Parliamentarians pay tribute to former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, lion of Canadian politics

Members of Parliament on Monday paid tribute to the late Brian Mulroney, whom they praised as a lion of Canadian politics, a down-to-earth spirit and, above all, a family man.

They stood in solemn reflection in the House of Commons in memory of Canada’s former prime minister who died last month.

As his wife Mila and children Nicholas, Mark, Ben and Caroline looked on from the gallery above, leaders and MPs from across the party spectrum expressed fond memories and admiration for the political giant.

The House of Commons was paralyzed when the news reached the chamber on February 29, just hours after his death.

Mulroney, who led the country as Progressive Conservative prime minister from 1984 to 1993, died in Florida at the age of 84. Since then, tributes have poured in from politicians past and present.

As MPs returned to the House of Commons on Monday after a two-week recess, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was the first to speak about Mulroney’s legacy in what is expected to be a week-long commemoration of the former prime minister, which will culminate with a state funeral on Saturday.

“This will not be the last week that Canadians will cite him, remember his example, be inspired by his service. It is not just his booming baritone voice that will always resonate in this chamber, but his values ​​and his leadership,” Trudeau said .

Trudeau called Mulroney “one of the lions of Canadian politics” and recalled spending time with him last year in Nova Scotia during a tour of Mulroney Hall.

As they walked through a replica of the prime minister’s Center Block office, they reflected on the “wisdom he and my father shared: that leadership, fundamentally, is about doing important things well, no matter what your political leanings or his style”. “Trudeau said.

Mulroney also knew how to win, Trudeau said with a smile, “and he certainly enjoyed it.”

From the gallery, Mulroney’s relatives also smiled as Trudeau explained that Mulroney was motivated primarily by service.

As prime minister, Mulroney championed free trade and ushered in the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement in 1988, the precursor to the North American Free Trade Agreement that came into force in 1994. Many Canadians also remember him for introduce GST.

But it was his “down-to-earth spirit” that conservative leader Pierre Poilievre said exemplified Mulroney’s approach to the job.

He told the story of meeting a mechanic in Ottawa whose father was a miner with the Iron Ore Company of Canada, when Mulroney was its president.

Decades later, when the mechanic’s father died, Mulroney called the family, Poilievre said.

“The incredible thing about that phone call is that, in the meantime, Brian Mulroney fought two leadership races, won two majority governments, shook hands and spent time with presidents, kings, queens and other prime ministers, negotiated free trade agreements , observed “The end of the Cold War sent our troops to the Persian Gulf,” he stated.

“And with everything going through his mind, he still remembered the miner from the Iron Ore Company.

“That’s kindness. That’s humility.”

Mulroney will be remembered as a great Canadian, a great Quebecer and a great prime minister, said Louis Plamondon, elected MP for Mulroney’s party the year he became prime minister.

But the Bloc Quebecois MP will remember Mulroney “first and foremost” as a family man, Plamondon said in French, offering his condolences to Mulroney’s wife and children.

“He loved Mila, his wife and lifelong companion. He was very proud of his children and appreciated his role as grandfather,” he said.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said he hopes Mulroney’s family finds some comfort in the many memories being shared about him.

Mulroney denounced the injustices of apartheid, Singh said, and helped preserve Canada’s social fabric.

Singh also praised the former prime minister’s environmental record and his work to reduce pollution that reached Canadian rivers, lakes and forests.

“In a time of heightened divisions, where some political leaders try to score points by pitting one group of people against another, Mr. Mulroney will be remembered as someone who tried to build unity,” Singh said.

Mulroney’s children spoke to reporters after the showing and expressed their gratitude.

“Hearing everyone talk so positively is probably not what he was used to, but he would have loved it and so would we,” Mark Mulroney said with a laugh.

He and his siblings expressed special thanks to Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party.

“Brian Mulroney literally saved all life on Earth when Canada stood up and organized the Montreal Protocol and saved the ozone layer,” May said as part of a lively speech.

May said she was grateful and honored to be Mulroney’s friend. While her environmental legacy was part of that, he also had a knack for making her laugh, she said, prompting laughter from her family.

“I really loved his jokes.”

Mulroney’s coffin is expected to arrive in Ottawa on Tuesday, where it will lie in state for two days so the public can pay their respects.

The former prime minister will also lie in state at Montreal’s St. Patrick’s Basilica on Thursday and Friday.

Dignitaries, including the Governor General and Trudeau, will offer their condolences to the Mulroney family on Tuesday morning.

A state funeral will be held Saturday morning at Notre-Dame Basilica, with eulogies from Caroline Mulroney, Jean Charest and Wayne Gretzky.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 18, 2024.

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