Thatcher's fight and drive lauded by Canadian politicians

Books and flowers left by mourners are seen outside the home of former British prime minister...

Books and flowers left by mourners are seen outside the home of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher after her death was announced in London April 8, 2013. Margaret Thatcher , the "Iron Lady" who transformed Britain and inspired conservatives around the world by radically rolling back the state during her 11 years in power, died on Monday following a stroke. She was 87. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

Daniel Proussalidis, Parliamentary Bureau

, Last Updated: 9:14 PM ET

OTTAWA - Monday's death of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher at age 87 has unleashed a torrent of divided reactions.

In an exclusive interview, former media mogul Conrad Black remembered his longtime friend as a "genius" at winning public support for unpopular policies.

"She didn't care what the polls said," Black told QMI Agency. "She knew that if something was clearly right as a matter of policy, if you explained it ... the people would support it."

Former prime minister Brian Mulroney lauded Thatcher for helping to end the Cold War by taking a hard line on the Soviet Union at G7 meetings.

"We had a tremendous group and we had a tremendous challenge - namely the Soviet Union had missiles pointed at London and Paris and Washington and New York," Mulroney said. "She was extremely aggressive on it and extremely articulate."

Thatcher once scolded former prime minister Pierre Trudeau at a G7 meeting, calling him "naughty" for his friendliness towards communist dictatorships.

Reminded of the event, ex-prime minister Jean Chretien admitted that Liberals didn't like Thatcher's approach.

"Of course, she was not of the same political persuasion as Mr. Trudeau," Chretien said. "They must have disagreed on something, I hope."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who is expected to travel to London to attend Thatcher's funeral, saluted her as "a giant among leaders" who helped define contemporary conservatism.

"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," said Harper in Ottawa.

Harper's first foreign trip as prime minister was to London for a G7 conference, where he had a private audience with Thatcher.

"New to my own duties as prime minister in 2006, she provided me wise and gracious counsel in London," Harper said.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird calls Thatcher a political idol.

"I remember talking with her and saying her greatest accomplishment would be the example and legacy that she left and inspired in others for freedom, whether it's economic or political freedom," he said from Tel Aviv.

Canadians can sign books of condolence for Thatcher on Tuesday and Wednesday at the British High Commission in Ottawa and the British consulate in Toronto.

-With files from Reuters and Faith Goldy-Bazos


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