Skip to main content

I feel as though I trailed around after Margaret Thatcher through much of my political life.

First, she was one of the influences that led me to seek a political nomination in 1983. I had always been absorbed by politics, but my participation had always been as a volunteer. By the early 1980's, I was drawn to the idea of running for office – but still toying with the idea. Margaret Thatcher burst on the scene like a comet with hair and a purse. Like a comet, she lit up the world; unlike a comet she did not disappear – she stayed around to change her country profoundly and, indeed, the world. She and I bore not one whit of resemblance to each other, but in part because of her I began to see myself as a serious candidate. It was the woman thing, and I finally pushed myself off the starter mark and won.

Second, my first ministerial job as Minister of State for Finance was to undertake reform of Canada's financial sector, a long-favourite policy of then prime minister Brian Mulroney. Margaret Thatcher was starting to overhaul British banking through deregulation and increased transparency: The Green Paper on Financial Institution Reform that we unleashed on the Canadian public was based on some of the same principles and proceeded more or less at the same time.

Story continues below advertisement

Third, my next ministerial challenge was privatization – this time following in the wake of Margaret Thatcher. Her privatization of British Gas and British Airways were models to be followed in our sale of companies like Canadair, Teleglobe and Air Canada.

Finally, I became secretary of state for External Affairs just as the Cold War was ending. Margaret Thatcher was no longer prime minister, but her role in working with Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev and other G8 leaders to end east-west tensions was perhaps her greatest contribution.

Strangely enough, through all this I had only met her two or three times in passing. But at the G8 summit in London in July, 1991, I sat with her at a state dinner at Buckingham Palace. John Major was by then prime minister, and therefore hosting along with the Queen. Mrs. Thatcher was a guest along with many others – her first G8 where she had not been among the leaders. She was perfectly pleasant company, but there was something rather forlorn about this formerly indomitable leader who was now an ordinary bystander. I was happy to share her company, nevertheless, even for a few minutes. Like the trooper that she was, she carried off being a bystander with the greatest of dignity.

I have not seen her since.

Barbara McDougall was Secretary of State for External Affairs from 1991 to 1993

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter