On the eve of meeting then Opposition Leader Brian Mulroney and starting one of her most enduring political friendships, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was informed in 1983 that the Canadian was a "shrewd politician" who could also give the impression of being "glib and superficial," newly released documents show.

That assessment of Mulroney, then Conservative leader, is just one part of a revealing — and at times frank — look at key Canadian political personalities, written for Thatcher by British officials in preparation for her 1983 visit to Canada.

Thatcher died in April at age 87.

The document also describes Mulroney as "good looking with a great deal of Irish charm."


Newly released documents in Britain from 1983 describe then Opposition Leader Brian Mulroney as 'glib' and then prime minister Pierre Trudeau as having a 'complex personality.' (Erin Boudreau/CBC)

The fall visit, shortly after she was re-elected, included stops in Ottawa, Toronto and Edmonton, where officials wrote Thatcher "could expect a warm welcome, particularly in Ontario and Alberta."

It also included her first meeting with Mulroney, who would go on to be a close, likeminded friend for some 30 years.

Thatcher didn’t know that then, but her officials predicted he was about to move up in Canada’s political world.

His party "stands a good chance of winning at the next general election and he could be the next  prime minister of Canada," they wrote.

Trudeau had 'tendency to flirt with Kremlin'

In contrast, the documents present then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in a less-than-flattering light, saying the Liberal leader a "complex personality" that combines "great charm with brutal insensitivity."

The officials go on to write that Trudeau had a "tendency to flirt with the Kremlin and with Fidel Castro," acknowledging this was not a sign of "any real sympathy with Communism."

The secret documents acknowledge that Canada and the U.K. had been through a "dangerous passage" in their relationship two years earlier, following Trudeau’s decision to patriate the Constitution.

The officials advised Thatcher part of the purpose of her visit was to help assuage Canada’s concerns that by turning to Europe, Britain was not turning "its back on Canada and the old Commonwealth."

Rather, officials point out that Britain could instead be a "potentially attractive alternative trading partner and political counterweight to American influence," as Canada fought to assert its independence.