Thatcher will be 'remembered for centuries,' Harper says

Margaret Thatcher's death on Monday brought words of admiration and respect from across Canadian political lines.

Former PMs Mulroney, Chrétien pay their respects to a 'giant' and a 'fighter'

Harper comments on Thatcher

10 years ago
Duration 0:49
Prime Minister Stephen Harper comments on the death of Margaret Thatcher at a Hockey Canada event in Ottawa.

Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher's death on Monday brought words of admiration and respect from across political lines in Canada.

"She was not just a great leader for Britain but she was really one of those people who will be a truly historic figure, remembered for centures to come," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said during an event for the Order of Hockey in Canada on Parliament Hill.

While acknowledging that Thatcher had been a controversial leader, Harper said her actions, not just in Britain but also internationally, "really laid the groundwork for the freedom and the prosperity that so many people around the world enjoy today."

An earlier statement from Harper's office spoke of Thatcher's rare ability to "personify and define the age in which she served. Indeed, with the success of her economic policies, she defined contemporary conservatism itself."

Harper called the "peace and prosperity that followed the end of the Cold War … one of her great and lasting gifts to this generation."

On a personal note, Harper recalled meeting with Thatcher in 2006 when he was new to being prime minister, saying it was an experience he'd never forget. "She provided me wise and gracious counsel in London, the memory of which I will forever cherish," he said.

Admired for service, determination

Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair remembered Thatcher as someone who had "served her country with dignity through three mandates."

The NDP leader said Britain's first woman prime minister left "a succession for others to evaluate on many different levels," but that on the day of her death his thoughts were for those who were close to the late British prime minister.

Prime Ministerr Pierre Trudeau and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, seen here in Australia in Oct. 1981, worked closely on the patriation of Canada's Constitution. Canadian politicians of all stripes remembered Thatcher as news of her death spread on Monday. (Peter Bregg/AP Photo/The Canadian Press)

"Margaret Thatcher was a truly remarkable, galvanising figure," Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae wrote on Twitter, adding that he "did not share her politics but admired her determination and tenacity."

In a later statement from the Liberal leader's office, Rae said "even political opponents had to admire her ability to stick to the path she set out for her party and her country." 

"'This lady's not for turning' was her own description of this powerful will, and she will long be remembered as one of the most powerful voices of her time," Rae's statement said.

'Beacon of principled leadership': Mulroney

"The world today has lost one of its giants," wrote former prime minister Brian Mulroney in a statement. "Margaret Thatcher was the most transformative leader of her country since [Winston] Churchill."

"The Britain she took charge of in 1979 was a country burdened with illness, social and economic. By the time of her departure more than a decade later Britain was a confident winner again," said the former Progressive Conservative leader, who had a strong personal relationship with his British counterpart.

Then prime minister Brian Mulroney welcomes British prime minister Margaret Thatcher to the Economic Summit at Toronto City Hall in June, 1988. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

Mulroney said Monday he had lunch with Thatcher as recently as last year and noticed the effects of her dementia taking a toll.

"Like every great leader, with strong convictions and a bold vision, she made enemies," Mulroney said, adding that by the end of her time in office she had become "a beacon of strong, principled leadership to the world."

In the same era, former Ontario premier David Peterson remembers having tea with Thatcher during a visit to London.

"It was like your grandmother bringing you in for tea," he said.

"She was charming beyond belief … we saw a light touch and a warmth that most people wouldn't have seen projected … but you could also sense that steel and that strength," he added, saying he would not want to have had to negotiate with her.

"I think she understood that the core of leadership was respect even more than affection," Peterson said.

Respect for a 'fighter': Chrétien

Former prime minister Jean Chrétien collaborated with Thatcher on the repatriation of Canada's Constitution in 1982 as Pierre Trudeau's justice minister, calling her efforts "very useful" in the face of opposition and controversy.

In a scrum with reporters in Ottawa, Chrétien remembered her as a "colourful" and "tough" prime minister who was "nice" when he met her in person.

"She was a populist in her way. She fought the establishment of her party all her life," the former Liberal leader said.

"I'm not a hard right-winger and she was," Chrétien said. "We were not of the same political persuasion but as a politician I respected her … She was a fighter. I respect that a lot."

Chrétien joked with reporters that if she could comment now, Thatcher would be unhappy to see Canada's Conservative government running a deficit.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, who named his cat Thatcher and inadvertently set off a false alarm in the media in 2009 when he put out a message on Twitter about the death of his pet, tweeted on Monday morning that her passing was the loss of "a legend and a true lady, an icon and a personal political idol."