My First Prime Minister Died

Technically speaking that’s not true since there were Joe Clark, Pierre Trudeau and John turner before him, but Brian Mulroney is my first Prime Minister in the sense that he’s the first one I remember actually being in the job. When I started getting old enough to notice the news and when we began learning about politics in school, he was the guy. I think that’s why I was so unexpectedly shocked when I heard that he had gone. We don’t write so long posts here as often as we used to, but this one has stuck with me since it happened, so I feel like I ought to at least note it.

My strongest memory of Mulroney was him being so deeply unpopular that he resigned before the end of his second term and set the stage for his majority government to be reduced to two people, but he was certainly much more than that, for better or worse. He was, as I would discover as the years went by, not a typical conservative or even your typical politician. He had big ideas and wasn’t afraid to take a risk. And some of his policies (acid rain treaty, working to end apartheid) were actually good. He also took big swings with the GST, national unity and North American free trade, enormously complex issues that cost him politically and absolutely changed the country forever.

“Whether one agrees with our solutions or not, none will accuse us of having chosen to evade our responsibilities by side-stepping the most controversial issues of our time,” he said when he stepped down in 1993, in a way summing himself up better than anyone else could, minus the bribery scandals and whatnot.

I have no idea how the world is going to remember Brian Mulroney. Probably somewhere between skilled politician and asshole who taxed us all to death and sent our jobs to Mexico, if I had to guess. But if there’s only one thing that I’ll take away from him, it won’t be something he said, but rather something I’ve heard said about him many times by people across the political spectrum. During this process, I called Brian Mulroney for advice, or while all of this was going on, Brian Mulroney called me to offer his help and encouragement. That’s pretty cool, and it’s how I’ve always tried my best to see the world. People who don’t see things your way often suck and are wrong, but not always. Sometimes it’s worth the effort it takes to listen to them, to try to help them, to find some common ground and to use that to make things better for everyone. We’re all in this life together, whether we want to be or not. Brian Mulroney certainly didn’t teach me that, but he’s at times been a nice reminder that it’s possible.

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