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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks from the pulpit during the funeral of late former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, in Montreal, Saturday, March 23, 2024.Ryan Remiorz/Reuters

In October, 2000, a young Justin Trudeau eulogized his father, Pierre, in Montreal’s Notre-Dame Basilica, making his adult debut in public life and sending the political class into paroxysms of praise and speculation.

On Saturday, in that same church, the 23rd Prime Minister, now middle-aged, eulogized the 18th, Brian Mulroney, at his state funeral. The testament that Mr. Trudeau offered to Mr. Mulroney’s legacy may have reflected his own hoped-for legacy as well.

Mr. Trudeau praised Mr. Mulroney’s life as one “rooted in the values of hard work, gratitude and resilience – resilience being particularly important.” Mr. Mulroney knew “leaders must have vision and they must find the courage to fight for the policies that will give that vision life,” Mr. Trudeau said.

“Leaders must govern, not for easy headlines in 10 days, but for a better Canada in 10 years.”

Those watching knew that the Prime Minister is deeply unpopular, just as Mr. Mulroney was deeply unpopular when he left office in 1993.

The carbon price appears to be as loathed by many Canadians today as Mr. Mulroney’s Goods and Services Tax was in 1991.

Mr. Mulroney left a federal government saddled with crippling deficits. Deficits have defined the Trudeau governments as well.

But Mr. Mulroney refused to back down, just as Mr. Trudeau is refusing to back down, and today Mr. Mulroney is remembered as one of Canada’s finest prime ministers.

Speakers praised his free-trade accord with the United States, his leadership in the fight against apartheid in South Africa, and his strong environmental record.

Speakers may one day praise Mr. Trudeau’s record in reducing childhood poverty, reconciling with Indigenous peoples and combatting global warming.

Justin Trudeau is a very different leader than was Mr. Mulroney. Speakers at the funeral remarked on how much the former prime minister loved to gab on the phone, to reminisce. and encourage and console. Those in Mr. Trudeau’s caucus speak of the Prime Minister’s distance and reserve.

But the two men shared one powerful quality: the determination to spend political capital in the service of what they viewed as the greater good of the country, at whatever cost to their political popularity.

Each respected the other. More than a decade ago, when Mr. Trudeau was running for the Liberal leadership, Mr. Mulroney warned that any political opponent who “treats Justin Trudeau with scorn or derision or underestimates him, does so at his own peril.” As Mr. Trudeau revealed Saturday, they spoke regularly, especially during the fraught negotiations to preserve NAFTA in the face of opposition from the Trump administration.

Both knew defeat. Mr. Mulroney’s repeated attempts to bring Quebec onside with the Constitution not only ended twice in failure, but contributed to the near-death experience of the 1995 referendum on sovereignty.

Mr. Trudeau’s various attempts to craft a postcarbon industrial strategy for Canada have met with mixed results at best. On his watch, productivity has lagged, inflation and interest rates soared and housing has became increasingly unaffordable.

Mr. Mulroney paid such a high political price that the Progressive Conservative Party was effectively destroyed in the 1993 election, never to recover.

A smile and a quip for everyone: Globe readers share their experiences meeting Brian Mulroney

If a federal election were held now, polls suggest that the Liberals would suffer a severe defeat at the hands of Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, who vows to reverse many of Mr. Trudeau’s initiatives, including to “axe the tax.”

Yet Mr. Mulroney was not remembered Saturday as a prime minister whose tenure ended dismally, but as a prime minister who increased Canada’s stature.

“We live in a world that he helped shape,” said former Quebec premier Jean Charest, who served in Mr. Mulroney’s cabinet. “We live in a country that he helped build.”

People may one day forget the Liberal government’s failures and scandals and focus instead on advances in social policies and its relative success in shepherding the country through the pandemic.

Justin Trudeau ended the eulogy for his father in 2000 with these words:

“He won’t be coming back any more. It’s all up to us, all of us, now.”

His closing words in his eulogy to Mr. Mulroney: “It is up to all of us, each in our own way, to pursue the work towards an even more ambitious and even better Canada.”

This, at least, is as true today as it was more than 23 years ago.

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