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Canada: Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney dies aged 84

March 1, 2024

Brian Mulroney served as the 18th Canadian prime minister between 1984 and 1993. He was the leader of the Progressive Conservative party and was elected with the largest majority in Canadian history.

Brian Mulroney's, seen here, ties with US President Ronald Reagan helped him negotiate a landmark treaty in the 80s
In the 80s, Brian Mulroney's ties with Ronald Reagan, the US president at the time, helped him negotiate a landmark treatyImage: Mathieu Belanger/REUTERS

Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney has died aged 84, his daughter Caroline Mulroney wrote on X on Thursday.

"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," she wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took to X shortly after the news broke, saying: "I'll never forget the insights he shared with me over the years — he was generous, tireless, and incredibly passionate."

Trudeau said he was "devastated" to learn the news of Mulroney's death, adding that "he never stopped working for Canadians, and he always sought to make this country an even better place to call home."

Mulroney lived in Montreal. His family said last summer he was improving daily after a heart procedure that followed treatment for prostate cancer in early 2023.

Who was Brian Mulroney?

Mulroney was born to working class Irish-Canadian parents in 1939 and became interested in conservative politics in college. He was a lawyer by training and had a gift for public speaking.

Mulroney headed the Progressive Conservative Party and soared to the largest majority mandate in history when he was elected in 1984. He entered the job with massive support, but he left with the lowest approval rating in the history of polling. 

A skilled politician, Mulroney sought to emulate in Canada the principles of conservatism at the time enshrined by US President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

He sought to lead with principles that could halt and revert the social and economic changes of the previous generation by revamping the tax system and selling off government assets.  

He held office for nine years and his period remains consequential for the negotiations that led to the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement in 1988.

That helped boost Canadian exports, and the introduction of a goods and services tax in 1991. The tax was enormously unpopular politically but helped fix the government's finances. 

Mulroney's administration was saddled with scandals and his reign as prime minister came crashing down in 1993 when voters delivered a devastating election defeat to his party in the backdrop of a depressed economy. He left shortly before the election result.

rm/jsi (AP, Reuters)