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Published February 29, 2024

How Canada is reacting to the death of former prime minister Brian Mulroney

By Stephanie Taylor

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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"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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"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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"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 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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"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. 

Banner image: Former prime minister Brian Mulroney arrives to speak at a conference in Ottawa on March 5, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

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

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