House of Commons silent, Parliament Hill flag at half-mast after death of Brian Mulroney

Brian Mulroney

Members of Parliament are absent from the House of Commons as Canadians mourn the death of former prime minister Brian Mulroney.

The flag atop the Peace Tower is flying at half-mast in tribute to the Progressive Conservative leader who died Thursday at 84.

A family spokesman says Mulroney died surrounded by his family in a Palm Beach hospital, where he’d been since a recent fall. News of his death prompted a flood of respect and remembrance, both in political circles and beyond.

The House of Commons was in the throes of debating legislation Thursday when Conservative MP John Nater rose to break the news.

“It is obviously with great regret that this House has learned of the passing of this country’s 18th prime minister,” Nater said before MPs agreed to suspend proceedings.

Mulroney, a charismatic and compelling leader with convictions as deep as his trademark languid baritone, led the country as the leader of the Progressive Conservatives from 1984 until 1993.

He reinvented cross-border relations thanks to a close friendship with then-U.S. president Ronald Reagan, a relationship that helped usher in the era of continental free trade and bilateral environmental treaties.

For many, Mulroney will always be the prime minister who introduced the Goods and Services Tax — a bold and necessary move, he insisted, but one that came with lasting political damage.

He had no fear of trying “controversial things,” said former prime minister Jean Chrétien, including twice trying unsuccessfully to amend the Constitution with the Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords.

“In politics, opposition is opposition,” Chrétien said. “It’s like playing hockey. You can fight on the ice and have a beer together after that. And we had a lot of things in common.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described Mulroney as a vital source of advice and sage counsel while the federal Liberal government was locked in difficult negotiations with the U.S. and Mexico over NAFTA.

“He shaped our past, but he shapes our present — and he will impact our future as well,” Trudeau said. “There are many, many people across the country tonight who are reeling and feeling a deep absence.”

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre shared a photo of himself with Mulroney, thanking him for his “candid advice and generous mentorship.”

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