Au revoir to the P’tit Gars de Baie-Comeau: Brian Mulroney laid to rest

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, and former prime minister Brian Mulroney speak during the Atlantic Economic Forum at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S. on Monday, June 19, 2023. (Darren Calabrese, The Canadian Press)

As snow fell on a very cold Montreal morning, politicians, celebrities, hockey stars and friends of Brian Mulroney entered Notre-Dame Basilica to pay their respects.

Le P’tit Gars de Baie-Comeau was remembered as a great Canadian and one of the most consequential prime ministers in the country’s history.

“He had a huge impact 40 years ago,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “He had a huge impact four years ago, as he helped Canada and me negotiate through a very challenging time with our free trade deal with the United States.”

Many spoke about his ability to accomplish big projects like the Free Trade Agreement, and what that meant for his home province of Quebec.

“The impact was so great on Quebec companies,” said Premier Francois Legault. “We saw a very important increase in exportation, and of course it created good jobs in Quebec.”

Quebec Premier Francois Legault arrives to the funeral of former prime minister Brian Mulroney, in Montreal, Saturday, March 23, 2024. (Sean Kilpatrick, The Canadian Press)

John Parisella was chief of staff to former Quebec premier Robert Bourassa, who was in power when Mulroney was prime minister.

He said that when it came to US relations, there was no one better than Mulroney.

“A strong relationship with an American president gives us more influence in the rest of the world,” said Parisella. “And I think he’s the model when it comes to Canada, the U.S. relations.”

“When my mother turned 80, he called her,” said Parisella. “He found out about it. He called me and says, ‘give me her number.’ Well, I said, ‘let me call her before she gets a heart attack getting the prime minister to call.’ He called her and he sang ‘When Irish Eyes Were Smiling’ on the phone to her.”

Many give Mulroney credit for fighting environmental issues when it wasn’t a top priority for politicians.

“To really be a voice that influenced the world around protecting the ozone layer and fighting against acid rain was something that was quite remarkable,” said NDP leader Jagmeet Singh.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh pays his respects at the casket of former prime minister Brian Mulroney as he lies in state at the Sir John A. Macdonald building opposite Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, March 19, 2024. (Sean Kilpatrick, The Canadian Press)

Quebecers remember Mulroney as someone who was inclusive, trying to bring Quebec into the constitution while also working closely with his opponents.

“He did not treat his political adversaries as enemies,” said Parisella. “I think that’s so important. Civility in politics is important and Brian Mulroney was the incarnation of civility in politics.”

“He was able to find some solutions, and I think sometimes it’s missing now in politics,” said Quebec Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette.

Mila Mulroney and immediate family members look on as Christian Lepine, Archbishop of Montreal, blesses the casket with holy water during the funeral of former prime minister Brian Mulroney, in Montreal, Saturday, March 23, 2024. (Ryan Remiorz, The Canadian Press)
Brian Mulroney's immediate family members look on from the pew during the funeral of former prime minister Brian Mulroney, in Montreal, Saturday, March 23, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Source: CTV News