COLUMN

A bachelor’s life for we

The country seems bent on renewing its pact with yet another single man

Allan Fotheringham June 22 1981
COLUMN

A bachelor’s life for we

The country seems bent on renewing its pact with yet another single man

Allan Fotheringham June 22 1981

A bachelor’s life for we

COLUMN

The country seems bent on renewing its pact with yet another single man

Allan Fotheringham

The Natural Governing Party of Canada (NGP) had a quiet policy conference in Ottawa one weekend this month, panjandrums and satraps from the boondocks afar huddled in hotel rooms, drinking rye and smugly discussing their firm grip as usual on the jugular of the nation. The Liberals of course are a phenomenon of what passes for the Western democracies, able by sly craft and the looming mass of Quebec to continue in power with the consistency of some authoritarian banana republic or mountaintop Transylvania. Delegates, while emerging with the standard meaningless resolutions, were more concerned with how to perpetuate that power and, after a weekend of drinking and feeling the knobs on each other’s foreheads, had come to a growing conclusion: the next leader of the NGP will be Allan J. MacEachen. It has been a gathering feeling among party insiders for the past few months that the tidiest way to resolve the leadership succession (Liberals hate those messy Tory battles), when Pierre Elliott Reincarnation finally deprives us of our genius, is for him to reward the loyal MacEachen with the interim leadership. That would last until the 1984 election, at which time a fresh Jean Chrétien would emerge—thus sparing the embarrassment of having two francophone leaders in a row. It makes more and more sense. MacEachen is sound, sober, cautious and—best of all—a bachelor.

Here is the key to Canada’s survival as a country that boasts no revolutions, brooks no assassinations, spurns class warfare and puts all its money into savings accounts. For almost half of the past 60 years it has been run by bachelors who, if they like women, do it in a very peculiar way. And now seems bent on renewing the pact with yet another unmarried man. When you examine this turgid country closely, you will find the secret is that it enjoys being ruled by lonely, austere bachelors. If the essence, the personality of a country can be judged by the verve of a John Kennedy or the growling lion of a Churchill, Canada is best epitomized by grim, abstemious bachelors pulling the shawl around their feet on a February eve.

Allan Fotheringham is a columnist for Southam News.

William Lyon Mackenzie King, that kinky little cutey, ran this country for 22 years, in three different spells, 1921 to ’26, 1926 to ’30, 1935 to ’48. We just kept coming back for more punishment. He kept on friendly relations with a succession of happily married women while doing his nighttime missionary projects with prostitutes. (There’s the old joke about King ending a cabinet session: “Meeting adjourned. Could any of you fellows lend me $10?”)

Pierre Trudeau, on examination, is a lifetime bachelor who dabbled absentmindedly in marriage for a brief six years with the lovely Margaret and now seems quite the most self-contained single parent on the orb. He lived quite contentedly until he was 51 as a bachelor and now, at 61, seems quite contented once again. Bachelorhood seems to be his natural state, the married spasm an aberration. In her book, Margaret revealed that he once told her the thing he liked best about his mother was that she never interrupted him. Ah, there lies a true bachelor. There lies a natural leader for Canada, the country that is so polite it never interrupts the saintly reveries of the chief who is so charitable as to lead us.

So now we have, as natural successor in this political spinsterhood, the sombre Allan J. MacEachen from Cape Breton, a man as lonely and aloof as that spare island. He seems stoically prepared for the task, certainly more interested in becoming PM now, his intimates confide, than he was 10 years ago. Humiliated by his first-ballot support at the 1968 convention, he ran up large debts in his futile leadership bid, saw his mother, father and brother die in quick succession, almost lost his seat and by 1969 was in bad shape with a bleeding ulcer. Bachelors survive. MacEachen today, as if anointing his body for the appointed role, has lost 25 pounds recently on the Scarsdale diet. His handsome shock of hair has either been deprived of Grecian Formula lately or has taken on an interest-rate grey. He is 59, fresh blood for a dull country.

Like Mackenzie King’s, MacEachen’s friendships with women tend to be with happily married wives. They’re safe. His zbest friends are Trudeau Saide Joyce Fairbairn (Mrs. ^Michael Gillan; Gillan gworks for him) and his “personal secretary, Pearl Hunter, a widow who was once secretary to Jimmy Sinclair, Margaret’s father. His male friends are mostly bachelors: Alistair Fraser, former clerk of the Commons; John Stewart, the former MP from Antigonish; the priests at St. Francis Xavier University who first boosted him. He goes to mass almost every day. There is a natural link between the brooding Presbyterian King—separated by the pseudoswinging Trudeau—and the brooding Catholic MacEachen.

Mackenzie King tried to commune with his dead mother and talked to his beloved dog. Trudeau (the famous nonnewspaper reader) revealed the other day that the CBC strike wasn’t important because he never listened to radio or watched TV. It is natural. The voters of this country like monks, inwardturning men who are obsessed with self. MacEachen will fill the bill. It is not an accident that Liberal leaders are bachelors and bachelors are Liberals. It goes with the territory.