with no seat.
Patrick Kinsella, BC Liberal fixer, racehorse owner and confidente to Premier Gordon Campbell was there, as was Greg D'Avignon, National Brewers President for western Canada, a former special assistant to Kim Campbell and more recently BC Liberal campaign manager to Virginia Greene in Vancouver-Fairview in the 2005 election. and Byng Giraud, a Conservative national councillor and senior consultant with Earnscliffe Strategy Group.
Additional Conservative pedigrees attending included Ray Castelli, Kim Campbell's former chief of staff and now President of Naikun Wind Development, an independent private power producer, and Lyall Knott, the powerful Tory operative most recently in the news for his past work for Francesco Aquilini in the controversial and court-contested acquisition of the Vancouver Canucks.
Other notables noticed were Tung Chan, CEO of S.U.C.C.E.S.S. immigrant services organization and former Non-Partisan Association Vancouver councilor, Peter Armstrong, CEO of Rocky Mountain Rail Tours and a huge BC Liberal Party financial donor, and John Aisenstat, a former Belinda Stronach campaign organizer when she ran for the Tory leadership who also ran John Reynolds 2004 election campaign.
Also attending were my 24 hours columnist colleagues Erin Airton and Alex Tsakumis, both Conservative activists in many campaigns, who were seen clutching Mulroney’s massive book, which weighs in at a 1152 pages!
The photo at left - and the copy of Mulroney's book I am holding - can both be credited to Colin Metcalfe.
Canaccord Capital chair Peter Brown - a friend of Brian Mulroney's since both were university students in the 1960s, sponsored the event for the Fraser Institute and told Mulroney: "Brian, you were probably the best friend the west ever had in Ottawa."
Mulroney told the crowd that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is doing a "fantastic" job.
Mulroney added that he told Harper recently: "That every prime minister has to learn humility. I didn't but all the rest did."
Mulroney also said that "the GST was entirely Michael Wilson's idea" to many laughs, and then added: "But I guess it doesn't matter now because Jean Chretien abolished it, didn't he?" to more applause.
The former prime minister listed what he saw as the many accomplishments of his government - the Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, abolishing the National Energy Program of Pierre Trudeau, the Atlantic Accord and the Acid Rain Treaty, as well as reducing the deficit as a percentage of gross domestic product.
"In the fullness of time history will judge me," Mulroney said. "It is not a verdict I fear."
But Mulroney did not explain how with all these accomplishments, the Conservative Party was humiliated and nearly destroyed just months after he left office in the election campaign of 1993 under his successor Kim Campbell.