Harper, Mulroney attending funeral of Margaret Thatcher, mother of ‘Canadian conservatism’

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and wife Laureen depart Ottawa on Tuesday, April 16, 2013, on route to London for the funeral of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and wife Laureen depart Ottawa on Tuesday, April 16, 2013, on route to London for the funeral of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Canadian Conservative leaders including Prime Minister Stephen Harper will be in attendance when Margaret Thatcher, the woman some consider the mother of Canadian conservatism, is laid to rest in a London funeral on Wednesday.

Harper left Ottawa for London on Tuesday along with his wife Laureen and former Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney.

The Canadian Press reports that Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and London-West MP Ed Holder will also be in attendance when the Iron Lady is interned at St. Paul's Cathedral.

If that sounds like a list of Conservative heavyweights to you, there is a reason. Thatcher was loved by politically right-minded Canadians for her tenacity and ability to stare down opponents while making tough decisions. Her legacy will continue to be debated, by many consider her tenets, and her passion, to be the founding principles behind the modern-day conservatism in Canada.

[ Related: PM Harper heads to London for funeral of Margaret Thatcher ]

Her reign as prime minister of the U.K. came from 1979 to 1990 and began against a Canadian backdrop of Trudeaumania, which gave way to the age of Brian Mulroney.

Maclean's suggested on Tuesday that Thatcher was "the Big Kahuna of Canadian conservatism."

Paul Wells writes:

While she was Britain’s prime minister, Canada was led by Pierre Trudeau and Brian Mulroney, the provinces by the likes of Bill Davis and Robert Bourassa. A generation of Canadians grew up believing our own country’s politics was a sea of vanilla pudding. Only Maggie offered grit. She stared down the unions, counselled Reagan and watched, warily, as the Cold War ended.

...

So it’s no wonder that when Alberta’s Ralph Klein and especially Ontario’s Mike Harris rose to power a few years later, they were conspicuously surrounded by youngsters whose political conscience was incubated in the petri dish of ’80s Thatcher envy.

None of the Canadian visitors are scheduled to speak at the memorial which, of interest, is not a state funeral at the request of Thatcher herself. But they have all shared their thoughts on Thatcher previously.

[ Political Points: Canadians react to death of Margaret Thatcher ]

“Canadians knew Mrs. Thatcher well: she addressed Canada’s Parliament twice," Harper said in a statement following her passing.

“I recall with pride her eloquent portrayal of the philosophical groundings of the principles that have - and I hope forever will - unite the British and Canadian peoples."

Mulroney, who was in officer for several of Thatcher’s 11 years in power, called her a “delight to be with, to work with,” and lauded the impact she had on the world.

Baird called her a personal hero. His appreciation for her appears to have crossed into his personal life – Baird had a cat named Thatcher and in 2009, caused a stir in British media when a leaked text message reading “Thatcher has died” was misinterpreted.

Holder, a Tory MP who chairs the Canada-United Kingdom Inter-Parliamentary Association, told a London, Ont., radio station that he respected her tenacity to fight back in what she called a "man's world."

Other foreign delegates to attend Thatcher's funeral will be former U.S. vice-president Dick Cheney, former U.S., former secretary of state Henry Kissinger and former Australian prime minister John Howard.

Her impact, clearly, wasn't limited to the British and Canadian conservative movements.

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