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‘Bold’ former prime minister remembered by Muskoka

Parry Sound-Muskoka MP Scott Aitchison says a call he received from former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney is something he’ll never forget. 

Speaking with the newsroom a day after Mulroney passed away, Aitchison shared two stories about the former prime minister. 

The first happened not long after he was elected to Parliament in 2019. 

Aitchison said he was able to meet with Mulroney who asked what riding he represented. He told him he oversees “Stan Darling country.” 

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Mulroney, grinning ear-to-ear, told him stories about Darling, who represented Parry Sound-Muskoka federally from 1972 until his retirement before the 1993 election. 

Aitchison said Darling held many strong beliefs, one of which was about the impacts of acid rain. “He took that issue like a dog with a bone and just never let go,” he continued. 

Mulroney told Aitchison how Darling was so often in his ear about working on an agreement with the United States. The Air Quality Agreement – also known as the Acid Rain Treaty – was signed by Mulroney and United States President George H. W. Bush in March 1991. Aitchison said Mulroney told him Darling’s dedication to the issue was key in the environmental treaty moving forward. 

As part of his advocacy, Aitchison said he and Mulroney shared a laugh about Darling catching the former prime minister and Ronald Reagan, who was president at the time off guard. Reagan had just spoke in the House of Commons and was walking out of Parliament with Mulroney when Darling, who Aitchison said “skurried to the Hall of Honour” in Centre Block, jumped in front of the pair, stuck his finger out and said, “we need an Acid Rain Treaty.” 

Aitchison’s other Mulroney story happened during the 2022 Conservative Party of Canada leadership election. Aitchison said after the second debate he was called three times by an unknown number from Montreal. He ignored them but the third time, whoever was calling left a message. In an unmistakable baritone voice, the person who left the said message said, “Scott, it’s Brian Mulroney calling…” 

Aitchison quickly called him back. 

“I said ‘prime minister, I’m so sorry that I missed your call three times’ and his response was lovely he said, ‘oh no Scott, I know something of what you’re doing. I understand,'” recalled Aitchison. 

On the call, Aitchison said Mulroney told him how impressed he and his wife Mila were and wished him well with his political future. 

“I’ll never forget that as long as I live,” he said. 

Aitchison says while Mulroney, like everyone else, is not perfect, he always showed “true leadership” with his ability to admit when he may have made a mistake. 

“There’s going to be for many years lots of things to learn from the legacy of Brian Mulroney,” finished Aitchison. 

Mulroney was also remembered by Tony Clement, who represented Parry Sound-Muskoka federally from 2006 until 2019, who wrote on X, formerly Twitter, he will remember Mulroney as “gracious and impactful.” 

Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Graydon Smith, speaking at an event in Timmins, offered his condolences to his colleague Caroline Mulroney, one of the former prime minister’s four children and current MPP for York-Simcoe, and the entire Mulroney family. 

“He was a leader and a statesman for his country,” said Smith. “Really, one of the people that had a profound impact on me when I was younger.” 

He remembered a time when he and a friend stood in front of 24 Sussex Dr. in Ottawa, the official residence of the prime minister, and, when looking away, heard a “big booming voice” calling out to him. Smith said he, his friend, and Mulroney spent the next 10 minutes talking on the sidewalk. “That’s the kind of person he was,” added Smith. 

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