Mulroney subsequently entered the business world as executive vice president and then president of the Iron Ore Company of Canada. In 1976, while still engaged in business, he campaigned for the leadership position of the Progressive Conservative Party but lost to Joe Clark. Mulroney became the party's leader on 11 June 1983, this time defeating Clark, and entered the Canadian House of Commons. After Mulroney's party won the greatest majority in Canadian history, he was sworn in as Canada's eighteenth prime minister on 17 September 1984.
Among the accomplishments of Mulroney's first term was the negotiation of a free trade agreement with the United States, thanks largely to his close relationship with President Ronald Reagan. Mulroney's bilingual past and fluent French aided his brokering of the Meech Lake Accord (1987), which recognized Quebec as a distinct society within Canada, although the accord failed to pass.
Mulroney's second term, which began in 1988, saw high unemployment and an economic downturn in Canada. Several scandals also plagued his administration. Mexico's inclusion with Canada and the United States in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1992 proved unpopular. That same year, a second attempt to unify the country's constitution, the Charlottetown Agreement, was ultimately defeated in a national referendum. In the midst of economic recession and massive layoffs, Mulroney resigned as both prime minister and leader of the Progressive Conservative Party on 24 February 1993.
In 1995 the new government charged Mulroney with accepting millions of dollars in kickbacks from an airline deal but on 6 July 1997 it offered an apology and settled out of court. In May 2002 Mulroney was awarded the prestigious Order of Quebec.
Mulroney, Brian. Where I Stand. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1983.; Sawatsky, John. Mulroney: The Politics of Ambition. Toronto: Macfarlane Walter and Ross, 1991.