It was inevitable that the Gnomes of Gotham, who dine out on inside dope and political stability, had a special interest in Pierre Trudeau’s election plans. For an electric few seconds as he addressed the Economic Club of New York, Pierre the Playful seemed poised to reveal his secret—in return, of course, for that generous reception by his friends and creditors among the assembled U.S. tycoonery. “June,” the PM declared, “is a likely date . . .” but, he added after a studied pause: “1 wouldn’t say what year.”
In truth, Trudeau was moving closer to picking a day—not a month, or a year. After he’d spent an Easter holiday in Jamaica, Trudeau and his election strategists planned a careful analysis of two key reports: a major party poll of voter intentions by Toronto psephologist Martin Goldfarb; and finance department assessments of whether a spring budget is economically essential. If Goldfarb says Yes
and Finance says No, the June skies will reverberate with the whine of campaign jets.
Preparation for the takeoff’ has been under way for several months under the supervision of three key party mechanics— Keith Davey for the Liberals, Lowell Murray for the Conservatives and Robin Sears for the New Democrats. The Tories have been flying their nominated candidates into Ottawa for four-day charm courses on how to win elections while leader Joe Clark stumped the country in search of new faces. The NDP’S Ed Broadbent, who has been emphasizing the plight of unemployed women, brought a campaign film crew to an Ottawa meeting with the National Action Committee on women’s rights. Even the bag carriers at the Prime Minister’s Office were making contingency
plans for opening the softball season on the road this year against the Press Gallery: they plan to stow the bats and balls in a kit bag—with reporters—on the back of the Liberal jet.
To the chagrin of his opponents, however, Trudeau managed the highest préélectoral flight by using the power of his office to wangle an invitation from David Rockefeller to address 2,000 business leaders at the Economic Club dinner late last month. Trudeau, in turn, invited 35 senior Canadian corporate barons to attend, presumably hoping to impress them with favorable notices in the United States and, maybe, even to loosen corporate purse strings for campaign donations.
Trudeau’s hosts left no detail to chance, and even spelled his title “Honourable” in the program. The PM showed similar diligence in his preparations: he spent a week on his text, calling up eight drafts and making some 35 changes in one version alone. His message was honed to meet demands of the U.S. audience, which wanted upbeat forecasts on Quebec politics and Canadian economics. Back home, however, Trudeau’s ponderous summary of his wellworn theories on international economics—devoid as it was of any plans for action—made unexciting television.
Predictably, Clark and Broadbent, unlike the businessmen, rapped Trudeau’s performance, and the Tories were particularly bitter in private that CBC-TV and CTV broadcast the talk live. Their chippiness was a foretaste of the campaign to come.
To get off the defensive on economic issues, Trudeau is expected to mount a hardhitting campaign of strong images. The Conservatives were planning to scoop Trudeau by releasing their proposals for constitutional changes and were fully intent on keeping up their attack on the government’s handling of the economy. The Tories also have assembled a list of unkept Liberal promises from the 1974 election with which they hope to zap Trudeau and to suggest that he can’t be trusted.
The same fractiousness was evident in the inability of the parties to agree with the TV networks on terms for a series of three leaders’ debates. The proposed format would offer viewers Clark vs. Broadbent, Broadbent vs. Trudeau (with cameo roles for a Créditiste leader to be chosen at a party convention next month) and a finale of Clark vs. Trudeau. The debates would Q be carried simultaneously by English and § French networks and, depending on ® how they are moderated, would give ?
Trudeau an edge in French Canada.
The offsetting factor for Broadbent and especially Clark’s Tories is that for the first time in history Western Canada will have more seats than Quebec (77 to 75). Unless Jack Horner can revive Liberal fortunes in the West, a return to minority government is a distinct possibility. ROBERT LEWIS
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