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A message in memory of former prime minister Brian Mulroney is written in chalk on the sidewalk in front of Parliament Hill's West Block in Ottawa on March 1.Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

Brian Mulroney’s indelible mark on Canada was celebrated Friday – with free trade and an acid rain treaty heralded as his most consequential accomplishments – but politicians of all stripes also spoke of his personal touch as they paid homage to a titan of Canadian politics.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday that plans for a full state funeral were under way and that the public will be able to express their condolences for Canada’s 18th prime minister, who led the country from 1984 to 1993. The government is working closely with the family to respect their wishes, he said, promising a “right and fitting tribute.”

On Parliament Hill the Canadian flag flew at half-mast and MPs agreed to suspend their Friday sitting as a mark of respect. “Canadians and all the members of this House are lamenting the loss of a great patriot,” House Leader Steve MacKinnon said Friday.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Mr. Mulroney had the ability to “lift you up.”

“By the time I was finished talking to him, I was ready to go door knocking, and just ready to take on the world,” Mr. Ford said. “He was a mentor, and adviser and just a good friend.”

Mr. Mulroney was the first political leader to call Bob Rae when the onetime premier’s brother died, when he won the Ontario election and when he lost. The former prime minister encouraged Liberal MP Anthony Housefather through a tough time late last fall and cheered former interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose on during her toughest political moments.

Mr. Mulroney’s capacity to extend his humanity to both political friend and foe was one of his greatest strengths, said former prime minister Joe Clark, who first defeated Mr. Mulroney in a leadership race, only to later have the tables turned and then go on to serve as a minister in his cabinet.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Mr. Clark recalled a tiny moment that he believes speaks volumes about Mr. Mulroney’s character.

At a certain point the two men were both adjusting to needing reading glasses, but Mr. Clark was unwilling to wear his in the House of Commons. That decision failed him one day when he had to read a statement in French. Mr. Mulroney came to his aid and inconspicuously gave him his own.

As foreign minister and then constitutional affairs minister, Mr. Clark was involved in some of the Mulroney government’s most significant and lasting accomplishments. Among those are treaties with the United States on free trade, which has permanently shaped the Canadian economy, and acid rain. Mr. Mulroney had vision and pushed policies that weren’t popular but that he knew were right, said Mr. Clark, pointing to the introduction of the federal sales tax and the campaign to end apartheid in South Africa.

“It’s easy in high office to only do what you have to do,” Mr. Clark said. “He went beyond what he had to do and he made his colleagues, most of them, feel that they had the capacity to do more.”

On big attempts that failed, such as constitutional reform, Mr. Clark said it wasn’t a mistake for Mr. Mulroney to try, they just didn’t work out.

Canadians, Mr. Clark said, should see Mr. Mulroney “as a consequential prime minister.”

“Was he controversial? Yes. Did he earn some of that controversy? Yes. Was he perfect? No. Clearly no. But he was certainly consequential, and the consequences were not short-term ones,” Mr. Clark said.

In Sudbury, Mr. Trudeau remembered Mr. Mulroney as an “extraordinary statesman” whose devotion to Canada is an important reminder of the spirit of public service.

“There are certainly things that people disagreed with from one party to the next, but the idea of service ran through everything he did,” Mr. Trudeau said.

Even after he left office, Mr. Mulroney advised politicians behind the scenes and helped the federal government navigate the Donald Trump presidency and free trade negotiations. However, his health began to falter. He was treated for prostate cancer almost a year ago and underwent a heart procedure in August.

Jean Charest was a minister in Mr. Mulroney’s cabinet, and then led the Progressive Conservative Party after it was walloped in the 1993 election by the Liberals. The former Quebec premier flew down to Florida last Saturday to visit Mr. Mulroney – an idea hatched with Ms. Mulroney to boost the morale of his old friend and mentor who was mentally alert but had been in and out of hospital and was having trouble walking.

“I reminded him that this is the 40th anniversary of his election in 1984 and that we need to organize some events to celebrate his legacy. He agreed,” Mr. Charest said in an interview.

“He was Irish – you could tell that his thoughts were sometimes a little more pessimistic,” Mr. Charest said, adding that Mr. Mulroney had lost a lot of weight. “He had been energetic. He had a great life and I’m sure that it affected him to be physically in a difficult spot.”

Still, “when I left, I didn’t think that he would be so close to leaving.”

With reports from Laura Stone and Lindsay Jones.

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