The line between Canadian and American culture can sometimes appear thin-so it's not too surprising that the country's leaders might share a connection as well.
Such is the case with former president George H.W. Bush and former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney. Their terms in office overlapped, allowing them to work together and, eventually, to form a long-lasting bond.
In a recent interview, Mulroney credited Bush with two major accomplishments: the North American Free Trade Agreement and the 1991 bilateral acid-rain treaty. "He was the one who made possible two major events in the history of Canada," he said. Mulroney explained that Bush's predecessor Ronald Reagan had been hesitant to pass legislation related to acid rain, but Bush was happy to take action. "For 25 years, acid rain was a major problem," he said. "It's not mentioned anymore because the problem's been solved."
The former prime minister then explained that NAFTA was originally conceived as an agreement between the U.S. and Mexico. When Mulroney argued that Canada should be included as well, Bush agreed.
Mulroney also clearly admired Bush's leadership in times of international conflict. "The implosion of the Soviet Union was the most epochal event of the 20th century," he said. "And the reunification of Germany was also a spectacular event, both of which had to be handled with the utmost skill, delicacy, firmness and knowledge. And George Bush did both of them - provided brilliant leadership on both, without a shot being fired and very peacefully... That's the way he saw the world-that countries working together can solve problems, whereas it's very difficult to do that if you're standing alone."
After their respective terms in office came to an end, Mulroney and Bush remained friends. Mulroney made more than one visit to Bush's home in Kennebunkport, Maine-the last of which occurred just this September. In Mulroney's words, it was "a very good visit," but "It was clear it would be my last visit with him-ever."
He's reportedly having some trouble finishing his speech ("Every time I think of a line to say about George Bush, I realize I have more to say," he told journalists), but Mulroney has some previous experience to draw on. The former prime minister delivered eulogies as both Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan's funerals, whose presidential terms he also overlapped with, making him somewhat of a regular appearance at presidential funerals. He has until Wednesday to work on his address, which he'll deliver inside the Washington National Cathedral at Bush's Washington, D.C. funeral.
Still, it seems that Mulroney is holding this speech to a particularly high standard. "George Bush was such a big part of my life and an important player in Canada’s life and a model for anyone who wants to serve in public life," he said. "It’s hard to piece this together."
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