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Mulroney praises former president as "a giant" and "great friend of Canada"
June 5, 2004
MONTREAL (CP) - Offering his condolences to the family of Ronald Reagan and the people of the United States, Brian Mulroney praised the former president Saturday as "a giant" and "a great friend of Canada."
With the sun setting in the early evening, the former prime minister stood on the steps in front of his Westmount home and lauded Reagan as an "icon" who had earned a special place in history.
"Ronald Reagan was a transformational president," Mulroney said. "(He) made an enormous difference in our lives by leading the West to a victory in the Cold War and enabling all free peoples to watch the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
"He was also a great friend of Canada. It was with Reagan that I negotiated the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement that's brought such a great degree of prosperity to Canada."
The free trade deal came into effect Jan. 1, 1989, after four years of hard bargaining.
Mulroney's terms as prime minister from 1984 through 1993 largely coincided with the Reagan era from 1981 through 1989.
Apart from a shared conservative viewpoint, the two enjoyed a warm personal relationship that was illustrated when the pair joined in a chorus of When Irish Eyes Are Smiling at a 1985 gala to close a summit on acid rain in Quebec City.
Mulroney said Saturday the summit was one of his dearest memories of Reagan.
"(We were) two leaders of Irish background and we celebrated St. Patrick's Day in an area not far from where the Irish first landed in Quebec in the early 1830s," Mulroney recalled. "That was very symbolic."
Mulroney, who said he would attend the funeral, also said he had fond memories of the former president's ranch.
"He was a delightful host, he was thoughtful, he was generous, very funny, entertaining but he had his eye on the ball. He was a very strong and powerful leader who did an enormous amount of good for the world."
Mulroney said he had spoken to Nancy Reagan, the former president's widow, before the former president's death was announced Saturday.
"I had called to see how things were, she said, 'Brian, I think the end is near.'
"It wasn't half an hour later that the television came on and said he had passed away . . . I felt very sad. We had had quite some time to prepare but it's an enormous loss," Mulroney said.
"He enters history as a strong and dramatic player and people are going to miss him forever."