TRUDEAU UNVEILED — III

SETTLING UP SOBER

February 1 1972
TRUDEAU UNVEILED — III

SETTLING UP SOBER

February 1 1972

SETTLING UP SOBER

TRUDEAU UNVEILED — III

In the end Trudeauphobia may turn out to be, if not as boring as Trudeaumania, just as ephemeral. Maclean's thought it might be fun to find out whether the people who were once crazy for Pierre to the point of actively campaigning on his behalf (Remember the “I’m for PET” petitions the academics carried around in the pockets of their corduroy jackets? Remember the “It’s Spring” buttons the media men wore on their lapels?) are now as disillusioned and disenchanted as the newspapers have been saying for the last six months. So we asked them. And they’re not. Here are twelve typical reactions:

Painter

Toronto

It appears to me that what Trudeau is suffering from at this time is a virulent form of talent hatred. All the disappointed little people in the country hate his guts, not because he has done such a bad job or a good job but because he has done whatever he has done with brilliant style, and that is an unforgivable crime in a country that worships mediocrity. As an artist I consider my instinct for this particular disease rather acute.

Alderman

Edmonton

My chief reason for supporting Pierre Elliott Trudeau was that this man could do more than any other Canadian in welding our diverse country into a unified whole and deal more effectively than any other with the problems of nationhood, which, at the time he became prime minister, seemed almost insurmountable. In that, my faith is wholly justified and the nation stands in his debt for the resolute courage with which he led the nation during the Quebec crisis. In other matters he has acted with an intellectual honesty that elevates him above the run-ofthe-mill politician but which

makes him vulnerable to their attacks. He has attempted to introduce openness and citizens’ participation into political structures. Had his approach been emulated by his ministers the whole political apparatus would have more meaning and more relevance for the ordinary Canadian. But they haven’t and the West still feels cut off from Ottawa.

TV executive Ottawa

I did not expect any more from Pierre Trudeau than he promised at his leadership convention and during the election campaign — new men, new ideas, the advocacy of what could be called “compensating federalism” and an overriding commitment to national unity. It is disappointing that the new men did not materialize. It is even more disappointing that the very few new ideas realized pertain more to government administration and organization than they do to a coherent national and regional development policy. His recognition of China was not unexpected but still a significant bonus. His closer moves toward the USSR and East Germany all make sense for the future.

The surprise of his administration was to find out that his political geiger counters in Quebec were not instantly and accurately recording either the intensity or the intentions of the “extremists” in that province. As far as national unity is concerned, the most hopeful happening during Trudeau’s

leadership of the Liberal Party is that we now have revitalized governments and contemporary premiers in New Brunswick, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta and, hopefully, Newfoundland.

Senator

Ottawa

Trudeau’s stewardship? Some mistakes, some shortcomings, inevitably. But in general, first class. I expected him to keep the country together. Unless that could be done nothing else was possible. In my judgment he alone could do it. And he has done it. I expected him to carry out the recommendations of the B and B Commission; to recognize Communist China, to increase social security for those who needed it most, to consult the people on great issues of policy. He has done them all. I expected him to be master of his cabinet, but to leave ministers to run their own departments and he has. Above all, I was confident he would be realistic, sensible, sympathetic, but resolute, strong and flexible as steel: and he is.

Lawyer

Wetaskiwin, Alta.

I feel that Trudeau has lived up to my expectations of him and perhaps surpassed them

because he makes no unrealistic promises and because he doesn’t resort to the glib jargon often used by politicians. I find him reassuringly believable. Even though there is unemployment and some economic instability, 1 feel that Canada’s situation compares favorably to that of other countries and that this government is handling problems better than could either the Conservatives or the NDP. I agree with the charges that Trudeau occasionally appears arrogant and/or bored with matters which he considers perhaps less important than others. However, I consider him an extremely intelligent man and this combined with his background might explain his attitude. Anyway, I prefer his honesty to a phony show of constant enthusiasm.

Professor and alderman Toronto

To begin with the ideal rather than the possible, what we’ve needed most these past three years is a Canadian Salvador Allende. The failure to move toward significant control of our economy has been Trudeau’s greatest shortcoming.

Obviously, my reasons for supporting him in the 1968 leadership race, and since, have little to do with my largest hopes for Canada. In 1968 the other choices were Hellyer and Winters, or, within a few months, Stanfield. For PM I wanted a man of great intelligence, imagination and personal presence, a striking contrast not only to the Canadian alternatives but to Johnson and Nixon, Home and Wilson. In this I have not been disappointed.

On Quebec my sympathies were and are closer to Lévesque than to Trudeau, but I am very much in the minority both among French and English Canadians. Trudeau’s federalism at least offers a clear choice, though I remain almost as skeptical about it as about my own hopes for a new federation to be worked out between an independent Quebec and an independent Canada.

My chief criticism lies in Trudeau’s failure to adopt an industrial strategy for Canada — that would try to wrest control of our economy from the multi-national corporation, foster job-intensive ahead of resource industries, and cut depreciation and depletion allowances and other favors to large over small business. The demise of Eric Kierans is bad.

Lawyer

Edmonton

Once upon a time in 1968 an honest, imaginative and pragmatic gardener named Trudeau was proclaimed to be a wizard. Edmonton became an enchanted city with people of all ages and faiths falling under the spell of the Liberal Party, including an enthusiastic new breed of political partisans who flitted about lighting up the landscape with their energy and ideals. These Tinker Bell politicians provided a spirit of revival and enthusiasm that made the old party structure seem new and a gleaming golden vehicle for political involvement. The peasants were to be plugged in and this was bound to result in a better and more responsive form of government.

Today the Tinker Bells are gone, the rank and file is decimated, riding meetings are the exception rather than the rule. So the spell is off the enchanted land. The golden vehicle of involvement is now seen for

what it is: an honest pumpkin. No new doors have been opened in the old structures in government or in the political party.

Just as he has been unable to change the nature and tempo of government, “the wizard” has been unable to change his party. So there is disappointment and disenchantment particularly among the Tinker Bells. However, there is still a host of peasantry who recognize the honest gardener for what he is: still the best person to cultivate the garden.

Lawyer

Montreal

Pierre Trudeau has produced a quantity of new policies and legislation that is not unimpressive, although some is naïve, unrealistic and ill-timed. He has examined and revamped the outmoded and overextended machinery of government at the expense of making it seem more remote. The quality of most of his appointments is high and some wasteful partisan politics are no longer practised. He has generally been firm and decisive, at times creative and inspiring, and in certain instances cold and unconcerned. His promise of participation has been partially fulfilled by the technique of white papers. But the Just Society still remains a goal to strive for, and perhaps we are wistful because the man who “told it as it is” now heads a government which tells us very little.

Professor

Saskatoon

Expectations from^ governments are among the things dangerously inflated these days, as if cabinets are composed of supermen who can

find instant solutions to ancient and deep-seated problems. In the ones we share with other democratic countries, Canada under Trudeau has been doing no worse than most, and better than many. In peculiarly Canadian affairs the Trudeau record — remembering it is less than four years old — seems to me generally satisfactory. And it has to be assessed against pressures from an electorate so restless that even a bumper crop and record grain sales couldn’t save a Liberal seat in Saskatchewan. On most fronts the government has been trying harder, and with more success, than the eccentric demands of the mass media allow to show.

Trudeau’s weakest link is with parliament for which, despite his enlightened provision of research funds for the parties, he seems to have little real feeling. He is better with crowds and cameras, reflecting (as his own office has put out) that he “came to office at a time when the movement for ‘direct’ or ‘populist’ democracy was gaining momentum across the country.” That sort of thing, more than any particular problem, seems cause for concern.

Professor

Winnipeg

The 1960s brought Canada the “greatest crisis in its history,” to quote the B and B Commission, the discontent of Quebec with Confederation had put the survival of Canada at stake. Trudeau was chosen prime minister in the* hope that he could hold the country together and that major expectation has been fulfilled.

But if national unity has been his major achievement, his conservative economic policies have provided the major disappointment. Although he made few specific promises, his slogan of the Just Society implied something better than the present massive unemployment.

The latest challenge is that posed by American domination of the Canadian economy and

the question here is whether Trudeau can lead his government away from the traditional Liberal course of continentalism. Given his antipathy to nationalism and his economic conservatism, one may well doubt it. It is not clear, in any case, that Canadians, long colonial - minded, would support the measures necessary to prevent Canada’s take-over.

Writer

Toronto

I remember a day shortly after Trudeau agreed to run for the Liberal leadership, and only a few days after I’d come up to Ottawa to work for him, when he and I were sitting in a Chinese restaurant. He.’d taped a Pierre Berton Show that night, and, because I was his only aide with television background, I had been sent along to accompany him. When we’d come back the division bells were ringing in the House and he’d run in for the vote, and then he had a meeting, and now, at close to midnight, we were having dinner. I remember him looking at me, across his rice bowl, with those eyes of his, the eyes of an ancient coolie, and I remember him saying, “Why did you come?”

I didn’t know exactly what he meant, whether he meant to the Berton show, or the Chinese restaurant, or to Ottawa, but I decided to answer the larger question. I said, as simply as possible, that I thought he was the best man to run the country so I’d come to do whatever I could to help, and I remember him saying, without missing a stroke with his chopsticks, “The trick will be to do enough quickly enough, before people like you are disappointed.”

It was just a few days into February in 1968 but he knew that then, and when I grow impatient because he hasn’t answered all my dreams for this country I remember what he said and I try to be patient.

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SETTLING UP from page 29

Professor of law Toronto

Pierre Trudeau is neither as great as some believed he was four years ago nor is he as terrible as some current commentators claim. In 1968, many Canadians entertained totally unrealistic and conflicting expectations of him. As one of the founding members of the Ontario Committee For Trudeau. I was always puzzled by the bizarre collection of supporters he was able to attract. Under his banner marched both enemies of French Canada, who felt that Trudeau would “put Quebec in its place,” and Quebec lovers, who wanted to demonstrate their affection for French Canada by catapulting one of its sons into the prime ministry. Side by side, youthful socialists, corporate executives, swinging admen and dowager ladies cast their ballots for Trudeau. Few of them seemed to listen to what he said that spring. They didn’t want to find out what he stood for: they simply fell in love with him and, as in all love affairs, they saw only what they Wanted to see. If Trudeau has not lived up to their fantasies, it is not he who is to blame but they.

While eschewing nationalism, Trudeau has done much toward the achievement of a distinctive Canadian identity. In fact, if he had explained what he was doing, he might be more popular today. In his travels abroad, which many people wrongly believe are holidays, the Prime Minister has spread an image of Canada that is modern, intelligent, independent.

Trudeau’s chief concern was for a united Canada and his efforts have moved us nearer that goal. But only when the constitutional deadlock ends and separatism is vanquished can it be fully achieved.

The PM’s commitment to participatory democracy has stimulated interest and involvement in public affairs. The Liberal Party rank and file are engaged in a massive policy-making effort but its impact has not yet been apparent.

In the economic area, Trudeau led a moderately successful war on inflation but the price may have been too high. It was his treatment of the unemployment problem coupled with some thoughtless quips (Where’s B i a f r a ? Mangez merde, fuddle-duddle), that led some to believe that Trudeau lacks humanity. This is most perilous, for a politician who appears unconcerned with the problems of ordinary people is doomed. In the next few months, the Prime Minister will have to demonstrate anew that he does care about us, that our problems are more than intellectual exercises for him. If Trudeau is searching for a substitute for Trudeaumania, he should try compassion. ■