Poisoned Chalice: How the Tories Self-Destructed

Poisoned Chalice: How the Tories Self-Destructed

by David McLaughlin

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Overview

Poisoned Chalice chronicles the fateful end of the federal Progressive Conservative government in Ottawa. The Progressive Conservative Party sought to remake itself by choosing the first woman prime minister in Canadian history, but failed to heed the lessons of Meech or Charlottetown. Their strategy nearly worked. By the time the election was called, the Tories were neck and neck with Jean Chrétien's Liberals. Then it all fell apart. This book, published exactly one year after the event, tells how and why it happened.

It gives a day-by-day account of an election campaign seemingly doomed to failure. It covers the strategy, tactics and political machinations that drove the Conservative campaign from the point of view of someone "on the bus." Read the strategy memos given to Kim Campbell. Listen in on her election-night phone call to Jean Chrétien. Relive Kim Campbell's campaigh from one end of the country to the other.

More than just that, Poisoned Chalice asks fundamental questions about how one of the founding political parties of Canada could come to such an ignominious state. Does the Progressive Conservative Party have a future? Has it been overtaken for good by Reform? This book takes the reader back to the seeds of the Tories' defeat, from the constitutional debate and referendum, to the Conservative leadership race that never was, to Kim Campbell's shining summer, to the electoral devastation of just two seats.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781459718586
Publisher: Dundurn Press
Publication date: 01/10/1994
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 322
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

David McLaughlin has worked with PC governments in New Brunswick and Ottawa for over 13 years as a senior aide. In 1993 he was appointed as chief of staff to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. He went on to serve Kim Campbell as a senior political and policy adviser during the 1993 election campaign. In 2006 he was named chief of staff to federal Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty in the new Conservative Party of Canada government.

He has a BA in history and political science from Mount Allison University, an MA in international affairs from Carleton University, and an MBA from the University of Bath (England).

Read an Excerpt

I wrote this book because the events were so compelling. To even the most partisan observer, there is only one real story from the 1993 election campaign: the historic and crushing defeat of Canada’s oldest political party – a party that pre-dates Confederation. The reverberations of the Progressive Conservative Party’s loss are still being felt in today’s House of Commons, on the nature and content of political discourse in the country and, of course, amongst Tories still searching for the explanation, the meaning, and the solution to the electoral disaster that befell them on October 25, 1993.

It is also a compelling story because of the meteoric rise and fall of Kim Campbell. She remains a historic figure in the country as its first female Prime Minister but only a passing symbol to the Party that chose her as its Leader for six months. Campbell remains a contradiction for many who observed her and worked for her. She seemed so right for the time. Intelligent, vivacious, outspoken, yet insular and contradictory, her role in the election campaign she waged will be mulled over by Conservatives for some time to come.

I surprised myself, to some extent, in writing this book. As a former political aide, I was schooled in the belief that we should have “a passion for anonymity.” Having done so for over ten years, it is perhaps time to part the shadows and offer my perspective. The events of October, 1993, have “liberated” me, so to speak. During my time in politics I worked for Progressive Conservative governments in New Brunswick and in Ottawa. I was a political and policy aide to several federal Cabinet Ministers, two Prime Ministers, and one former party leader. I was first a senior policy adviser to Brian Mulroney and, at the end, his Chief of Staff. For Kim Campbell, I spent the most intense political time anyone can have: on a bus and plane during an election campaign as a policy adviser, speech-writer, and event-briefer. It was at once, fascinating, frustrating, intensive, and inspiring. Even knowing the outcome in advance, I would not have missed it. It was always a privilege to work at the side of so many dedicated public officials. I had the opportunity to sit in the Cabinet room (quietly and at the back, mind you), and listen in on some of most engaging discussions affecting the country. Never did I really consider that a situation would occur, either personally or politically, that would coax me into shedding that anonymity and “coming out”.

This foreword is the only section of the book in which the reader will find “the first person” writing style (aside from an occasional footnote). I chose to tell this story in the third person to discipline myself to remain as dispassionate and independent in judgment as possible in my recounting of what happened. Although I was there “in the room,” literally, at times, this book is not about what I did or did not do; that would be too easy. I am not trying to settle scores. Nor am I trying to keep score. In politics, one grows to understand (if never entirely accept) that everyone’s motives are questioned. I will let the reader judge how successful my approach has been.

To that end, I believe every non-fiction author should declare his or her biases up-front, so readers can factor them in while coming to their own conclusions. My biases, therefore, are as follows: I worked for and still admire Brian Mulroney, Kim Campbell, Bernard Valcourt, and Joe Clark for what they did and what they tried to do. I gave Kim Campbell two votes at the leadership convention on June 13, 1993, because I thought the Party and government needed to change and she was the best agent of that change. I was on the bus or plane for the full campaign (minus a couple of days due to bronchitis) and grew to like all of the people with whom I worked, some of whom appear in this book. I wrote a number of Kim Campbell’s speeches and gave her some clip lines or sound bites that made it into the papers or onto the news, but I never wrote one speech single-handedly or had to bear the burden of that process alone. I disagreed with some of the decisions taken by campaign headquarters and given to those on the bus to carry out; to that end, I was part of the communications and dysfunctional problem that set in between Kim Campbell’s tour and Ottawa. Indeed, my view of the election campaign may be both limited and coloured by the vantage point from which I saw it. On occasion, the reader will come across the critical euphemism “senior advisers” in reference to Kim Campbell. I include myself, in several instances, as part of that group.

Finally, a note on sources and footnotes. Wherever possible, I have used actual transcripts or published speeches to ensure accuracy. These have been supplemented by newspaper accounts containing actual quotations. As they are on the public record, I decided not to footnote them. Forty-one separate interviews were conducted (two individuals were present for a joint interview), either in person (32) or by phone (10). Each of the quotations was verified with the person for accuracy. As with most media interviews, several quotations remain unattributed. This was done to encourage free expression while avoiding any personal embarrassment. Quotations from unpublished documents are from my own files. The interpretation of those documents, the events surrounding them, along with any other event, incident, or situation covered in the book is mine alone.

Now, please read on and come to your own conclusions.

Table of Contents

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
FOREWORD
PREFACE
1. Introduction
2. “Just Say No”: The Constitutional Debate
3. Legacy: The Mulroney Government
4. Leadership ’93: The Race That Never Was
5. Countdown: Campbell Takes Charge
ILLUSTRATIONS
6. Sunset at Sunrise: The Tories Debut – Campaign ’93
7. Meltdown: The Tories Collapse – Campaign ’93
8. Conclusion: Whodunnit?
9. Epilogue: “And Then There Were Two”
NOTES
INDEX

Preface

I wrote this book because the events were so compelling. To even the most partisan observer, there is only one real story from the 1993 election campaign: the historic and crushing defeat of Canada’s oldest political party – a party that pre-dates Confederation. The reverberations of the Progressive Conservative Party’s loss are still being felt in today’s House of Commons, on the nature and content of political discourse in the country and, of course, amongst Tories still searching for the explanation, the meaning, and the solution to the electoral disaster that befell them on October 25, 1993.

It is also a compelling story because of the meteoric rise and fall of Kim Campbell. She remains a historic figure in the country as its first female Prime Minister but only a passing symbol to the Party that chose her as its Leader for six months. Campbell remains a contradiction for many who observed her and worked for her. She seemed so right for the time. Intelligent, vivacious, outspoken, yet insular and contradictory, her role in the election campaign she waged will be mulled over by Conservatives for some time to come.

I surprised myself, to some extent, in writing this book. As a former political aide, I was schooled in the belief that we should have “a passion for anonymity.” Having done so for over ten years, it is perhaps time to part the shadows and offer my perspective. The events of October, 1993, have “liberated” me, so to speak. During my time in politics I worked for Progressive Conservative governments in New Brunswick and in Ottawa. I was a political and policy aide to several federal Cabinet Ministers, two Prime Ministers, and one former party leader. I was first a senior policy adviser to Brian Mulroney and, at the end, his Chief of Staff. For Kim Campbell, I spent the most intense political time anyone can have: on a bus and plane during an election campaign as a policy adviser, speech-writer, and event-briefer. It was at once, fascinating, frustrating, intensive, and inspiring. Even knowing the outcome in advance, I would not have missed it. It was always a privilege to work at the side of so many dedicated public officials. I had the opportunity to sit in the Cabinet room (quietly and at the back, mind you), and listen in on some of most engaging discussions affecting the country. Never did I really consider that a situation would occur, either personally or politically, that would coax me into shedding that anonymity and “coming out”.

This foreword is the only section of the book in which the reader will find “the first person” writing style (aside from an occasional footnote). I chose to tell this story in the third person to discipline myself to remain as dispassionate and independent in judgment as possible in my recounting of what happened. Although I was there “in the room,” literally, at times, this book is not about what I did or did not do; that would be too easy. I am not trying to settle scores. Nor am I trying to keep score. In politics, one grows to understand (if never entirely accept) that everyone’s motives are questioned. I will let the reader judge how successful my approach has been.

To that end, I believe every non-fiction author should declare his or her biases up-front, so readers can factor them in while coming to their own conclusions. My biases, therefore, are as follows: I worked for and still admire Brian Mulroney, Kim Campbell, Bernard Valcourt, and Joe Clark for what they did and what they tried to do. I gave Kim Campbell two votes at the leadership convention on June 13, 1993, because I thought the Party and government needed to change and she was the best agent of that change. I was on the bus or plane for the full campaign (minus a couple of days due to bronchitis) and grew to like all of the people with whom I worked, some of whom appear in this book. I wrote a number of Kim Campbell’s speeches and gave her some clip lines or sound bites that made it into the papers or onto the news, but I never wrote one speech single-handedly or had to bear the burden of that process alone. I disagreed with some of the decisions taken by campaign headquarters and given to those on the bus to carry out; to that end, I was part of the communications and dysfunctional problem that set in between Kim Campbell’s tour and Ottawa. Indeed, my view of the election campaign may be both limited and coloured by the vantage point from which I saw it. On occasion, the reader will come across the critical euphemism “senior advisers” in reference to Kim Campbell. I include myself, in several instances, as part of that group.

Finally, a note on sources and footnotes. Wherever possible, I have used actual transcripts or published speeches to ensure accuracy. These have been supplemented by newspaper accounts containing actual quotations. As they are on the public record, I decided not to footnote them. Forty-one separate interviews were conducted (two individuals were present for a joint interview), either in person (32) or by phone (10). Each of the quotations was verified with the person for accuracy. As with most media interviews, several quotations remain unattributed. This was done to encourage free expression while avoiding any personal embarrassment. Quotations from unpublished documents are from my own files. The interpretation of those documents, the events surrounding them, along with any other event, incident, or situation covered in the book is mine alone.

Now, please read on and come to your own conclusions.

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