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Mulroney wants Université Laval to train next cohort of Quebec leaders on world stage

Former prime minister Brian Mulroney speaks at a conference put on by the University of Ottawa Professional Development Institute and the Canada School of Public Service in Ottawa on Tuesday, March 5, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick. Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Université Laval formally launched an $80-million fundraising initiative on Wednesday for its Carrefour international Brian-Mulroney, with the former prime minister taking on a central role in the push to increase Quebec’s footprint on the world stage.

Earlier this year, the Quebec City university announced plans to create a francophone international relations studies hub that would serve to train the next generation of Quebec leaders.

Mulroney, who served as prime minister from 1984 to 1993 and is a graduate of Laval, will head the fundraising campaign, with the money used to create a new building housing the graduate school of international studies, offer scholarships and fund research chairs.

In an interview ahead of Wednesday’s announcement, Mulroney said with globalization, the demands have changed and coming generations will need expertise to prepare for a greater role internationally.

“You know, in my time — which was years ago — you went and you got a bachelor of arts degree and you got a law degree, and then, you took potluck as to what was going to happen,” said Mulroney, who graduated with a law degree from Laval in 1964.

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“But now it’s so much more sophisticated, and much more technical and much more important to have specific instruction and studies in these various disciplines that will prepare them for leadership roles in all of these international organizations and elsewhere.”

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Mulroney said Université Laval rector Sophie D’Amours was behind the idea of regrouping its international relations studies under one roof, with the goal of developing the next generation of international francophone leaders from Quebec who can lead organizations such as NATO, Norad, the United Nations and the World Bank.

Mulroney said he intends to speak to students often and hopes to impart details and experiences from his own career. He also hopes to see leaders from around the world participate in events and conferences organized by the institution.

“We’re going to try and establish a reputational foothold so that people will want to come,” Mulroney said. “You want to give the students the sense of looking at it, meeting these people, and saying ‘You know? If this guy did it, what’s wrong with me? I can do this too,'” Mulroney said.

Of the $80 million, about $40 million has already been raised through a number of private donors — including Mulroney himself — and a $27.75-million contribution from the Quebec government. He said he is confident the remaining amount will be raised in short order.

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Click to play video: 'Former Canadian PM Brian Mulroney recovering after emergency surgery'
Former Canadian PM Brian Mulroney recovering after emergency surgery

D’Amours said she was honoured that Mulroney was driving and supporting the project. “This major fundraising campaign is an important milestone for Université Laval, as it marks the launch of a transformational project for our institution,” she said.

Mulroney noted that Laval is the country’s oldest university and has produced some of the country’s best and brightest, so it’s important for it to have this kind of vehicle.

“It’s a very important contributor to Canadian society: Laval has produced three Canadian prime ministers, eight premiers, and it has sustained the intellectual infrastructure of Quebec, in all areas, for the last hundreds of years,” Mulroney said.

“So we have to be alert to the possibilities in a changing world and you know this world is changing big time,” he added.

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