MONTREAL — Charles Bronfman called Brian Mulroney “one of the most underrated and underappreciated” Canadian prime ministers, at a conference on Canada-United State relations, organized by McGill University last month.
Bronfman, who introduced a panel discussion between Mulroney and former U.S. secretary of state James Baker, lauded Mulroney for his signing of the Free-Trade Agreement and the acid-rain accord with the United States.
The FTA, the precursor of the North American Free-Trade Agreement, has since created millions of jobs and laid the foundation for the prosperity Canada enjoys today, said Bronfman, in a rare public appearance in his native Montreal.
He recalled the controversy that surrounded the free-trade talks, which eventually resulted in a deal in 1988. “People were cursing, the boo birds were all over the place, saying you’ve sold us down the river.”
The Canadian dollar was at 80 cents U.S., which was thought to be permanent, but soon went up to 90 cents…The benefits of the Mulroney economic reforms continue to be felt to this day.”
Bronfman stressed the importance of strong Canada-U.S. relations.
“Brian’s personal leadership redefined relations between Canada and [United States.] Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush had no better friends than Brian Mulroney,” Bronfman said, later adding that “Canada has influence in the world to the extent that we have a real influence in Washington.”
Bronfman, whose principal residence is New York, also praised Mulroney for leading the Commonwealth in the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa, for being among the first world leaders to promote sustainable development, and for helping Quebec find its just place in Confederation.
The March 24-25 conference was sponsored by the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, of which Bronfman is founding co-chair.