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Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney remembered [Video]

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Quebec News

Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney remembered

Tributes continue to pour in for former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney who died on Thursday.

Mulroney served as PM during the ’80s and early ’90s and oversaw massive economic changes in Canada, including the negotiation of NAFTA, and the implementation of the Canadian Goods and Services Tax.

But one of his biggest projects, convincing Quebeckers to endorse the constitution, ended in failure and led to an even greater division between French and English Canada.

The news of Brian Mulroney’s death has brought a wave of remembrance and reflection on his legacy to our nation.

A mixed legacy, according to some, is marked by extraordinary successes on the international stage and some home front failures.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “he marked the history of this country, he marked the present of this country and it is right that we all are reflecting on him and his family today and for many days to come.”

In his remarks today, Trudeau promised a “right and fitting tribute” to Canada’s 18th prime minister.

Brian Mulroney swept to power in 1984, delivering the progressive conservatives the largest majority win in Canadian history.

A win that included 58 of Quebec’s 75 seats, an impressive feat cited by former Prime Minister Jean Chretien as Mulroney’s greatest success.

“He was himself from a minority, he was Anglo in Quebec, but it was possible coming from rural Quebec to move up the ladder,” said Jean Chretien.

From humble beginnings in Baie-Comeau, Quebec, Mulroney was embraced by the francophone community and made one of his biggest projects as prime minister the endorsement of the 1982 repatriated constitution by his home province.

“There was a belief that he was in a position to try and get a new settlement that would bring Quebec politically into the constitution and that really what Meech Lake was all about,” said political science professor Andrew McDougall.

Mulroney negotiated with the provinces for months before presenting the Meech Lake Accord in 1987, which would have recognized Quebec as a distinct society, within the body of the constitution.

Quebec ratified the deal, but changes in provincial governments led to the accord’s failure in 1990. A second attempt in 1992, The Charlottetown Accord, also failed.

Professor McDougall says, “and that collapse actually did huge damage to Canadian federalism and Canada-Quebec relations.”

Historian Robert Bothwell said, “Canada ended up worse divided and more contentious at the end of Mulroney’s time in office, and Quebec very shortly ran a referendum on separation.”

Before the accords failed, Mulroney won a second majority government in 1988, after an election largely fought over free trade.

Prime Minister Mulroney oversaw monumental changes on that file, negotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement between Canada, the USA and Mexico, later signing it in 1992.

“Mulroney’s personal diplomacy and his personal connection to Ronald Regan and members of his administration got us that deal,” says historian Bothwell.

He was also instrumental in helping end apartheid in South Africa and freeing Nelson Mandela by openly opposing apartheid on the world stage.

According to historian Robert Bothwell, one of the most important things is that Mulroney pushed other countries in the same direction.

In 1991 his government brought in the GST, something experts say was a smart policy choice but cost the conservatives dearly in the election of 1993, ending Tory Reign, and leaving a mixed legacy.

“If we put it all together I think that he was positive and effective,” says historian Bothwell.

“I think he’ll be seen as a consequential politician and a very bold politician, but he’s also a controversial politician and I think people even today have got strong views on what they think of Brian Mulroney,” says Political Science professor McDougall.

Mulroney’s family says he died in a Florida hospital after a fall at his home in Palm Beach at the age of 84.

The federal government says a state funeral will be held later this month and the flag on the peace tower in Ottawa is flying at half-mast in his honour as are the flags at Burlington and Hamilton city halls.

Russian information and influence campaigns in CANADA / Marcus Kolga / MLI in Parliament
Russian information and influence campaigns in CANADA / Marcus Kolga / MLI in Parliament
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