Philip Authier: Historians Dispute Former Canadian P.M. Mulroney's Self Assessment

Roundup: Talking About History

It is one of the biggest claims Brian Mulroney makes in Peter C. Newman's book - that he was pretty much the greatest prime minister since Sir. John A. Macdonald.

Analysts and historians, it seems, beg to differ.

Concordia University historian Graeme Decarie said he was flabbergasted Mulroney would even suggest he was one of the top leaders in Canada.

"This suggests a serious ego problem," Decarie said. "Even if he was a great prime minister, to say that would be too much. I can't imagine a Winston Churchill, who is somewhat more important, standing up and saying I am the most important prime minister Britain ever had."

Decarie said he would hardly call the goods and services tax an accomplishment. The same goes for the North American Free Trade Agreement, which the United States is choosing to ignore, and the failed Meech Lake constitutional accord, he said.

"The man's ego is insufferable and he talks like Tony Soprano," Decarie said.

As to how Mulroney will be viewed in the long term, Decarie said: "My guess is the future will see him pretty much as what he is. He's made that easy for it."

On Page 395 of Newman's book, The Secret Mulroney Tapes, Mulroney makes the statement that he feels only one previous head of government did more for Canada than he did.

"If you look at Canadian history, there was one great prime minister: Sir John A. Macdonald," Mulroney states. "There was one in terms of accomplishments who was great and then there's all the rest of us.

"By the time history is done looking at this and you look at my achievements as opposed to any others, certainly no one will ever be in Sir John A.'s league - but my nose will be a little ahead of most in terms of achievements.

"Nobody has achievements like this, Peter. I can say that to you objectively. You cannot name a Canadian prime minister who has done as many significant things as I did, because there are none."

McGill University historian Desmond Morton said Canadians are not buying Mulroney's statement - at least, not so far.

"I know history," Morton said. "I don't know the future. My students all think (Pierre) Tru-deau's wonderful because their mommies and daddies told them. I don't agree, but I have my own reasons."

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