The day Brian Mulroney made his debut in Parliament as an MP

Lots of people were watching when Brian Mulroney made his debut in the House of Commons in the fall of 1983.

Pierre Trudeau tried to roast his opponent, but the opposition leader was ready to clap back

Mulroney makes his debut

40 years ago
Duration 2:48
Brian Mulroney's first day in the House of Commons led to some memorable remarks from himself and from Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

There was a lot of laughter in the House of Commons, but some cynics might have wondered how much of it was genuine mirth.

Why? Brian Mulroney was making his debut in the chamber as an elected MP on Sept. 12, 1983.

The PC leader since June, Mulroney had just won a seat in the House of Commons via a byelection in Nova Scotia the previous month.

His first day in the building as an MP was one that drew a lot of fanfare, along with a standing ovation from his parliamentary colleagues.

"The standing ovation from all sides of the house is loud and long," the CBC's Jason Moscovitz reported on The National that night, as viewers saw footage of the incoming leader being applauded.

'A long way from that log cabin'

Man with rose in lapel stands in House of Commons with smiling men behind him
Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau offered a roast of sorts when Opposition Leader Brian Mulroney made his debut in Parliament as an MP. (The National/CBC Archives)

After that, however, the welcome took a sharp turn when Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau spoke to Parliament about Mulroney's arrival.

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"The member for Central Nova has come a long way from that log cabin in Pictou County," Trudeau said, drawing laughs from his dig at Mulroney, whose election to a seat in Nova Scotia evidently seemed to the prime minister to be far from his life as a well-connected lawyer in Quebec.

"I see he has put away his rumpled trousers and odd sweaters to be brought out again at the next election."

Trudeau wasn't done with the newly arrived opposition leader.

"But this, Madam Speaker, has been an occasion to talk about the man, rather than about the policies, so you will understand that I have gone on a little longer than otherwise would have been possible," said Trudeau.

'I defended you, sir, regularly'

Smiling man in House of Commons with laughing men behind him
Opposition Leader Brian Mulroney's first day in Parliament saw him involved in some memorable exchanges with Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. (The National/CBC Archives)

Then came the retort from his opponent.

"The Liberal candidate in Central Nova persistently referred to a candidate from Quebec who didn't live in his riding and lived in a $1-million house, rent-free, and I defended you, sir, regularly," said Mulroney, flashing a grin as he delivered his punchline.

The PC leader then seemed to take aim at his intent to be sitting in the prime minister's office one day himself.

"The prime minister announced that he's not a quitter," said Mulroney. "I want you to know, sir, that we're behind you all the way."

A year later, Mulroney would become prime minister, when he led the Progressive Conservatives to power.

He wouldn't get a chance to defeat Trudeau at the polls, however, as the longtime Liberal leader stepped away from politics ahead of the 1984 election.

It was his successor, Prime Minister John Turner, who was leading the party when it was defeated by the PCs.

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