MONTREAL - Prominent Canadians are lining up to praise Ted Kennedy, hailing the late U.S. senator as a lifelong ally of this country.

Former prime minister Brian Mulroney says Kennedy often shared similar viewpoints with Canadians.

Kennedy swam against the current of public opinion in his own country, Mulroney said, as a staunch supporter of Canada's single-payer medicare system. He was also an ally in the 1980s on environmental issues, and in the push for economic sanctions against South Africa's apartheid regime.

"He was deeply interested in our policies on South Africa and the liberation of Nelson Mandela because they ran counter to the policies of the United States and the Reagan administration at the time," Mulroney said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

"He was very interested in finding out where we were and how we planned to move."

Mulroney says the thing he admired most was Kennedy's ability to be a tough partisan fighter on political issues - but never having a bad word to say about anyone.

"There wasn't an ounce of malice in him," Mulroney said.

He called Kennedy one of the most outstanding U.S. legislators of the modern era.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered a far more succint tribute.

The Prime Minister's Office issued a one-line statement expressing "his sympathies and condolences to the family and friends of Senator Ted Kennedy."

Raymond Chretien, the former Canadian ambassador to the United States, says Canada has lost a great ally.

"It's almost as if he were a brotherly Canadian in the American Senate," Chretien said. "He was a good supporter of our issues."

He says Kennedy was always keen to hear Canada's point of view on everything from health care, to fisheries disputes, to border issues.

On the Iraq war, Chretien says, Kennedy was among the few prominent American politicians who agreed with Canada's decision to stay out.

Kennedy, the brother of assassinated president John F. Kennedy, served nearly a half-century in the U.S. Senate and died at age 77 after battling a brain tumour.

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