Harper, others remember Thatcher as leader who defined modern conservatism


OTTAWA – A giant, an inspiration and an Iron Lady who rejuvenated conservative politics: that’s how Margaret Thatcher was remembered Monday by Canadian politicians as they weighed in on the death of an influential British leader.

“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 centuries to come,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper told a news conference.

“I think if you look at the sweep of her life, what she did — not just in Britain, but what she did on the world stage — really laid the groundwork for the freedom and the prosperity and opportunity that so many people around the world enjoy today.”

In an earlier written statement, Harper described Thatcher, who died Monday of a stroke at age 87, as having had “that rarest of abilities to herself personify and define the age in which she served.”

“Indeed, with the success of her economic policies, she defined contemporary conservatism itself.”

Liberal Bob Rae, while disowning Thatcher’s politics, echoed that sentiment.

“Mrs. Thatcher served as British prime minister for more than a decade and in many ways defined conservative politics of her time,” Rae said.

“Her sheer determination and tenacity were legendary and even political opponents had to admire her ability to stick to the path she set out for her party and her country.”

Thatcher’s economic policies might best be summed up in a line from “The Path to Power,” the second volume of her memoirs.

“Government should create the right framework of sound money, low taxes, light regulation and flexible markets (including labour markets) to allow prosperity and employment to grow,” she wrote.

Those are ideas that would fit right into Harper’s low-tax, smaller government policies. They resonate with some members of his cabinet as well.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, a longtime admirer known for having had a cat named Thatcher, tweeted his condolences from Israel, where he is on an extended Middle East tour.

“We have lost a legend and a true lady, an icon and a personal political idol,” Baird wrote. Treasury Board Secretary Tony Clement described her as a source of inspiration in his youth.

A tweet from Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney read, “The U.K. has lost a great leader and a great prime minister.” Calgary MP Michelle Rempel said Thatcher inspired her to plunge into politics.

Even former prime minister Jean Chretien, who never shared her conservative ideals, recalled her fondly and noted that she helped spearhead an international conservative renaissance.

“There was a move back to the right when she was there, not only in Great Britain, and they have to give her a lot of credit for it,” Chretien said.

“She was a very colourful and tough prime minister,” he added. “As a politician I respected her. She was fighter. I respect that a lot.”

While Thatcher the Conservative leader was the odd woman out on the right in the international scene when she came to power in 1979, she was soon joined by ideological cousins, including Ronald Reagan in Washington and Brian Mulroney in Ottawa.

“She was a visionary leader,” Mulroney told CP24. “She’ll be remembered, I think, as one of the truly great leaders of the 20th century.”

Gil Troy, a McGill University historian and author of a book on the Reagan era, which included both Thatcher and Mulroney, said Canadian politics still echo those times.

“She set the bar very high,” Troy said. “She was the first; she really heralded a revolution that very much defined the 1980s, that Ronald Reagan followed, that Brian Mulroney followed, that really was very defining for that decade.”

Troy said she also made a virtue of standing on principle despite popular opinion, a trait of which both Harper and Baird took note.

“This conservative government takes stands on foreign policy that are based on principle, whether or not they’re popular in the international arena and sometimes even at home,” Troy said.

“They are very much following the Thatcher model.”

Harper recalled that Thatcher and Reagan, along with Pope John Paul II, played key roles in ending the Cold War.

“The era of peace and prosperity that followed the end of the Cold War must therefore rank as one of her great and lasting gifts to this generation.”

Mulroney’s memoirs speak highly of his relationship with Thatcher on a number of international issues, although they clashed repeatedly over the issue of sanctions against apartheid South Africa. He supported sanctions; she was opposed.

Thatcher, however, bolstered Mulroney when she visited Canada during the bitter free trade debate and strongly endorsed the idea in a speech to the House of Commons.

Harper said Thatcher’s leadership was an example to the world, and he described the legendary British prime minister as deserving of the nickname “the Iron Lady.”

He recalled meeting her in London in 2006, saying she offered wise and gracious advice.

Colin Brown, chairman of the National Citizens Coalition, called her a champion of freedom.

“Mrs. Thatcher was a magnetic personality,” said Brown. “She was Churchill’s successor as the de facto leader of free people everywhere.”

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, for his part, offered a terse, three-sentence comment on “one of the most influential British politicians and world leaders of the 20th century.”

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Harper, others remember Thatcher as leader who defined modern conservatism

  1. I am sure the working class will add some color to Thatcher’s funeral. Don’t be surprised to see a phalanx of bobbies there.

  2. “Mrs. Thatcher served as British prime minister for more than a decade and in many ways defined conservative politics of her time,” Rae said in a statement.

    That was the problem then and that continues to be the problem now. Division, hatred of the poor, obsequiousness towards the rich and powerful and a total unfaithfulness towards the society whose flag she draped on her shoulders were the qualities she espoused.

    The lightweight geldings who carry her torch today treat those reprehensible qualities as dogma and take them to extremes.

    Sympathies to her family but I cannot forget the harm and damage her unrelenting hatred, greed and heartlessness rained down upon many who had no chance to defend themselves.

  3. When Chekov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life. But standing here among the people of London and basking in the warmth of their hearths and hearts, I couldn’t imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter.
    This human made England’s children poor, which makes them bad owners. At least this human didn’t cause AGW. AGW threatens cat food supplies. Two paws up for this funeral!! Meow!! The snakes think I killed them because of claw marks. Lots of animals have claws. Raccoons have claws.

  4. The socialists will be out in force downgrading the achievements of Britain’s greatest leader since Churchill. Sadly they cannot point to one country where socialism has not been a dismal failure. All of Europe has been proven to be an example of this. Unfortunately some sad, pathetic excuses for politicians kept Britain too close to Europe (fortunately it kept it’s currency and some independence) which continues to drag Britain down with it.

    • Yeah because the total deregulation of the banks, the selective privatisation of public utilities and the disintegration of communities didn’t do enough to destroy the idea of Britain as a nation. Then the introduction of the Poll tax in Scotland didn’t guarantee the rise of the SNP and a very good chance that the UK will be no more.
      As for socialism, seriously? Pop over to Norway, Denmark and Sweden and tell them they suck.

  5. Well, she had values. Okay, she had one value.
    Nothing is of value unless it represents an investment opportunity.
    It is now her world. The rest of us are just forced to live in it.

  6. I recall her comments about the ANC, specifically calling it a terrorist organisation and saying that anyone who thought the ANC could lead South Africa was cuckoo. She railed against the rest of the Commonwealth for imposing sanctions on Apartheid South Africa during that period. She was steadfast friends with General Pinochet and with the Indonesian dictator Suharto. What a great leader.

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