Good Sunday Morning – March 3

Good Sunday Morning!

Greetings from the road and the leaders’ tour with stops on Vancouver Island. If you are anywhere near Nanaimo today, please drop by for Seedy Sunday! JP and I plus Deputy Leader Rainbow Eyes will be at Nanaimo District Secondary School with the great volunteers of the Nanaimo Ladysmith EDA. We had a blast yesterday in Campbell River with the North Island Powell River Greens and their candidate, Jessica Wegg.

Meanwhile, as you can imagine, the last few days have been dominated by the emotions and memories of losing a friend. Despite many obvious obstacles to such a friendship, notably that I resigned on principle leaving my role as senior policy advisor to the federal Minister of Environment in late June 1988, over the years Brian Mulroney and I became better and better friends. When I had worked in government (July 1986-1988), I was in the “Mulroney Government” but was never a Conservative party supporter. The Minister had hired me knowing that, but it meant (lucky for me I think!) that I was never in partisan back rooms. I was able to influence policy in the Minister’s office as well as in the PMO. It would be impossible to describe all the spectacular environmental victories of my time working in the environment minister’s office. Even listing the issues without detail would take pages.

As the only non-Tory in the office, all other staff did the politics and I got all the issues. I worked to help deliver strong environmental policy on issues from environmental assessment to toxic chemicals management, protecting the Great Lakes, establishing national parks from Gwaii Haanas to Ellesmere Island (Quttinirpaaq National Park) Georgian Bay, Pacific Rim and Grasslands, as well as new legislation–the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, and new institutions–the Canadian Ambassador for the Environment, and the National Round Table on Environment and Economy. Under Mulroney, Canada was an early supporter of the work of the World Commission on Environment and Development–the “Brundtland Commission”, and that led directly to leadership at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.

By far the most stunning accomplishments were won in the fight to stop acid rain, gaining agreements with the seven eastern provinces and ultimately wrangling agreement from Ronald Reagan’s White House to the negotiated treaty that saved the ozone layer-–the 1987 Montreal Protocol, and early leadership in the fight to avert the climate crisis. That commitment to address climate change when it would still have been possible to avoid levels of warming that drove glaciers into deep retreat, acidified oceans, super-stoked storms and heat domes and raging wild fires, were on full display at the seminal 1988 conference held in Toronto, “Our Changing Atmosphere; Implications for Global Security.” In his keynote address, The Right Hon. Brian Mulroney, as Canada’s Prime Minister, set the stage for a Global “Law of the Atmosphere,” arguing the first plank was acid rain, the second the protection of the ozone layer, and the third would be the imminent need to prevent global warming.

In the lead-up to the 1992 World Conference on Environment and Development, “The Earth Summit” held in Rio in June 1992, Mulroney and his Environment Ambassador, the late Arthur Campeau, resolved a number of environmental crises. At the same time, all three of us became friends in a way I could never have done as a member of the Environment Minister’s staff. By the time I got to Rio as the Executive Director of Sierra Club of Canada, carrying my infant daughter then just shy of one year old, Mulroney was a friend and one who just adored my baby girl. In the 48 hours before the opening of what was to that date the largest gathering of heads of government in the Earth’s history, US President Herbert Walker Bush attempted to kill the Treaty to protect Biological Diversity, the US pharmaceutical industry objected to the treaty’s provision that should a developing country’s ecosystems yield a valuable product for medical use, there would be “an equitable sharing of benefits”. Madagascar and the rosy periwinkle were a prime example of the lack of equity. Madagascar’s rare forests were the only habitat for the plant which had valuable pharmaceutical properties. Madagascar received nothing, undermining any economic benefit in preserving rare forests. Equitable sharing of benefits would create an incentive to preserve rare ecosystems. But Big Pharma wanted none of it. As Bush tried to kill the treaty so that it would be DOA at the Earth Summit, Mulroney saved it. Less than 24 hours after Bush’s announcement, Canada stepped up, thus averting a number of countries from joining Bush. At COP15 in December 2022 the nations of the world gathered in Montreal for the “Kunming-Montreal” conference to protect nature under the terms of the treaty Mulroney saved in 1992.

Prominent in my memories is Mulroney’s work to get Nelson Mandela out of jail and to end apartheid in South Africa.

Too partisan, I suppose, to squeeze into many interviews is the list of Mulroney’s accomplishments repealed or cancelled by Stephen Harper. Harper repealed the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, replaced by Trudeau Liberals with the weaker and flawed C-69 (under Cath McKenna, Impact Assessment Act) with portions found constitutionally inoperable by the Supreme Court of Canada), Harper also eliminated the position of Ambassador for the Environment, and repealed the Canadian National Roundtable on Environment and Economy Act, most of that done in the spring 2012 omnibus budget bill C-38. Mulroney’s delight at having friendships outside public expectations was clear. He was always available to me by phone when I needed advice or wanted to lobby him to pressure other political leaders to do the right thing.

Maude Barlow once told me a hysterical story about running into Mulroney at the Washington DC airport, so I sent her an email asking for details, and am happy to share it this Sunday morning.

From a Canadian hero! My friend Maude Barlow:

“We were waiting at the carousel in the Ronald Reagan airport for our luggage. He was on his way to meet with the Heritage Foundation in Washington, and I was on my way to the WTO ministerial in Seattle, the one that turned into the “Battle in Seattle.” He was looking around expecting to be recognized but of course most Americans don’t know anything about Canadian PMs. Mulroney saw me and recognized a familiar face I am sure before he realized who I was! He gave a big grin and came toward me and then stopped like he was thinking “Oh oh, it’s Maude Barlow”, as I was one of his biggest detractors at the time.”

“I laughed and said, “Yes, it’s me Mr. Mulroney.” We talked about where we were both off to and I told him I was off to try to shut down the WTO ministerial in Seattle and he laughed and said he was going to warn his conservative friends to be on the lookout for a feisty activist from Canada.

Then he said, “What about those Liberals, eh? Fought me on free trade, now they are the biggest free trade boosters. The Liberal scoundrels: campaign from the left, govern to the right.”

Then he linked arms with me, and we danced the “Liberal waltz” to the tune of the waltz “The Loveliest Night of the Year.”

We laughed till we bent over. Then our luggage came and we said farewell.

True story. You are most welcome to share it.”

As always, when someone one loves dies, one is left wishing for one last visit… to be sure that a friend knows how very much they have meant to you.

Obviously, many of the things Mulroney did as PM were not “successes” I would celebrate. But how it brings into sharp relief how much this country lost when the Reform Alliance crowd got rid of the Progressive Conservative Party and moved this country’s whole political spectrum to the right. And with Poilievre’s version of conservatism, a strident and divisive populism, Mulroney’s politics look positively left wing. What a job we have ahead of us to rescue democracy, protect sensible and compassionate policies and save the planet. Where I find my optimism, I really do not know, I just know that I do.

On this Sunday Morning, I am certain things are about to get much, much better.

By the way, the Green Party will have a Special General Meeting in the next month or so to finish the unfinished and critical business of last weekend’s meeting. Stay tuned for details as JP and I will need your help!

Be well and stay safe!

Love and thanks,


Saanich-Gulf Islands Greens