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Brian Mulroney, former Prime Minister of Canada dies at 84


TORONTO, Feb. 29, 2024 – Brian Mulroney, who served as Canada’s Prime Minister from 1984-1993 has died peacefully in his sleep. He was 84. The announcement was made by his daughter Caroline who serves as the Minister of Francophone Affairs in Doug Ford’s cabinet. She said her father “died peacefully and surrounded by family” in a post on X.

“On behalf of my mother and our family, it is with great sadness we announce the passing of my father, The Right Honorable Brian Mulroney, Canada’s 18th Prime Minister. He died peacefully, surrounded by family,” his daughter wrote. 

In April, Mulroney underwent treatment for prostate cancer in Montreal. Caroline remarked in August that his health was steadily improving after his cancer treatment and a recent heart procedure.

Brian Mulroney was only a few weeks away from his 85th birthday.

Reaction from Canadian dignitaries

Prime Minister Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau remembered Mulroney as someone who “had the courage to do big things.”

“He was committed to this country — loved it with all his heart — and served it many, many years and many different ways,” Trudeau told reporters on Thursday night. “He was an extraordinary statesman, and he will be deeply deeply missed.”

Premier of Ontario, Doug Ford

Ontario Premier Doug Ford called Mulroney a “giant” and “role model” for his handling of both domestic and international challenges.

“Canada has lost its ultimate statesman,” Ford said. “Brian was also so generous with his time. When faced with tough decisions, I often leaned on him for advice and benefited from his experience and his political instincts. He was a role model to me and taught me countless lessons on how to be a better leader.”

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said Mulroney was one of Canada’s “greatest-ever statesmen.” The Opposition leader said he often sought advice from Mulroney, saying that the former prime minister had an “incredibly encyclopedic mind.”

“He loved to have conversations. He was a brilliant conversationalist and a wonderful storyteller,” Poilievre told reporters late Thursday.

NDP Party Leader Jagmeet SIngh

Jagmeet Singh, leader of the New Democratic party, praised Mulroney’s commitment to environmental stewardship and human rights.

Modest Beginnings

Brian Mulroney entered the world on March 20, 1939, in Baie-Comeau, Quebec, a secluded town nestled in the eastern region of the province. He hailed from a lineage of Irish Canadian Catholics, born to Mary Irene and Benedict Martin Mulroney, the latter employed as a paper mill electrician. With the absence of an English-language Catholic high school in Baie-Comeau, Mulroney pursued his secondary education at a Roman Catholic boarding school in Chatham, New Brunswick, administered by St. Thomas University.  

Robert R. McCormick

Mulroney often regaled tales of his interactions with newspaper magnate Robert R. McCormick, whose company had established Baie-Comeau. Mulroney would entertain McCormick with Irish melodies, in return for which the publisher would discreetly slip him $50. Raised in an environment where both English and French were spoken fluently, Mulroney imbibed a rich linguistic and cultural heritage from an early age.


Mulroney embarked on his academic journey at St. Francis Xavier University in the autumn of 1955, stepping foot on campus as a 16-year-old freshman. It was here that his foray into the realm of politics began, beckoned by Lowell Murray and other stalwarts to join the ranks of the campus Progressive Conservative faction during his inaugural year. Murray, subsequently appointed to the Senate of Canada in 1979, emerged as a pivotal figure in Mulroney’s life, assuming roles as confidant, mentor, and strategic adviser. Formative alliances were forged with individuals like Gerald Doucet, Fred Doucet, Sam Wakim, and Patrick MacAdam, laying the groundwork for a burgeoning political career. Mulroney wasted no time in immersing himself in political machinery, actively contributing to the triumph of the local PC candidate in the 1956 Nova Scotia provincial election, which saw the party, under the provincial stewardship of Robert Stanfield, clinch an unexpected victory.

Public Speaking

The allure of national politics beckoned Mulroney, leading him to attend the 1956 leadership convention in Ottawa as a youth delegate. Initially wavering in his allegiance, Mulroney succumbed to the charisma and charm of John Diefenbaker.

Joining the ranks of the Youth for Diefenbaker committee, led by the future titan of Canadian business, Ted Rogers, Mulroney fostered a nascent friendship with Diefenbaker. Meanwhile, Mulroney’s prowess in oratory garnered accolades at St. Francis Xavier University, where he clinched victory in numerous public speaking contests, earned distinction as a luminary on the debating team, and emerged undefeated in interuniversity debates. His indelible mark on campus politics was underscored by his tenure as campus Prime Minister during a Maritimes-wide Model Parliament in 1958.

Post Graduation

Post-graduation from St. Francis Xavier with a degree in political science in 1959, Mulroney embarked on a trajectory toward legal studies at Dalhousie Law School in Halifax. His dalliance with law school was punctuated by a burgeoning camaraderie with Nova Scotia’s Tory premier, Robert Stanfield, and his chief adviser, Dalton Camp. While aiding in Stanfield’s successful 1960 re-election campaign, Mulroney’s academic pursuits were interrupted by a debilitating illness during the winter term, culminating in his departure from Dalhousie after the first year. Undeterred, he sought refuge in Université Laval in Quebec City, resuming his legal studies in 1960.

In Quebec City, Mulroney’s orbit expanded to encompass future Quebec Premier Daniel Johnson Sr., as he gravitated toward the provincial legislature, cultivating relationships with politicos, aides, and journalists alike. At Laval, he forged enduring friendships with luminaries like Lucien Bouchard, Bernard Roy, Michel Cogger, Michael Meighen, and Jean Bazin, individuals who would go on to shape the Canadian political landscape.

A pivotal juncture in Mulroney’s journey arrived in the summer of 1962, marked by a temporary appointment in Ottawa as the Executive Assistant to Alvin Hamilton, Minister of Agriculture. A fortuitous twist of fate ensued as a federal election loomed, propelling Mulroney onto the campaign trail alongside Hamilton, where he honed his organizing prowess and gleaned invaluable insights into the machinations of electoral politics.

Family Life

Mulroney’s personal life is intertwined with a story of political partnership and family legacy. In 1973, he married Mila Pivnički, whose Serbian-Canadian heritage added a multicultural dimension to their union. Mila’s presence on campaign buttons alongside Brian became emblematic of their shared journey in the political arena. 

The Mulroneys raised a family of four children: Caroline, Benedict (Ben), Mark, and Nicolas. Caroline followed in her father’s footsteps into politics, contesting the 2018 Ontario PC leadership race and currently serving as a member of the provincial legislature for York—Simcoe, holding key ministerial portfolios. Ben, known for his stint as the host of CTV’s “Your Morning,” carved his own path in the media industry. His marriage to stylist Jessica and their involvement in high-profile events, like the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, further elevated the Mulroney family’s public profile.

Mark and Nicolas pursued careers in the financial sector in Toronto, contributing to the family’s diverse professional footprint. Across generations, the Mulroney family’s impact extends beyond politics, showcasing a blend of public service, media presence, and business acumen that reflects their multifaceted influence in Canadian society.

A Lawyer in Quebec

After completing his studies at Laval University in 1964, Brian Mulroney made his way to Montreal to join the esteemed law firm Howard, Cate, Ogilvy et al. At the time, the firm held the distinction of being the largest in the Commonwealth of Nations. Despite encountering setbacks, including twice failing his bar exams, 

Mulroney’s ascent within legal circles continued, with significant milestones including his partnership status at the firm in 1971. His trajectory intersected with political realms when he became involved in the internal dynamics of the Progressive Conservative Party. During Dalton Camp’s bid for re-election as party president in 1966, Mulroney aligned with Camp’s camp, a move seen as a repudiation of John Diefenbaker’s leadership. Despite his prior camaraderie with Diefenbaker, Mulroney discreetly threw his support behind Camp’s challenger, E. Davie Fulton, in the subsequent leadership convention.

Federal Politics – The Cadillac Candidate

1976 marked a pivotal moment for Mulroney as he ventured into the realm of federal politics, propelled by the resignation of Robert Stanfield following the Progressive Conservatives’ defeat in the 1974 election. Despite his lack of prior elected office, Mulroney threw his hat into the ring as a contender for the party leadership. His bid was fueled by aspirations to rejuvenate the party’s presence in Quebec, a province long dominated by the federal Liberals.

Joe Clark

However, Mulroney faced stiff competition from provincial counterpart Claude Wagner, who had previously been recruited to the PC party by Mulroney himself. The two found themselves locked in a fierce battle for Quebec delegates, with Wagner ultimately clinching the majority. Mulroney’s lavish campaign, characterized by hefty spending and a polished image, earned him the moniker of the ‘Cadillac candidate.’ However, his lack of parliamentary experience and vague policy stances failed to resonate with many delegates, leading to his defeat at the convention. Despite finishing second on the initial ballot, Mulroney faltered in subsequent rounds, ultimately conceding victory to Joe Clark.

Alcoholism & Depression

Behind the scenes, Mulroney grappled with personal challenges, including battles with alcoholism and depression, which he candidly attributes to the unwavering support of his wife, Mila. His journey to sobriety in 1979 marked a turning point in his life, enabling him to focus on his burgeoning career in the corporate world. 

Pierre Trudeau

Following 16 years of Liberal dominance, Joe Clark led the Progressive Conservative Party to victory in the 1979 federal election, marking a significant political shift in Canada. However, Clark’s minority government faced a swift downfall following a successful no-confidence motion over its budget in December 1979. The subsequent federal election, held just two months later, saw Pierre Trudeau and the Liberals return to power.

Enter Brian Mulroney, who, while publicly supporting Clark, orchestrated a clandestine campaign to oust him from leadership. Behind the scenes, Mulroney strategically mobilized support to sway delegates against Clark, culminating in Clark’s resignation following a lackluster endorsement at the party convention in January 1983.

Clark Versus Mulroney

Running against Clark in the subsequent leadership convention, Mulroney embarked on a more polished and substantive campaign, addressing previous criticisms of lacking policy depth. Despite not being a Member of Parliament, Mulroney clinched victory on June 11, 1983, securing broad support across party factions and notably from his native Quebec.

With Mulroney at the helm, the Progressive Conservatives surged ahead in opinion polls, positioning themselves as formidable contenders against the Liberals. However, Trudeau’s retirement in February and John Turner’s assumption of Liberal leadership reignited political dynamics. Turner’s unexpected surge in popularity posed a formidable challenge to Mulroney’s anticipated electoral victory.

A Historic Victory

On September 4, 1984, Mulroney and the Progressive Conservatives secured a historic victory, winning the second-largest majority government in Canadian history. The resounding triumph marked a pivotal moment in Canadian politics, signaling a shift towards a new era of governance under Mulroney’s leadership.

Mulroney on the floor of the 1983 leadership convention. by
By Alasdairroberts – CC BY 3.0,

Prime Minister Brian Mulroney

The Conservative Party’s victory in the 1984 federal election, marking their first majority win in 26 years, ostensibly placed Brian Mulroney in a position of considerable strength. However, the reality behind the facade of a parliamentary majority was far more complex and precarious than initially perceived. Despite securing just over half of the popular vote, Mulroney’s support base comprised a disparate coalition of socially conservative populists from the West, Quebec nationalists, and fiscal conservatives from Ontario and Atlantic Canada.

Mulroney’s Legacy

Mila (left) and Brian (right) Mulroney at Andrews Air Force Base in September 1984

His landmark achievements include brokering a historic free trade agreement with the United States and championing constitutional reforms aimed at securing Quebec’s endorsement of Canada’s constitution—though this endeavor ultimately fell short.

Mulroney’s administration implemented significant policies, such as the introduction of a national sales tax to address mounting budget deficits and the privatization of certain Crown corporations. 

Opposing Apartheid

Mulroney’s tenure as Prime Minister was marked by significant efforts to address pressing global challenges. He played a pivotal role in combatting environmental threats, advocating for the cessation of acid rain and the banning of chlorofluorocarbons, which posed a grave risk to the ozone layer.

Moreover, Mulroney demonstrated a steadfast commitment to human rights by fiercely opposing apartheid in South Africa. He spearheaded initiatives to impose sanctions on the apartheid regime, rallying Commonwealth nations to join the cause. Additionally, he led efforts to provide aid during the devastating Ethiopian famine of 1984.

Reflecting on his legacy, Mulroney asserted his unparalleled impact on Canadian politics, stating, “You cannot name a Canadian prime minister who has done as many significant things as I did.” 

Resignation in 1993

Mulroney’s resignation in 1993 came amid plummeting approval ratings and electoral defeat for his Progressive Conservative party. The party’s unprecedented loss, securing only two seats in the House of Commons, marked a historic nadir in Canadian political history. Subsequently, the Progressive Conservatives struggled to regain political relevance.

Life After Politics

Following his tenure as Prime Minister,Mulroney transitioned into a multifaceted career, encompassing roles in international business consultancy and legal practice. Until his passing in 2024, he maintained a prominent presence on the boards of various corporations, spanning diverse sectors including finance, mining, media, and cannabis.

Mulroney’s advisory roles extended globally, with affiliations with prestigious organizations such as The Blackstone Group and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. In addition to his corporate engagements, he served as a senior counsellor to prominent private equity funds and chaired international advisory boards for companies like Bombardier and Power Corp.

Order of Canada

Notably, in 1998, Mulroney received the Companion of the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian honor, in recognition of his significant contributions. His commitment to public service was further acknowledged when he was awarded the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service by the Smithsonian Institution’s Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in 2003.

Mulroney’s influence extended beyond Canadian borders, as evidenced by his participation in pivotal events such as delivering a eulogy for former U.S. President Ronald Reagan in 2004 and former U.S. President George H. W. Bush in 2018. His involvement in commemorating these leaders underscores his stature on the global stage.

Second Biggest Mistake

In 1995, a confidential letter surfaced, implicating Brian Mulroney in allegations of receiving kickbacks from Karlheinz Schreiber, a German Canadian arms dealer, in connection with the sale of Airbus airliners to Air Canada in 1988. Mulroney responded by taking legal action against the Liberal government, securing an apology and damages in 1997.

Later, Mulroney acknowledged receiving C$225,000 in cash from Schreiber but justified it as a legitimate consulting fee. Despite his defense, a subsequent inquiry into the matter concluded that Mulroney had engaged in inappropriate business dealings with Schreiber. Although he maintained that the payments were not illegal, Mulroney publicly apologized for accepting the money.

Reflecting on the ordeal in 2007, Mulroney admitted, “My second biggest mistake in life, for which I have no one to blame but myself, is having accepted payments in cash from Karlheinz Schreiber.” He went further to express remorse for his initial association with Schreiber, considering it his most significant error. Schreiber was eventually deported to Germany in 2009, where he faced legal consequences, receiving a six-and-a-half-year prison sentence in 2013.


Mulroney’s party eventually removed “progressive” from its name and, in 2003, merged with the Canadian Alliance, formerly known as the Reform Party.

He endorsed the formation of the new Conservative Party of Canada, advocating for a unified national conservative coalition to challenge the Liberals.

In September 2023, Mulroney commended the party’s leader, Pierre Poilievre, hailing a speech delivered at a party convention as “arguably the finest convention speech I’ve ever witnessed.”

Despite his conservative leanings, Mulroney didn’t hesitate to offer praise for Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. During a speech in June 2023, Mulroney passionately defended Trudeau’s legacy, highlighting his leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic, commitment to free trade, and support for Ukraine amid its conflict with Russia.

Reflecting on the broader scope of history, Mulroney emphasized, “I’ve come to understand that history pays little heed to the trivialities and rumors circulating around Parliament Hill. It’s the significant milestones that shape Canada’s future that history truly cares about.”

by Myles Shane

Other articles from totimes.ca – otttimes.ca – mtltimes.ca   

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