Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Caroline Mulroney spoke Friday at an Ottawa convention where experienced politicos go to network, and pitched her political inexperience as a political asset.
Mulroney was the first of the three registered PC leadership candidates to speak at the 2018 Manning Networking Convention. Doug Ford and Christine Elliott are scheduled to speak on Saturday.
Postmedia columnist Anthony Furey, who hosted an on-stage chat with Mulroney, recounted a comment from Ford that he hadn’t seen Mulroney around the political “scene” at all — Ford, on the other hand, had been active in PC fundraising and canvassing efforts well before he became a leadership candidate.
Furey asked her what she made of Ford’s comment.
“I’ve been around politics, as a young child, I’ve been around politics my whole life really. We talked about it around the dinner table growing up and my dad, of course, is still involved in all sorts of ways,” said Mulroney, the daughter of former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.
“But I myself haven’t been, for 25 years," referring to the day her dad resigned. "And, since then, I’ve been building my career and building my family, so I really have been outside ... But you pick up a lot of things along the way.”
Mulroney said she brings something completely new to politics, and it comes from what she’s picking up on things from her father and politically involved friends.
"A lot of people say, and I've heard it, that I don't have political experience so I'm not the candidate for this job," she said. "The Liberals have 15 years of political experience and that's what's gotten us into this mess. I come to this job with 20 years of private-sector experience. I've been in law and business."
She added that she's gained a broad understanding of the economy and what needs to be done, and has accomplished it while raising a family — and that's what people want.
"Things are tough for families. People are living in energy poverty and having to choose between buying hockey equipment or going out for dinner with their families, so it's tough, but I know people want to believe that life will be better," Mulroney said.
Mulroney drew on her father, and his experience, in her answers to many of Furey's questions. When asked what kind of conservative she is, she spoke of Brian Mulroney's big-tent leadership. She's a conservative who believes that government should be the "last resort" and get out of the way of people's lives.
"In Ontario for 15 years, the government has been making it harder for people to live the lives they want and to make their choices," she said.
She cited Muloney senior when Furey asked how her anti-carbon tax stand would fare under attacks from the Liberals that it's anti-environment.
"My father is the greenest prime minister in Canada and the acid rain treaty is one of the most important environmental acts in Canadian history. It's helped save our lakes and our rivers, so I come to politics with that," she said, adding that she'd commit to an environmental program that doesn't add to the tax burden of Ontarians.
When Furey asked Mulroney about how she now opposes the carbon tax, the last of the three candidates in the leadership race to do so, she struggled with her words.
"Well, I've always said that I'm against new taxes and I said the carbon tax is a new tax, so I um, am not in favour of new taxes, and I said that when I announced my candidacy," she said.
Mulroney continued to say that she's the only leadership candidate who's been nominated in a riding, and so she'd been door-knocking and promoting the platform, which had included the carbon tax, but it had actually never sat well with her and after talking with the membership, she decided to oppose it.
As for the rest of the platform, Mulroney said she approves of much of it, including its commitment to mental health investment to lower hydro rates.
When Furey asked her how she's going make up for the $4 billion hole in the platform that would open up without carbon tax revenue, Mulroney said there is government waste and she's confident she'll be able to "deliver a plan that makes life more affordable in Ontario and doesn't add to the tax burden of Ontarians."
On hydro, she said the government needs to stop signing contracts for power the province doesn't need and begin to address how the cost of power is being moved to the taxpayer base. "It is a very complicated file, it is a complicated problem," she said.
Asked about the problems the party is facing, including the reports of fraudulent memberships and the general "rot" that interim leader Vic Fedeli has described, she said: "I know that there are problems and Vic Fedeli is the right person to be working on this, and I trust him to do what he thinks the party needs. We need to be in the strongest position to be able to win on June 7. I will defer to Vic Fedeli on these matters and continue to focus on my leadership campaign."