During his years as a corporate executive, Mulroney remained active in
politics, taking every occasion to increase his visibility among the public and
to gain support from within the party for his upcoming leadership bid. In
1982, because of an economic depression, the Iron Ore Company of Canada
was forced to close one of its mining and milling towns in Quebec. At first
this appeared to be a terrible political setback for Mulroney. However, he
turned it into a public relations success by making the people of the town in
question believe that there were other alternatives when there were none and
by negotiating generous settlements for the workers who had lost their jobs.
This earned him respect and won him general support and his reputation as
an expert labor lawyer and industrial relations specialist was improved. After
the election most of his promises were shown to be false hopes but by that
time the people had already decided.
In mid-1983 Clark's leadership of the
Progressive Conservative Party was being questioned, forcing him to call a
national party convention and leadership review. Brian Mulroney was again
a candidate, and he campaigned more sensibly than he had done seven years
before. He actually had been paying people to ruin Clarks chances of getting
the nomination again. He had suffered through one dark period in his life he
resolved there would be no more. He was elected party leader on June 11,
1983, after attracting broad support from among the many factions of the
party, especially from representatives of his native Quebec.
Mulroney's major initiatives between 1984 and 1988 were the Meech Lake
Accord, a package of constitutional changes designed to end Quebec's
boycott of the 1982 constitutional reform, and the negotiation of a free trade
agreement with the United States.