THE THREE: QUEBEC’S NEW FACE IN OTTAWA

BLAIR FRASER January 22 1966

THE THREE: QUEBEC’S NEW FACE IN OTTAWA

BLAIR FRASER January 22 1966

THE THREE: QUEBEC’S NEW FACE IN OTTAWA

BLAIR FRASER

Pierre Elliott Trudeau: an outspoken bachelor, he fights the clique that claims him.

Jean Marchand: blunt, tough, an able labor leader, he takes over the new Ministry of Manpower in the Pearson cabinet.

Gérard Pelletier: because of his newspaper attacks on federal Liberals, the Old Guard eye him suspiciously.

POLITICAL ENEMIES call them The Three Sparrows or, still with a sneer but with less venom. The Three Doves. Other hostile labels are aimed not at them but at their associates — itles like The Three Just Men or The Three Clean Men of the Quebec federal Liberal Party. Lately they are more often called simply The Three.

They are. of course, the Quebec labor leader Jean Marchand, the French-Canadian journalist Gerard Pelletier, and Pierre Elliott Trudeau, professor of law and distinguished amateur of politics and journalism — the trio whose decision to run for parliament was a major triumph for reform in the federal Liberal Party of Quebec, a triumph for which an astonishing variety of politicians would like to claim credit.

The Three are now described as friends, allies and recruits by every Quebec faction except

the oldest Old Guard (of which nobody now admits being a member). They find this profusion of friends a little alarming. They have no wish to be enlisted in the internecine warfare that has racked the Quebec Liberals for two years and especially since November 8. They do not want to choose sides between the old New Guard of Maurice Sauvé and the new Old Guard of Guy Favreau (the old Old Guard having temporarily vanished from sight and sound, except for occasional plaintive protestations that there is nobody here but us chickens). Least of all do The Three want to be singled out as a separate Super-New Guard with Jean Marchand crowned, prematurely and artificially, as the new federal Liberal leader of Quebec.

This nevertheless is quite likely to happen. Someone will have to bind up the bleeding

wounds of the Quebec Liberal caucus, and quickly. If Jean Marchand and his two friends cannot do it, there is no one else in sight who can. But if Marchand is thus called to replace or displace Guy Favreau, it will be one of the grimmer ironies of recent political history.

Marchand is a tormented idealist, a small-l liberal who admits, with a wry grin, that even now he is not quite sure whether he’s a big-L Liberal. But in fact he’d been hesitating on the brink of big-L Liberal politics not just for a few months, but off and on for more than five years, before he took the plunge last September. And it was Guy Favreau, along with his colleague Maurice Lamontagne, who was most influential in persuading Marchand to come in. This is well known. It is less well known that Marchand was equally influential, three years ago, in persuading Guy Favreau to do the same thing — give up his happy life as a prospering lawyer in Montreal, and join the Pearson team.

Marchand himself had already been persuaded, mostly by his old friend and Laval University classmate Lamontagne, to be a Liberal candidate in the election that was expected in 1963. He was assigned to put pressure on Favreau, following up the personal appeal of Liberal leader L. B. Pearson. Marchand gave Favreau a powerful sales talk and Favreau promised him an answer by the following Saturday.

This was early January 1963. While Favreau brooded, Pearson delivered his famous Scarborough speech, defining—or as some thought, reversing—Liberal policy on nuclear weapons. Marchand was a committed opponent of Canada’s acceptance of nuclear warheads, and had led Quebec's labor movement in opposing it. He could not stomach the new Liberal policy. So when Favreau called on the agreed Saturday to say yes, he would join the new Liberal team. Marchand had to say, “Unfortunately, I myself am no longer a member!”

Marchand is no longer troubled by the nuclear issue—like most Canadians, he thinks it has died a natural death since 1963—but the events of those days complicate his position among Quebec Liberals of 1966. As lifelong Left-winger he and his two friends tend to be lumped in with Maurice Sauvé and the so-called New Guard, hut Marchand’s personal relations with Sauvé have been rather on the cool side since Sauvé’s joh with a Quebec labor union was terminated in 1956. Personally, on grounds of old friendship and the curious bond above mentioned, Marchand is closer to Lamontagne and Favreau (though not to the Old Guard which has managed more or less successfully to attach itself to them).

For this if for no other reason he and his friends want no part of the intra-party quarrels of the day. An equally important reason, though, is awareness of inexperience. Jean

Marchand in particu-

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They bluntly speak their minds—and give some fellow Liberals uneasy moments

THE THREE

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lar, as acknowledged leader of The Three, is reluctant to take a major role before he has even set foot in the House of Commons, and thus expose himself as a vulnerable target for a powerful and bloodthirsty Opposition.

On the other hand, The Three do not wish to be so docile as to have no effect on Liberal policy. They are men of the Left, and they want the Liberal Party to be a party of the Left. They had only two strong motives for coming into federal politics, and one was to help keep the Liberal Party on the port tack it has been sailing on ever since Lester Pearson and Walter Gordon took over the helm from Louis St. Laurent and C. D. Howe. Their second and stronger motive was to speak out in French for Canada, at a time when so many Canadian voices in French seem to speak only for Quebec.

Marchand says it was his experience as a member of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism more than any other single thing, that made him come into federal politics after all. He believed, as he said repeatedly in election campaign speeches, that "Canada deserves another chance.”

His variations on this theme were not calculated to win friends among Liberal politicians either federal or provincial. For the provincials he had harsh reminders of who had done what in the provincial field of social welfare—“Most of the welfare measures we've got were given to us by Ottawa. I am very glad Ottawa did step into this provincial field, for otherwise we'd have nothing.” As for the Supreme Court, a recent target for Jean Lesage’s indignation, Marchand recalled that “on certain occasions in the past, the Supreme Court was the only defender of our liberties.” (In a number of civil-rights cases, the Supreme Court annulled the more tyrannical acts of the Duplessis regime.)

But he did not go out of his way to flatter federal politicians, either. In general, he said, Quebec MPs had not worked as hard as they should. Training his lire on the Créditiste group in particular (his principal opponent, whom he defeated by less than seven hundred votes, was the sitting Créditiste MP), he noted that these champions of monetary reform had turned up for only two out of fifty meetings of the banking-and-commerce committee. As for Quebec’s aspirations in general, he observed, “It's no use blaming the English for keeping us out of jobs until we’ve made a real effort to earn them.”

Not exactly orthodox material for a political campaign speech. But none of The Three has ever been an orthodox politician, a fact that is both their weakness and their strength.

Pierre Trudeau, the law professor, campaigned actively on the platforms of Mount Royal in 1963 for the NDP candidate, Charles Taylor — the same man Trudeau defeated, by a much reduced majority, in the election of 1965.

Gérard Pelletier, who was dismissed last spring as editor of the mammoth Montreal daily La Presse and who now writes a column for a string of newspapers in English and in French, was in an even more vulnerable spot politically. He had written, day in and day out. scathing appraisals of the Pearson government, including the

opinion that Guy Favreau should resign.

When Pelletier was finally nominated as Liberal candidate in MontrealHochelaga, local Conservatives conspired to put up another man named Gérard Pelletier (there are twenty-five in the Montreal telephone book) who gave his occupation as “printer." The

Gérard Pelletier had given his, of course, as "journalist.” Before nomination day, the other Pelletier dropped out. but meanwhile Amédée Gaudreault, parliamentary correspondent of Le Soleil, wrote a tongue-in-cheek column of speculation on who could be the real Gérard Pelletier. Obviously, said Gaudreault, the official Liberal

candidate couldn’t be the Pelletier who recently wrote in his column, “The fact that he has kept Guy Favreau in his cabinet shows that Mr. Pearson has learned nothing"; and in another, “Mr. Pearson’s speeches have always been as flat as they arc flowery — i.e., of no real consequence.”

To Favreau and Lamontagne, utterances like these were no joke. “How can you be a Liberal?” said Lamontagne bitterly, at the five-man meeting at which the final arrangements were made for the recruitment of The Three. Favreau sat through the conference with a copy in his hand of a recent Pelletier column, demanding Favreau’s resignation.

It was only on Jean Marchandé insistence that Pelletier anti Trudeau were enlisted as Liberals at all. The Three have been close friends and frequent fellow workers for sixteen years or more — ever since the great Asbestos strike of 1949 — but they come from very different backgrounds.

Jean Marchand was a poor boy. Born forty-six years ago in the village of Champlain, he was the youngest in a family of six and his father died when he was two. His mother and older brothers managed to support the family, but not in affluence. Young Jean went to the village school, and later to high school in Quebec, but not to the collège classique, traditionally the only way into a French-Canadian university. The fact that he did go to university, working his way, was one of the achievements of the Very Reverend Georges-Henri Levesque, the famous Father Lévesque who founded the faculty of social science at Laval University, and threw' it open to boys from the public schools as well as to the privileged graduates of the collèges. Marchand and Maurice Lamontagne were among the first ever to graduate from Father Lévesque’s school. Marchand went straight into the labor movement and soon became one of the ablest, most respected organizers in Quebec. He more than any other individual transformed the so-called “national” French-Canadian unions from docile, church-centred company unions into militant organizations that bargained hard, raised wage levels and. from time to time, called and won strikes.

Gérard Pelletier was the youngest of a somewhat more affluent family of eight, and he, too, was half-orphaned in childhood. With the help of his brothers, young Gérard was able to go to the collège classique in Victoriaville, the small town where he was born, and later to start an MA course (which he never got around to finishing) at the University of Montreal.

Pierre Elliott Trudeau also lost his father when he w'as still a student, but there the resemblance ends. The Trudeau family was, and is, very comfortably off. Pierre has never been obliged to work for a living. Bilingual from infancy (his middle name Elliott is that of his mother’s family), a brilliant student and a competent athlete, he grew up with every material advantage imaginable. No doubt for that reason, he has spent most of his adult life working at fairly arduous jobs for little or no pay, and challenging the Establishment of which he is a hereditary member.

Trudeau and Pelletier met in Paris

in 1946. Trudeau was a somewhat desultory student at the Sorbonne, occupied chiefly in enjoying life. Pelletier, though himself three years out of university, was the full-time, illpaid secretary of an international student federation. Pelletier returned to Canada and took a job on Montreal’s crusading Le Devoir. Trudeau was an occasional, unpaid correspondent for Le Devoir during a leisurely and adventurous trip around the world. When he returned to Canada he and Pelletier met Marchand at the Asbestos strike.

Pelletier left Le Devoir to edit the Quebec union’s paper, working with Marchand, by then president of the Canadian and Catholic Confederation of Labor. (Later, largely at Marchand’s insistance, they dropped the “Catholic” from their corporate name.) Meanwhile, Pelletier and Trudeau founded a magazine of opinion called Cité Libre. All through the 1950s, Cité Libre and Le Devoir were the only publications in Quebec with the courage to oppose and denounce the Duplessis regime.

Why the Liberals?

In 1956 Trudeau and Pelletier were prominent among the founders of Rassemblement, an attempt to unite opponents of Duplessis into one political movement. It never got off the ground, but it did embody the same conviction that finally brought The Three into politics — the belief that people who agree on major objectives should ignore previous party affiliations and work together.

The Three make no bones about their continuing sympathy with the NDP and their dislike of many aspects and individuals of the old-line Liberals. Their announced reason for joining the Liberals was that the Liberals were almost certain to form a government, whereas the NDP was by no means certain of electing even one member from Quebec. Needless to say, this attitude does not endear them to lifelong Liberals who have (in their own opinion at least) borne the heat.

These men didn't mind Jean Marchand so much. Though a Leftist, he was at least a real one, in their view — a tough, pragmatic labor leader with plenty of combat experience and no previous political affiliation, a great talent for organization — and a magnificent campaign orator.

These considerations did not apply to the other two. For years, from the security of their ivory towers in journalism, they had been pointing out what the politicians ought to be doing instead of what they did. Both had openly supported the NDP only two years ago — Pelletier with signed editorials in La Presse, much to the horror. incidentally, of the paper’s ultraconservative owners.

Trudeau was suspect for several reasons: his English-speaking mother {Le Devoir insists on spelling his name Elliott-Trudeau, which is like calling the prime minister Bowles-Pearson) ; the fact that he is a well-to-do bachelor, which women voters seem to resent: and gravest of all. his lifelong habit of speaking his mind.

Eighteen months ago, he and half a dozen other French-Canadian intellectuals produced a document they

called A Manifesto For A Functional Politics, a call to French Canada to stop wrangling over constitutional abstractions and grapple with the real problems of poverty, poor schools, poor health services and general social inadequacies. In the same issues of Cité Libre, Trudeau alone signed an article denouncing Quebec separatists as counter-revolutionaries, nineteenthcentury thinkers, little men who lacked the maturity to appreciate freedom:

“Alas, liberty proved too heady a drink for the French-Canadian youth of 1960. They had hardly tasted it before they started looking for some more soothing milk, some new dogmatism. They reproached the men of my generation [Trudeau is forty-five] because we had not given them any ‘doctrine’ — we who had spent the time of our youth demolishing a servile doctrinairism — and they took refuge in the bosom of their mother the Holy Nation.”

Such biting words are not soon forgotten, especially when they are written in French by a man who is halfScottish, and who is a rich, sophisticated, traveled, well-read intellectual to boot. Even those who agreed with them, or admired their candor and courage, had to admit that these were not exactly typical opinions in French Canada.

For all these reasons the Liberal recruiting efforts were aimed at Jean Marchand alone. Marchand was first approached (after the dramatic breakoff in January 1963) by Maurice Lamontagne last April; he gave a noncommittal reply. In June he was invited to a round of golf with Guy Favreau and Bob Giguère, the federal Liberal organizer in Quebec, at Lavalsur-le-lac near Montreal. That golf game is widely supposed to have been the occasion of Marchand’s recruitment, but according to Marchand the subject was never mentioned except once. As they came away from the eighteenth green, Favreau said to him, “Remember, you got me into politics. Now you’ve got to come in and help me.”

During the spring, Marchand resigned as president of the Confederation of National Trade Unions. He says the decision had nothing to do with his entry into politics: “When I first started in the trade-union movement twenty years ago, I had to fight to get rid of an Establishment of older men, and I resolved right then that when my time came to be one of the old men, I would get out voluntarily.”

However, the resignation did make him noticeably available, and the Liberal solicitations increased. Marchand still hesitated. His work as a commissioner on bilingualism and biculturalisni had convinced him that the unity of Canada was in danger, and especially that not enough French Canadians were speaking up in defense of confederation. He wanted to help. But he did not want to become the hopelessly outnumbered captive of a reactionary party whose so-called Left wing was kept merely for show, and whose true intentions remained Rightist. This is why he insisted on bringing his two friends along.

Matters came to a head last Labor Day weekend. Lamontagne and Favreau arranged a meeting in the Windsor Hotel in Montreal. When Maurice

Sauvé heard about it, he too came. The three ministers and the three neophytes argued it out for several hours. Once the decision was made, The Three found politics an unexpectedly exciting experience. Among professional Liberals, even the Left-wingers took sardonic note of Gérard Pelletier's columns during the campaign. “He’s been telling us what to do for years,” said one, “and now he is telling us how different it is when you’re actually in politics, as if we didn’t know!”

Trudeau turned out, rather to his own surprise, to be an extremely effective campaigner, at least in the whitecollar riding of Mount Royal. A born teacher, he thoroughly enjoyed the give-and-take of political meetings, especially the all - candidate debates popular in suburban Mount Royal. His wry humor went down well.

As for Jean Marchand, his fiery oratory turned out to be as effective as the Liberals had hoped. The only one of The Three who had to defeat a sitting MP (the other two had got nominations in safe Liberal seats), he spent only a few days in his own riding. Most of the time he campaigned all over the Quebec district.

Now that all three are elected, though, the outlook changes. Trudeau and Pelletier are quite content to be regarded as backers of Marchand, with no special ambitions.

As for Jean Marchand, his chief apprehension is that too much may be expected of him too soon. He is not physically robust — a serious illness some years ago left him with permanently reduced stamina — and he is keenly aware of his own limitations of experience and political know-how.

His earnest hope on the morrow of the election was that Guy Favreau should remain in the Cabinet as titular Quebec leader, that Maurice Sauvé would get the kind of promotion that would satisfy his restless ambition, and that he, Marchand, would be left in a subordinate role for at least long enough to learn the ways of Parliament. He doesn’t see any particular reason why anybody should be formally designated as Quebec leader (who ever heard of an Ontario leader?) and would prefer to let the situation in the Quebec caucus come to a natural solution, with its leadership emerging rather than imposed.

Whether there will be time for any of these dreams to come true, the next session of Parliament will show. ★