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Brian Mulroney remembers George H.W. Bush as 'a great friend of Canada'

Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and President George Bush throw out the opening pitch of the Toronto Blue Jays home opener in Toronto on April 10, 1990. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

Canadian politicians past and present offered their condolences on Saturday following the death of former U.S. president George H.W. Bush, with former prime minister Brian Mulroney calling it “an enormous loss.”

Bush, who served in the Oval Office from 1989 to 1993, died Friday night at his home in Houston at the age of 94 – just eight months after the death of his wife of more than 70 years, Barbara Bush.

Mulroney, whose nine years in power overlapped with Bush’s four, said the last time he saw his friend was in late September, when he was in Kennebunkport, Maine, to accept the George Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service.

Bush wasn’t well enough to attend the event, so Mulroney paid the former president a visit at home before the ceremony.

Bush asked to hear Mulroney’s acceptance speech, so the former prime minister read it out to him. The two friends also spent time listening to music and talking.

“It was just a delightful experience, and my last visit with him after all these years,” Mulroney said Saturday in an interview.

“I think we both knew that that was probably the last visit we were going to have.”

Mulroney said that among the two leaders’ joint accomplishments, two stand out: the signing of the Canada-U.S. Air Quality Agreement, known as the acid rain treaty, in 1991; and the negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, signed in 1994 after both had left office.

Bush “was a great friend of Canada, and he made very important things possible for Canadian history,” Mulroney said.

Mulroney said Bush asked him three years ago if he would speak at his funeral, and he said he’d be “honoured” to do it.

“I spent a little time on it. I’m not finished yet, but I think I know what I want to say,” Mulroney said.

The White House announced Saturday that a state funeral for the former president would be held at Washington’s National Cathedral. President Donald Trump also closed government offices Wednesday and designated it a national day of mourning, which traditionally occurs on the same day as the Washington component of a late president’s state funeral.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also offered his thoughts on Bush’s legacy, saying the former U.S. president’s commitment to his country was clear.

“His exemplary spirit of service and commitment to country would mark each of his roles – including in Congress, as ambassador to the United Nations, as head of the Central Intelligence Agency, and in the White House,” Trudeau said of the former president in a written statement.

Canadian conservatives also offered up their sympathies, with federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer also commending Bush as a “friend to Canada.”

“He was truly a gentleman of American politics and one of the world’s most principled defenders of freedom and democracy,” Scheer said in a statement.

Former prime minister Stephen Harper tweeted that Bush was “a conservative leader and deeply devoted family man” who leaves behind an incredible legacy.

Some of Canada’s conservative premiers also tweeted their condolences.

“We Canadians will remember his friendship and generous spirit,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford tweeted. “May he rest in peace.”

Meanwhile, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe wrote that Bush was “a humble, well-respected political figure while serving and through his many years post-presidency.”

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