About the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney, P.C., C.C., G.O.Q.

Profile of Brian Mulroney’s face against a dark background.

Source: Paul Couvrette/Alamy Stock Photo

The Right Honourable Brian Mulroney

Profile of Brian Mulroney’s face against a dark background.

Source: Paul Couvrette/Alamy Stock Photo

The Right Honourable Brian Mulroney

“Canadians have an obligation to help make the world a better and safer place. Not least, we owe it to ourselves to honour excellence and pursue it relentlessly. Canada must stand for the best in all fields of human endeavour. And we must be uncompromising in the pursuit of values that are the moral foundation of all great nations. That is my dream for my country: a Canada fair and generous, tolerant and just.”

Brian Mulroney

The Rt. Hon. Martin Brian Mulroney believed Canada’s vibrant democracy “is advanced by the collision of great ideas and the articulation of competing visions of the country.”

As Canada’s 18th prime minister, he believed achievement occurs when challenge meets leadership. Inspired by the words of James MacGregor Burns, Brian Mulroney sought to reconstruct Canada’s political system, rather than be constrained by it. And like Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, Mr. Mulroney believed the long game was the true one, that political capital is acquired to be spent in great causes for one’s country. Brian Mulroney was a prime minister of consequence, his policies and programs were transformational, the building blocks for a Canada for the 21st century.

Born in Baie-Comeau, Quebec, in 1939, Martin Brian Mulroney was a talented and precocious student, entering St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, in 1955. He obtained a bachelor's degree in political science in 1959 and moved on to study law at Dalhousie University and later Laval University, graduating in 1964.

Brian Mulroney’s professional career progressed in the fields of law and business leadership. He was admitted to the Barreau du Québec (Bar of the Province of Quebec) in 1965, specializing in labour law. He joined the multinational firm Norton Rose Fulbright, where he was made partner in 1971. In 1973, he married Mila Pivnicki. Together, they had 4 children: Caroline, Benedict (Ben), Mark and Nicolas. In 1974-1975, he distinguished himself during his participation in the Commission of Inquiry on the Exercise of Union Freedom in the Construction Industry (Cliche Commission), which was set up by Quebec premier Robert Bourassa. From 1977 to 1983, Mr. Mulroney was the President of the Iron Ore Company of Canada.

Involved in politics early on during his time at university, Brian Mulroney joined student political societies and acted as a student delegate both in provincial and federal events for the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. He was chosen as party leader in 1983 and elected to the House of Commons shortly afterwards. The following year, in 1984, he led his party to the largest electoral victory in Canadian history. He remained Prime Minister until his retirement from politics in 1993.

Brian Mulroney is known for several landmark initiatives during his mandate, and perhaps most notably for his government’s far-reaching economic legacy. His economic policies as well as favourable bilateral relations with international partners fostered Canada’s growing participation in the global economy. The Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement, implemented in 1989, lay the groundwork for the eventual ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), in 1994, with the inclusion of Mexico.

A concern for the country’s economic competitiveness and a desire to reduce the deficit led to a historic tax reform for both personal and business taxes. Notably, Mr. Mulroney created the goods and services tax (GST) in 1991. The GST, still in effect today, was created to replace the manufacturer’s sales tax. Mr. Mulroney’s government also privatized a number of Crown corporations, including Air Canada and Petro-Canada. Among other measures, these initiatives contributed to reducing Canada’s budgetary deficit from 8.3 percent of GDP to 5.2 percent during his first term in office.

Brian Mulroney revitalized Canada’s presence on the world stage, leading through our humanitarian response to the 1985 famine in Ethiopia and his staunch opposition to apartheid in South Africa. Driven by his deep sense of justice and respect for human rights, Mr. Mulroney led Canada’s anti-apartheid efforts within the Commonwealth in the 1980s that ultimately led to the liberation of Nelson Mandela. His personal convictions combined with his devotion to democracy and international cooperation helped Canada and its NATO allies play a pivotal role in peacefully ending the Cold War. Under Mr. Mulroney’s leadership, Canada also became the first western country to officially recognize Ukraine’s independence in December 1991.

Through these initiatives, Mr. Mulroney helped define Canada as a more robust and independent actor on the international stage, promoting Canadian values on human rights.

Canada also became known for its international leadership in the field of environmental protection and was, for example, one of the first countries to ratify the United Nations Biodiversity and Climate Change Conventions (1992). While maintaining an independent stance, Brian Mulroney fostered a climate of bilateral co-operation with the United States, resulting in the creation of the Canada-United States Air Quality Agreement (commonly referred to as the Acid Rain Accord) in 1991. It was also under Mr. Mulroney’s leadership that Canada hosted the international climate conference in Montréal that would lead to the adoption of the Montreal Protocol, which is among the most influential international environmental agreements to regulate the production and consumption of ozone depleting substances (1987). This focus on environmental protection would be a hallmark of Brian Mulroney’s tenure, during which time his government passed the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (1988) and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (1992).

Domestically, he worked towards improving French language rights and bolstering the greater inclusion of Quebec in Canada’s constitutional processes. Though the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords of the early 1990s were not passed, these attempts had a lasting impact in redefining the constitutional relationships between the federal and provincial governments.

In 1985, Mr. Mulroney’s government created the Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals (Deschênes Commission). That same year, the Western Accord on Energy was also negotiated with the governments of the oil-producing provinces, which permitted the full deregulation of oil prices and allowed the market forces of international and local supply and demand to determine energy prices. This accord also abolished the National Energy Program.

Among many initiatives in Atlantic Canada, Mr. Mulroney drove funding for the construction of the Confederation Bridge linking Prince Edward Island with New Brunswick, a successful public-private partnership project, as well as the formation of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. He was also instrumental in the 1985 Atlantic Accord, an agreement that enabled Newfoundland and Labrador to develop and benefit from its offshore oil industry.

In 1991, following the Oka crisis the previous year, Mr. Mulroney’s government appointed the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples to study the evolution of the relationship between Indigenous Peoples, the Government of Canada and Canadian society as a whole.

During his tenure, numerous national parks were also created, including Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site in British Columbia and the Bruce Peninsula National Park in Ontario. As one of his final acts as prime minister, Mr. Mulroney was one of the signatories of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement in 1993. This historic event, held in Iqaluit, ultimately contributed to the creation of Nunavut in 1999.

In 1993, Mr. Mulroney stepped back from politics, returning to his previous career in law and business. He was made a senior partner with Norton Rose Fulbright in 1993 and sat on the board of directors of numerous Canadian and international corporations including Quebecor, The Blackstone Group L.P., and Barrick Gold Corporation.

In 2016, St. Francis Xavier University announced that it would be the home of the Brian Mulroney Institute of Government, a centre for undergraduate teaching and research in the field of public policy, leadership and governance. Mr. Mulroney’s legacy will also live on through the Carrefour international Brian-Mulroney, a centre for the pluridisciplinary francophone Graduate School of International Studies at Université Laval.

Brian Mulroney’s prominence in the fields of law, business and politics earned him many accolades. Most notably, he was appointed Companion of the Order of Canada in 1998, grand officier de l’Ordre national du Québec (Grand Officer) in 2002, and Commandeur de la Légion d’honneur (Commander) in France, in 2016. He also received international honours from Haiti, Japan, Ukraine and South Africa.

Brian Mulroney leaves a legacy of dedicated leadership that led Canada through a period of considerable domestic and international change. By addressing difficult issues such as language and constitutional rights, his mandate as Prime Minister contributed to shaping Canadian society as it is today.

“We owe it to our citizens to ensure opportunity, fairness and justice for all. And we must attempt to see these principles respected elsewhere in the world.”

Brian Mulroney

With input provided by the Mulroney family

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