What Canadians are saying about the death of former prime minister Brian Mulroney

OTTAWA — Brian Mulroney is dead at 84. His family announced late Thursday that Canada's 18th prime minister died peacefully, surrounded by loved ones. Here's a sampling of how Canadians are responding to the news.

"There are many, many people across the country tonight who are reeling and feeling a deep absence. He was committed to this country, loved it with all his heart and served it many, many years in many different ways. He had the courage to do big things." — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

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"His commitment to this country as a proud Quebecer to bringing people together, and demonstrating the impact but also the necessity of Canada on the world stage — and the pride Canadians could take in it — was something that left its mark. He shaped our past, but he shaped our present and he will impact our future as well. He was an extraordinary statesman and he will be deeply, deeply missed." — Trudeau.

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"There is something about devotion to country and service to country that should inspire us all and unite us all. He was not a Liberal. He was a Progressive Conservative with things we that we all disagreed with. But there was a lot that we agreed with in what he did. And the one thing I don't think anyone can fault in him is that he had an extraordinary vision for this country that he pursued with everything he could." — Trudeau.

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"He unleashed free enterprise, crushed inflation, restored fiscal sanity and concluded one of the greatest free trade agreements the world has ever seen, which remains largely in place today. These changes gave thousands of working-class families the same opportunities he had, that is, the chance to work hard, buy a home and build their dreams." — Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre.

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"He was among the first and most strident to fight against South Africa's apartheid policy and champion the cause of Nelson Mandela. He later went on to thank Mr. Mulroney for his essential role in ending this racist policy." — Poilievre.

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"He had an incredibly encyclopedic mind. He could tell you what was happening in Swiss politics or in Taiwan on a given day. He loved to have conversation. He was a brilliant conversationalist and a wonderful storyteller." — Poilievre.

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"I was an opponent of him all my political career, but in politics, opposition is opposition. It's like playing hockey. You can fight on the ice and have a beer together after that. And we had a lot of things in common." — Former prime minister Jean Chrétien.

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"Brian was one of Canada's great change-makers, determined to move the country forward and with an instinct to respect differences and an extraordinary capacity to reconcile. He was bold, a big dreamer and an unparalleled negotiator and persuader, both at home in Canada and in the larger world." — Former prime minister Joe Clark.

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"Brian and I met, decades ago, as young partisans from small towns in distant parts of a big country, drawn by politics and public service. Often then we were allies, sometimes competitors and then became colleagues in and beyond national government. I am grateful for his extraordinary service, and his friendship, and mourn his loss." — Clark.

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"Prime Minister Mulroney stood for freedom and democracy on the world stage, in his principled opposition to apartheid in South Africa, his enduring support for Israel and his advocacy of independence for Ukraine and the other European nations long under the yoke of Soviet communism. Prime Minister Mulroney championed significant international environmental measures including the Montreal Protocol and the Canada-US Acid Rain Treaty." — Former prime minister Stephen Harper.

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"Mr. Mulroney will also be remembered as the first Canadian Conservative leader to win back-to-back majority mandates since Sir John A. Macdonald, including the largest electoral victory in Canadian history. Canada has lost a historic figure, and we mourn his passing with all his many friends and associates." — Harper.

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"One of my favourite memories of my time in Ottawa was when former PM Mulroney came for dinner. Afterwards he looked up at 24 Sussex, smiled at me and said, 'Not bad for two electricians' kids.'" — Harper's wife, Laureen Teskey Harper.

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"The man had a way with words like no one else. It didn't matter if it was a private conversation or a speech to thousands, Brian had an ability to capture a crowd and keep them captivated with his endless supply of stories. Anyone who heard him speak walked away in awe." — Ontario Premier Doug Ford.

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"I first met Prime Minister Mulroney when I was the Progressive Conservative U of C campus club president in 1992. I was just joining politics and felt inspired by his dedication to public service. He will be remembered by all Canadians for his service, and his commitment to our country." — Alberta Premier Danielle Smith.

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"He made an important contribution to Canada, including protecting our environment — leading the world in tackling acid rain and banning chemicals that were destroying the ozone layer. He was also a strong opponent of apartheid, leading the efforts to sanction South Africa by Commonwealth nations." — Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.

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"Prime Minister Mulroney is perhaps the last to have sincerely attempted to reconcile Quebec and Canada. He was the architect of a free trade agreement that would not have existed without the support of Quebec. His role in the respect of human rights and the liberation of Nelson Mandela is historic. He even enjoyed the trust of René Lévesque. Respect for a great native of Quebec's North Shore and a great Quebecer." — Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet.

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"Brian Mulroney’s legacy looms large in the enduring friendship between our two nations. His personal warmth and statesmanship endeared him to leaders from all political stripes, and his ability to build bridges of understanding exemplified the best of diplomacy. His deep and respectful relationships with multiple U.S. administrations of the time are the standard to which all leaders aspire." — U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Cohen.

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"He was extraordinary. As a husband and father. As a proud Canadian and Quebecker. And as a visionary prime minister who always put the long-term success of Canada at the heart of his public service. He was also an extraordinary friend of the type that is rare in politics. When times were great and when times were not great, a call from Brian Mulroney would lift your spirit and have your Irish (or non-Irish) eyes smiling. I will treasure that part of our friendship." — Former Conservative leader Erin O'Toole.

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"Brian was kind, slow to criticize, quick to compliment, and always offered profound and thoughtful advice. He was just a lovely human being, whose love of his wife, his family and his country shone through everything he did. His stories and anecdotes could have you laughing out loud one moment, and tearing up the next." — Former Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.

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"He will be remembered forever by the Métis for his commitment to working to advance Métis rights, especially self-government. Mulroney commissioned the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People because he believed in the importance of understanding and working meaningfully with Canada’s Indigenous peoples. It remains the most comprehensive study of Indigenous Canadian history and has been critically important in advancing Indigenous rights, including Métis rights, in the courts." — Métis Nation of Ontario.

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"Most importantly, Mulroney negotiated the Métis Nation Accord with the Métis National Council, including representation from the Métis Nation of Ontario. The Accord would have provided for Métis self-government and addressed other issues of importance to the Métis through a multilateral process. After the rejection of the Charlottetown Accord, however, provincial governments walked away from the table and the Métis had to start over. 30 years later, the federal government is once again trying to advance Métis self-government. Our thoughts are with the Mulroney family." — Métis Nation of Ontario.

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"Brian Mulroney stood up for Canada and our national interest, including long after he left public office. I will miss his wise counsel, which he generously offered, particularly during the NAFTA negotiations. He was an advocate for democracy, human rights and the first Western leader to recognize an independent Ukraine." — Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland.

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"At a dark point in my life, he called. I’ll never forget it. His compassion is something I could never repay. There are thousands of people who can say the same today, thousands who are remembering his quiet kindness, his loyalty, his steel." — Labour Minister Seamus O'Regan.

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"Mr. Mulroney was one of the greatest prime ministers in Canadian history. He was an exceptional leader. A visionary. And a statesman whose influence had a significant impact on the international stage. I remember him as generous, passionate, and deeply attached to Canada. Our country owes Prime Minister Mulroney a profound debt of gratitude." — Former Quebec premier and Mulroney-era cabinet minister Jean Charest.

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"Under Brian Mulroney’s leadership, Canada became more confident, more prosperous, and more respected in the world. I will always be grateful to have known him and to have had the privilege of serving with him." — President and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commece and Mulroney-era cabinet minister Perrin Beatty.

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"He was an outstanding negotiator, able to build trust and consensus in his legal practice. And he was a role model and mentor to countless lawyers, from associates to senior partners. We will remember not only the great man, but more simply the person that he was — who counselled us, supported us, and gave generously of himself to us. We will miss his warmth, his gravitas and the twinkle in his eye." — Jennifer Teskey, managing partner at Norton Rose Fulbright and Walied Soliman, the firm's Canada Chair.

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"Brian Mulroney was a giant and my personal inspiration for entering politics. This is indeed a very sad day for the nation. We have lost an extraordinary Canadian." — Conservative Sen. Leo Housakos.

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"I first met Mr. Mulroney when I was 16, protesting (!) a speech he was giving. He responded with charm and the exchange made the national news. I was able to meet him and his family a few times since and he always showed grace and a deep commitment to public service. Rest well." — Former Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi.

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"I was a young lawyer when I used to go up to PM Mulroney's office one floor up from mine at Ogilvy Renault. We would sit and talk politics and campaigning. Neither of us spoke a partisan word. He didn't care I was part of the Liberal party and I was in awe of a Conservative prime minister. One that made Canada a leader in the global fight against acid rain." — Montreal Liberal MP Rachel Bendayan.

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"In December 2023 I was going through a pretty stressful time and Brian Mulroney took the time to call me and encourage me. That was the kind of man he was. He cared about people. A true gentleman." — Montreal Liberal MP Anthony Housefather.

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"In 2009, I attended the 25th anniversary celebration of Brian Mulroney's 1984 victory. The key insight I recall him sharing that night was that 'Political capital should be spent in pursuit of great causes.' From human rights to economic reform, this was Mulroney’s legacy." — Conservative MP Garnett Genuis.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 29, 2024.

The Canadian Press