Trashing the incumbent: Lesson from Canada
IN 1984, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was swept to power in the biggest landslide in Canadian history. But unpopular economic policies and his failure to resolve a dispute with French speaking Quebec undermined his political popularity and support, which eventually turned him into one of Canada's most unpopular leaders ever. Son of a poor Irish immigrant in the northern Quebec, Mulroney announced he will not lead the conservatives into the1993 election which was slated for that year. Mulroney forged a political alliance between Quebec and western Canadian conservatives to lead the party to the sweeping 1984 victory on a pledge of economic renewal and change, after nearly two decades of Liberal rule under the charismatic Pierre Trudeau. He also vowed to settle a decades-old separatist threat by the predominantly French speaking province of Quebec.
What happened after that? Mulroney's government overhauled the world's seventh largest economy by privatizing state firms, launching a hated value-added tax of a seven percent on goods and services; which was roundly criticized by already heavily taxed Canadians.
He negotiated signing a pioneering free trade agreement with then U.S. President Ronald Reagan. But selling the free trade to skeptical Canadians was difficult and Mulroney was forced to call an election for November 1988 on the issue after the Liberals blocked legislation to implement it. But prolonged recession and intolerable high unemployment blamed by Canadians on free trade with the United States knocked his popularity down to as little as12 percent in early 1992. Mulroney plunged ahead anyway, negotiating an extended North America free trade deal including Mexico.
Angry Canadian voters dealt Mulroney a severe blow in an October 1992 referendum by rejecting a package of constitutional reforms his government had painstakingly negotiated to settle the Quebec dispute, thereby dealing...