Niagara leaders pay tribute after Mulroney’s passing

While his parliamentary accomplishments are prestigious, the earned respect that Mulroney received from his predecessors, peers and successors is, perhaps, his crowning achievement. Pictured: Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. Photo Credit: Getty Images. 

On Thursday, Feb. 29, Canadians from coast to coast learned that Brian Mulroney had died at the age of 84. Mulroney, who served as Canada’s 18th Prime Minister from 1984 to 1993, was a trailblazing figure who dramatically changed Conservative and Canadian politics during a pivotal era. 

Mulroney grew up in the small town of Baie-Comeau, Quebec. He was the third born of six children to Irish Catholic parents. His political career began in 1955 while attending St. Francis Xavier University, where he became an active member of the campus Progressive Conservatives club, before later joining the Youth for Diefenbaker committee. 

Upon completing his law degree at Université Laval, Mulroney commenced his career as a labour lawyer in 1964, before accepting the position of Executive Vice President of the Iron Ore Company of Canada in 1976. He married Mila Pivnicki, in 1973, with whom he would have four children. 

Mulroney maintained key involvement with the Progressive Conservative party throughout the 1960s and 1970s, eventually mounting an unsuccessful leadership campaign in 1976. When the next leadership convention was held in 1983, Mulroney won an impressive victory, defeating the incumbent leader and former prime minister Joe Clark on the fourth round ballot. 

In 1984, Mulroney earned one of the largest mandates in Canadian history, bringing a whopping 211 Conservative MPs to the House of Commons. Four years later, he became the first Conservative Prime Minister since Sir John A. MacDonald to win two majority governments.

Mulroney’s governing accomplishments include economic reforms, such as introducing the Canadian-United States Free Trade Agreement, privatizing 23 Crown corporations, and most controversially, introducing the federal goods and services (GST) tax. He is also credited for his bold and strategic leadership on the world stage, where he restored Canada’s dignified standing among allies and partners. Mulroney spoke with moral clarity in opposing Apartheid in South Africa, and insisted on a treaty with the United States to mitigate the detrimental impact of acid rain on the environment. 

While his parliamentary accomplishments are prestigious, the earned respect that Mulroney received from his predecessors, peers and successors is, perhaps, his crowning achievement. He provided counsel to prime ministers, from John Diefenbaker through Justin Trudeau. Aspiring Conservative leaders have long sought his approval and endorsement. His success in articulating a conservative vision for a united Canada, and subsequently maintaining national confidence in that vision for an entire decade, is an objective that had not been realized in a century, and has not been surpassed to this day. 

In Niagara, numerous local officials reflected on the life and legacy of Mulroney with fondness and gratitude.

“I would like to convey my sincerest condolences to the Mulroney family,” said Rob Nicholson, a former Member of Parliament (MP) for Niagara Falls and a member of governments led by Mulroney, Kim Campbell and Stephen Harper. “Brian Mulroney’s love for people and our country was evident and his leadership on the world stage continues to benefit Canada to this day. I was very proud to serve in Parliament when he was our Prime Minister. He was a brilliant, kind and thoughtful leader whose connection with Canadians and outstanding contribution to our country will forever be remembered.” 

Niagara Falls MP Tony Baldinelli also shared his thoughts on Mulroney’s passing. 

“I am deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Canada’s 18th Prime Minister, the Rt. Honourable Brian Mulroney” said Baldinelli. “He was a great statesman and leader whom I admired so much as a young man that I purchased my first political membership in high school, after he won the leadership race of the Progressive Conservative Party.”

 “Be it standing against racist policies like Apartheid and advocating for the release of Nelson Mandela, pushing for free trade and achieving the Acid Rain Treaty, Prime Minister Mulroney did what he always felt was right and in the best interests of all Canadians. He will be greatly missed.” 

Niagara West MP Dean Allison weighed in as well. 

“When Brian Mulroney was Prime Minister, I was a young small business guy,” said Allison. “I hadn’t followed politics closely, but 1984 was the first campaign in which I knocked on doors. He did some things that were controversial at the time, but his support for free trade, his advocating for a treaty on acid rain, his opposition to Apartheid in South Africa, and his influence on Thatcher and Reagan all demonstrated that he was ahead of his time, he was an effective behind the scenes communicator, and he understood the world better than many people even realized.” 

“I am grateful that he was never afraid to tackle the big issues and I am inspired by the personal care and concern he showed for others throughout his life.” 

Sam Oosterhoff, Member of Provincial Parliament for Niagara West and someone who wasn’t even born when Mulroney served, also reflected on Mulroney’s impact on Canada.

 “From free trade to environmental protections, former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney made a significant impact on important issues here, at home and around the world,” said Oosterhoff. “Canada has lost an immensely influential statesman and public servant, whose contributions to our nation will be remembered for generations to come. My thoughts and prayers are with his family as they grieve his passing.” 

Exactly forty years earlier, on Feb. 29, 1984, former prime minister Pierre Trudeau announced his resignation after an infamous walk in the snow. The event is regarded by many as an unofficial marker that signified the beginning of the Mulroney era. 

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