'He loved Canada': Mulroney mourns his friend George H.W. Bush
Daniel Otis, CTVNews.ca staff, with files from Sandie Rinaldo
Published Saturday, December 1, 2018 10:05PM EST
Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney is remembering George H.W. Bush as a “gentleman” and a “genuine friend.”
Mulroney, who will be eulogizing Bush at his funeral next week, sat down with CTV News’ Sandie Rinaldo on Saturday to discuss the late American president, who died Friday at age 94.
“My fondest memories, Sandie, is what a gentleman he was,” Mulroney said of the former president, whom he described as “a lot of fun.”
“It made it easy for me because he loved Canada,” Mulroney added. “He understood the country, wanted to help us and did in many major areas. So I remember him with great affection and respect.”
Bush served as president of the United States between 1989 and 1993. His entire term overlapped with that of Mulroney, who led Canada between 1984 and 1993.
Just three weeks after his inauguration, Bush visited Mulroney in Ottawa for his first international trip as president. The visit sparked a decades-long friendship.
Acid rain agreement
“After his inauguration, he came to Canada and that’s where we laid the groundwork, thanks to him, for the Canada-U.S. Acid Rain Treaty and NAFTA,” Mulroney said, referring to the 1991 Canada-United States Air Quality Agreement.
“Acid rain was killing our rivers and lakes and streams and forests. They were dying in front of our very eyes … And lo and behold, we got an acid rain treaty that has solved the problem for good ... That’s because of him.”
What started as a professional relationship evolved into something more personal after Bush left office, Mulroney said.
“He invited Mila and me and all the kids down to Camp David for the final weekend of his presidency,” Mulroney reminisced, speaking of his wife of 45 years. “We just kept on. I’d call him and he’d call me and we’d visit together, we’d go fishing together and so on … We went from being political friends to genuine friends and that’s been now, 30 years.”
Mulroney last saw him in September at the Bush family’s oceanfront retreat in Kennebunkport, Maine, when Mulroney was honoured with the 2018 George Bush Award For Excellence In Public Service.
“Mila and I had been going to Kennebunkport on Labour Day for about 30 years,” Mulroney said. “We had a hell of a time. It was a lot of fun.”
In Mulroney’s eyes, Bush’s long career in the public spotlight was always “enveloped in an atmosphere of kindness.”
‘Always looked for the brighter side’
“There was no malice in George Bush,” Mulroney said. “He got along with everybody. He never spoke ill of anybody … He always looked for the brighter side of people and he was a very kind fellow, and I think that is why he inspired such affection universally and such respect among Americans.”
That affection and respect appears to have gone both ways.
“He called me about three years ago and said he wanted me to speak at his funeral,” Mulroney recalled. “I told him, ‘No,’ said, ‘I don’t even want to talk about this, George.’ And he said, ‘Well you have to because I’ve got to get this done.’ So, I said, ‘OK.’”
Mulroney is one of four people -- including Bush’s eldest son, former president George W. Bush -- who will be eulogizing Bush at his funeral, which is scheduled to take place in Houston, Texas on Dec. 6.
“I have thought about how I’m going to start it and how I’m going to end it,” Mulroney said. “But I haven’t got all the middle done yet.”