How Brian Mulroney got started

You can learn a lot by not asking about the scandals

When we interviewed Brian Mulroney for Kickstart: How Successful Canadians Got Started, it was back in the winter of 2006, well before anyone knew much about Karlheinz & co. It was probably better that way. It seems like when a scandal hits, that’s all anyone wants to talk about, journalists especially. Instead, our discussion with Mulroney was relaxed and amicable, allowing us to focus on our real purpose, finding out what he did in his twenties.

The interesting thing about Mulroney — we could almost call it inspirational — is that, he was, in the words of Peter C. Newman, Canada’s first working class Prime Minister. He grew up in the small, remote town of Baie-Comeau on Quebec’s north shore (hit Quebec City and keep going ’til dawn), where he spoke English and French with equal frequency. His father was an electrician who gave the young Brian at least one piece of propitious advice: “The only way out of a mill town is through a university door.” The man had also worked on the electrical rigging of the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, a fact that Mulroney often mentioned (boasted?) when welcoming foreign leaders into its wood-pannelled grandeur.

We learned many other interesting anecdotes about the man, most of which ended up in the book. The most revealing thing about writing a book about well-known people in their twenties is that that period in people’s lives is usually relatively uncontroversial. When he meets with reporters, Mulroney is likely asked the same question 99 per cent of the time. Did he accept payments when holding office, etc.? But people can really open up when you ask about a more simple, hopeful time in their lives. And a lot can be learned from it too.

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