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Former Finance Minister and Diplomat Michael Wilson Dies at Age 81

A former Progressive Conservative MP for Etobicoke Centre, Wilson served in Parliament for more than ten years. He was finance minister and minister of international trade under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. Wilson was Canada’s ambassador to the United States from 2006 to 2009 and served as chancellor of the University of Toronto from 2012 to 2018.

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Conservative Party

The Conservative Party was the founding political party of Canada, governing for the first 29 years after Confederation. Since then, the party has not been as electorally successful as its rival Liberals. The Conservatives have had periods in power and long periods in opposition. The party has been most successful when it was able to assemble a national coalition of anglophone conservatives from the West and Ontario, and nationalists from Quebec. The party is currently led by interim leader Candice Bergen.

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Meech Lake Accord

In 1987, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney attempted to win Quebec’s consent to the revised Canadian Constitution. The result was the Meech Lake Accord. It was an agreement between the federal and provincial governments to amend (change) the Constitution. The Accord proposed strengthening provincial powers and declaring Quebec a “distinct society.” The Accord was never put into effect. Political support for it unravelled in 1990. Many Québécois saw the Accord’s failure in English Canada as a rejection of Quebec. Support for separatism soared in Quebec and led to the 1995 Quebec Referendum.

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Brian Mulroney

Martin Brian Mulroney, PC, CC, GOQ, lawyer, businessman, politician, prime minister of Canada 1984 to 1993 (born 20 March 1939 in Baie-Comeau, QC). Former Progressive Conservative Party leader Brian Mulroney helped his party win the most seats ever (211) in the 1984 election. As prime minister, he signed a landmark free trade deal with the United States and Mexico (NAFTA) and oversaw passage of the unpopular Goods and Services Tax (GST). He also spent much political capital trying unsuccessfully to persuade Quebec to sign the Constitution. (See Meech Lake Accord; Charlottetown Accord.) Mulroney took a strong stance against apartheid and made great strides in protecting the environment. But his historically low popularity led to an unprecedented defeat in 1993, which sent the Conservative Party into disarray for a decade.

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Meech Lake Accord (Plain-Language Summary)

The Meech Lake Accord was a failed attempt to add Quebec’s consent to the Constitution. It would have made provincial powers stronger. It also would have declared Quebec a “distinct society.” Support for the Accord fell apart in 1990. Many Québécois saw this as a rejection of Quebec. Support for separatism soared there. It eventually led to the 1995 Quebec Referendum.

(This article is a plain-language summary of the Meech Lake Accord. If you are interested in reading about this topic in more depth, please see our full-length entry, Meech Lake Accord.)

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Cabinet

In Canada’s parliamentary system of government, the cabinet is the committee of ministers that holds executive power. Cabinets are chaired by the prime minister (or in the provinces, by the premier). Ministers are typically elected politicians drawn from the party holding the most seats in the House of Commons (or the provincial legislature). Cabinets are traditionally strong, consensus-driven bodies; although some believe their influence is waning in the face of powerful prime ministers and their advisers.

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Kim Campbell

Avril Phaedra Douglas Campbell, PC, CC, QC, OBC, lawyer, professor, politician, Canada’s prime minister 25 June 1993 to 3 November 1993, diplomat, global advocate for education, democracy and women’s issues (born 10 March 1947 in Port Alberni, BC). Kim Campbell became Canada's first — and still only — female prime minister when she assumed the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party following Brian Mulroney's resignation. She was also Canada’s first female justice minister and attorney general; Canada’s first female minister of national defence and of veterans affairs; the first woman to represent a member country at a NATO meeting; and the first prime minister from British Columbia. She has received the Order of British Columbia and numerous honorary degrees and is a Companion of the Order of Canada.

Editorial

Japanese Canadian Internment: Prisoners in their own Country

Beginning in early 1942, the Canadian government detained and dispossessed more than 90 per cent of Japanese Canadians, some 21,000 people, living in British Columbia. They were detained under the War Measures Act and were interned for the rest of the Second World War. Their homes and businesses were sold by the government to pay for their detention. In 1988, Prime Minister  Brian Mulroney apologized on behalf of the Canadian government for the wrongs it committed against Japanese Canadians. The government also made symbolic redress payments and repealed the War Measures Act.

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Charlottetown Accord

The Charlottetown Accord of 1992 was a failed attempt by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and all 10 provincial premiers to amend the Canadian Constitution. The goal was to obtain Quebec’s consent to the Constitution Act, 1982. The Accord would have recognized Quebec as a distinct society; decentralized many federal powers to the provinces; addressed the issue of Indigenous self-government; and reformed the Senate and the House of Commons. The Accord had the approval of the federal government and all 10 provincial governments. But it was rejected by Canadian voters in a referendum on 26 October 1992.

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Charlottetown Accord (Plain-Language Summary)

The Charlottetown Accord of 1992 was a failed attempt to add Quebec’s consent to the Constitution. The Accord would have recognized Quebec as a “distinct society.” It would have given many federal powers to the provinces; addressed the issue of Indigenous self-government; and reformed the Senate and the House of Commons. The Accord was approved by the federal government and all 10 provinces. But it was rejected by the public in a referendum on 26 October 1992.

(This article is a plain-language summary of the Charlottetown Accord. If you are interested in reading about this topic in more depth, please see our full-length entry, Charlottetown Accord.)

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Canadian Foreign Relations

Throughout its history, Canada has taken a series of steps to develop from a British colony into an independent nation. Both the First and Second World War were turning points; Canada’s military sacrifices gave it the strength and confidence to demand its own voice on the world stage. In the postwar era, Canada maintained its role in both Western and global alliances. (See NATO; NORAD; GATT.) However, economics have shaped Canadian diplomacy to a remarkable extent. Because of the United States’ singular importance to Canadian security and trade, relations with the US have dominated Canada’s foreign policy since Confederation.

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Constitutional History of Canada

The Constitution of Canada is the country’s governing legal framework. It defines the powers of the executive branches of government and of the legislatures at both the federal and provincial levels. Canada’s Constitution is not one legal document. It is a complex mix of statutes, orders, British and Canadian court decisions, and generally accepted practices known as constitutional conventions. The Constitution has been in constant evolution from colonial times to the present day. The story of the Constitution is the story of Canada itself. It reflects the shifting legal, social and political pressures facing Canadians, as well as their choices as a society.