Former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney says the looming presidency of his long-time friend Donald Trump could be good news for Canada, despite Trump’s plans to scrap NAFTA, one of Mulroney’s biggest political achievements.

In a wide-ranging interview with CTV’s Power Play, Mulroney touched on the uncertain future of NAFTA, his take on the Liberals’ recent pipeline decision and why he personally thinks the president-elect -- his billionaire neighbour in Palm Beach, Fla. -- is a “very nice guy.”

“Donald Trump, I think, wants to be known as a great president, and that’s entirely up to him. And one of the ways he can do it is by co-operating with a great ally like Canada -- and I think that’s going to happen,” Mulroney said in an interview on Tuesday.

Recent polling has suggested that Canadians are concerned about the future of NAFTA, a critical trade agreement that Trump has repeatedly vowed to tear up once in the White House. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said he’s “happy to talk” about NAFTA with Trump.

Mulroney, who negotiated both the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and the North American Free Trade Agreement, agrees that it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

“Look, I think that when Donald was talking about NAFTA during the campaign, he was really talking about Mexico, essentially. Now, can NAFTA be refurbished and refreshed after 25 years? Of course. There are areas. Look, when I did the free trade agreement with Ronald Reagan and NAFTA with George Bush, there was no Internet. Some of the great things we have now weren’t even invented,” he said.

“But I think (Trump was) talking about Mexico, when he talked about the rapists and the murderers. And the problem is immigration south of the border.”

Trumpism in Canada?

Trump’s brash style of politics has often been compared to Ronald Reagan, a president with whom Mulroney worked closely alongside. Mulroney said he sees some similarities.

“Reagan was entirely different, but they have much in common. Both of them wanted to be transformational leaders. And they both knew that if they were going to do that, they had to do big things -- not small, incremental stuff. They had to do big things. And Reagan did. And I know that Trump feels the same way. So there’s a possibility that he surprises an awful lot of people again and gets going on some major initiatives. And I think that he does that with Canada as an ally and as a supporter and friend, and nothing else.”

Canada has seen glimmers of Trump-style politics since the U.S. election in November. Last weekend, attendees at an Alberta rally chanted “lock her up” when Conservative leadership hopeful Chris Alexander spoke about Premier Rachel Notley. Kellie Leitch, another Conservative leadership candidate, has been compared to Trump for her proposal to screen immigrants for so-called “anti-Canadian values.”

Asked if Trump-style rhetoric could infiltrate Canadian politics, Mulroney said “that’s not going to fly here.”

“We have a different structure, we have a different personality, we have different approaches. But you know, (U.S. politician) Mario Cuomo used to say that you campaign in poetry but you govern in prose. And Donald is going to realize he’s just like all the rest of us -- that once you get down to the serious business of governing, the big rallies and all the fun of campaigning, that doesn’t apply anymore. You’ve got to deliver on your promises for the people.”

Mulroney: Trump ‘a very nice guy’

Mulroney said he recently spoke with Trump over the phone after the president-elect phoned him. The pair have known each other for more than 20 years and both own properties in the same upscale Florida neighbourhood.

“He lives down the street from me in Palm Beach. The difference you might note is you can take my house and put it in his kitchen -- and there’d be lots of room for all family and friends,” Mulroney said.

Based on that personal relationship, Mulroney said he has a positive impression of Trump.

“I’ve always found that he was a very nice guy, always treated us in a very nice way. Look, any guy that can make 10 billion dollars and raises five beautiful children -- none of whom smoke, drink or take drugs and are wonderful, classy young people -- anybody who can do that has got something good going for them.”

Trudeau recently approved two major pipeline projects: Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta to Burnaby, B.C. and Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline expansion from Alberta to Wisconsin.

Asked if the decision shows that Trudeau is balancing the economy with the environment, Mulroney said the answer “requires a question.”

“What do you think that the other 200 countries in the world would do if they had 174 billion barrels of oil in the ground? What do you think they’d do? Get a pipeline as fast they could. That’s what we’re doing, and that’s what we should do,” he said.

“I think once you make a reasonable understanding with the aboriginals and the environmentalists, everybody is going to profit from this tremendous wealth -- and we’re going to be a better country.”