Brian Mulroney’s Funeral | JIM FURLONG

For the third time in the last six weeks, I put pen to paper to mark the passing of someone. I asked of wife Judy, who is my editor-in-chief, why this was happening, and I was writing so often of death. She said there was a simple explanation. I was just living too long while those around me were going to their eternal reward. With that as background, here it goes.

Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was buried on the right day of the week for spectacle. The funeral was on a Saturday which, in practical terms, made for maximum coverage and guaranteed a big television audience. I watched it all and loved almost all of it. The one shady spot was Conservative leader Pierre Polievre who, when asked by a television reporter about the legacy of Brian Mulroney, responded by saying that the late Prime Minister came to office in 1984 when things in Canada were like they are now. Pierre couldn’t seem to resist the temptation of political opportunism. He then launched into a tirade about inflation, and high unemployment rates. I don’t think Pierre Polievre mentioned Mulroney again. It struck me as being short on class and in the end short sited politically.

Nevertheless, the Mulroney funeral had the dignity and gravitas suitable to the occasion. You know I came to like Brian Mulroney by degrees, and I can tell you roughly when I became a convert. There was a time when CUPW the Canadian Union of Postal Workers was at odds with the government. Really? Brian Mulroney was in Newfoundland as I remember it and was preparing to fly back to Ottawa. There was a picket line at the airport that Brian Mulroney wouldn’t cross. It turns out it was an “information picket line” and Mulroney was told the workers wouldn’t prevent him from crossing because it wasn’t actually a strike. Mulroney still declined to cross that line and drove instead to another airport. He said it was a principle that he did not cross picket lines under any circumstances. Well, he got my vote for that. He declined to cross, not because of consequences, but because of principle. I like that. I know his record with labour is checkered but, in that instance, he passed all my tests. I don’t know it, but I suspect somehow his announced pro-labour stance was somehow linked to his education at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. We Newfoundlanders have a soft spot for those who went to St. Francis Xavier and were exposed to the Coady movement named after Monsignor Moses Coady. It is very much a university of “The Left”.

What is so interesting about Mulroney is that after he left office, and even while he was in office, his frienships strayed across party lines and as a figure in retirement he seemed to rise above the political fray. He had friends who wore all kinds of political stripes. Brian Mulroney wasn’t perfect, and the judgement of history really is yet to come. Politically he was on a page far different than mine but on balance I liked him. It seems most people did.

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