Canadian News

A curtain speech will have to wait

Robert Lewis December 25 1978
Canadian News

A curtain speech will have to wait

Robert Lewis December 25 1978

A curtain speech will have to wait

As an act performed under intense pressure, it had wit and grit and grace. Pierre Trudeau was back in town, rested from his trip to Europe, and at a press conference last week he naturally faced the swirl of rumors that he plans to resign. Not at all, Trudeau made clear: “I am not only deciding to remain, but I am deciding to remain with confidence.” Trudeau turned in a splendid perform-

ance, as he often does with his back to the wall. He twitted reporters about speculative stories, he broke into smiles of unmitigated bemusement and he addressed himself for the first time directly to John Turner, the Liberal who the polls say is more popular than Trudeau. “Mr. Turner,” he noted of the soundings, “is far less known than I am.* Perhaps that’s the reason.” Paraphrasing the words of Plato, Trudeau added: “The reason you get into politics is because you don’t want to be governed by people who are less good than yourself.”

Sporting a rose in his lapel, Trudeau came on as a game duck. In his party he could see “no movement to give me the bum's rush.” In the country, as he put it, “I don’t think I have lost any of my legitimacy.” Trudeau didn’t say so directly, but he made obvious what his advisers privately assert—that the PM believes the media are largely responsible for generating doubts about his future plans. It is true

that in recent weeks supporters of John Turner, probably unknown to the man himself, have fed assertions to trusted reporters that Trudeau’s old friends Jean Marchand and Gérard Pelletier have urged him to resign. Last week Trudeau denied those reports flatly.

He also dealt with an interview, circulated widely in this country by The Canadian Press after it had appeared in Paris’ Le Figaro, in which Trudeau looked ahead to a quiet life in the country after retirement. The quotes in fact were recycled from a television broadcast in May, 1977, at a time, Trudeau noted, when he was high in the polls and “there was no mention of Mr. Turner.”

Naturally, Trudeau allowed, he sometimes thinks about his future life. "I have children. I've still got a few years to live." But, he went on, the 1976 election of the Parti Québécois altered his musings. Before, that time, “the decision to leave politics might have been rather easy to come by.”

Unless Trudeau retains a secret plan for a speedy exit in the next few months, all signs thus point to his staying, despite the strong indications that his party won’t be re-elected. At the press conference Trudeau cast himself in the role of “M,” as played by Sacha Pitoeff, the enigmatic antihero in Alain Resnais’ 1961 film Last Year at Marienbad. ” 'I can lose—but I never do,’ ” quoted Trudeau.* “He was a gambler.”

Robert Lewis

In fact, Trudeau misquoted. M said: T can lose. But I always win. ”

*According to Gallup figures, 97per cent could identify Trudeau, 54 per cent recognized Turner.