OTTAWA — The Prime Minister's Office is praising an upcoming tribute for former prime minister Brian Mulroney, but it won't say whether Stephen Harper plans to attend the event to be held in Montreal on Sept. 18.
"That's a long way out," said Harper's spokesman Andrew MacDougall on Wednesday. "We generally don't comment on the prime minister's schedule anyway."
The reception is being organized to mark the 25th anniversary of Mulroney's majority government victory in the 1984 election. Two former members of his cabinet, Quebec Premier Jean Charest and Canada's ambassador to the U.S. Michael Wilson, are co-chairing the event, which is being described as a reunion of former campaign workers, staffers and parliamentarians involved in the 211-seat victory.
"This will be a great anniversary," MacDougall said. "On Sept. 4, 1984, Canadians voted overwhelmingly to oust the Liberal party, bringing a welcome end to years of rule by Pierre Trudeau and John Turner."
Although Harper has asked members of government to avoid dealings with Mulroney, pending the results of a public inquiry into the former prime minister's dealings with German-Canadian businessman Karlheinz Schreiber, MacDougall indicated that it wouldn't stop anyone from attending.
"The planned celebration is a private event and we don't tell people what to do in their private lives," MacDougall said.
Revenue Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn, who was also an MP in Mulroney's government, said he is looking forward to celebrating at the tribute.
"It will be a pleasure for me to be present on that evening and be next to Mr. Mulroney to recognize everything that he did for the (Conservative) party and the country," Blackburn said following a party caucus on Parliament Hill.
Other MPs and senators have also said they plan to attend if they get invitations, and dismiss suggestions that there is a split between Harper and Mulroney as a result of the inquiry.
"There has never been a discussion as far as not hanging out with Brian Mulroney or talking to Brian Mulroney," said David Tkachuk, a Conservative senator from Saskatchewan. "It was just important for the executive of the government to be careful as to the relationship because of the inquiry. It has nothing to do with Mr. Mulroney personally."
He added that he would look forward to reconnecting with other people who were involved with the Progressive Conservatives in the 1984 campaign.
"It was the largest victory in Canada's history, we won 211 seats," said Tkachuk. "He was a great prime minister. He appointed me to the Senate. He's my friend, my colleague and I love the guy."
David Angus, a Conservative senator from Quebec, noted that the party has also celebrated the anniversary in the past after 10, 15 and 20 years.
"It's one of our great Conservative triumphs — a huge majority victory," said Angus.