Casting for the lead role

Allan Fotheringham March 5 1984

Casting for the lead role

Allan Fotheringham March 5 1984

Casting for the lead role


Allan Fotheringham

The Prime Minister of Canada is basically an actor, a clever manipulator of his own image. He enjoys the stage and, while pretending to be unaware of the audience, plays it like a mandolin. Pierre Trudeau professes to be annoyed at the attention given his leave-taking but he wallows in the suspense, dragging out the drama, keeping us all suspended in animation. Will he or won’t he? He is the political version of the Clairol ad. The public by now, in fact, is rather bored by the whole extended soap opera, waiting for Harry Lauder to give his last farewell. Dietrich taking her last curtain call. Sinatra appearing in his absolutely final concert. But those few who are not bored are frenetic, their knickers in a knot, fingernails gnawed down to the elbow. Their supporters chafe, and their bagmen grow restless, pleading for postdated cheques and borrowed executive jets.

P.E.T. regards the minions beneath him and squeezes out one last bit of suspense, reluctant to leave the centre stage as the cymbals clang. Enter the cast, stage left:

Jean Chrétien: His motor running so fast there is a danger the bearings will wear out. Very impatient. Claims to have some 45 Liberal MPs in his pocket. But that’s just for the first ballot. Nice guy, hardest worker, no chance. AngloCanada will not accept another leader from Quebec in succession, especially since Mulroney is from there also. Sorry. Facts of life.

John Roberts: The Billy Bunter of the Liberal race. How can one run for leadership when one is almost certain of losing one’s seat? Winsome John, darling of the cocktail circuit, specializes in imponderables. Cute face, quick tongue, charming guest at dinner tables that launch a thousand quips. Slightly at sea in real world once away from the canapés. Has no real chance, but what would politics be without ego? Why else would anyone go into politics?

Mark MacGuigan: The race gets more ridiculous the further it goes. The jus-

Allan Fotheringham is a columnist for Southam News.

tice minister sees himself as the Trudeau of 1984, dispensing liberalized divorce laws like petal blossoms. Badly needs a charisma transplant. Chasing young Liberals. Chasing moonbeams, too, in this battle.

Eugene Whelan: Looks about him, at other putative chiefs, and laughs. If John Roberts is a contender, why not a green felt cowboy hat? Speaks a semiversion of one of the two official languages. A Central Canadian who tries to look like a westerner, as befits his Agriculture post. Ends up looking like a man looking for the Liberal leadership.

Gerald Regan: Nova Scotia’s answer to a vacuum. Chances thinner than his hair. Really just trying for a more important cabinet spot. Only problem is that another government is going to be in power. Has great sense of humor. Needs it, considering his fate.

Iona Campagnolo: Eyebrows can stop traffic at 50 paces. The more she denies she’s interested, the more there is pressure from the feminist lobby that she accept an orchestrated draft. CBC probably right, that she is now running with Chrétien in second place for potential delegate support. Has visited every riding in the country as party president. Other candidates think this unfair. What else is politics?

Jim Cutes: The Peter Pan of Spadina sees himself as a midget version of Walter Gordon’s nationalistic Company of Older Canadians. Actually comes across as Mackenzie King in red suspenders. Fancies his chances, mainly because as a bachelor he follows in the great KingTrudeau bachelor linkage. Would you

elect a man who has never been in a supermarket? Spadina didn’t.

Donald Macdonald: Has sunk beneath the waves of his weighty commission, the most mysterious venture since Amelia Earhart went missing on her round-the-world flight. She was never found either. Too bad. Good guy. Needing a life preserver, Trudeau threw him an anvil.

Herb Gray: Has the very same chance as the two other ministers from Windsor, Ont. Zilch. Only regret is the disappearance, due to leadership aspirations, of the last remaining crew cut since Mickey Spillane. It’s hard to see institutions die.

Paul Martin Jr.: Will be in only if Turner is out. Otherwise, will wait for another day. The one real dark horse, Andropov’s kidney and Trudeau’s procrastination leaving him almost no room to jockey. Unknown to public, impressive business


Judy Eróla: Tough as honey-coated barbed wire. To succeed, needs a philanthropist with $500,000 z in his designer jeans. If I Campagnolo stays out, S would be pressured to be S the female candidate. Fears no one. Only 50year-old in the land with a punk haircut. Will get the slamdance vote.

John Turner: Most remarkable story in Canadian politics. Man who virtually has not opened his mouth in public for nine years is the leading candidate to become the next Liberal leader and, automatically, prime minister. May have turned into a vivisectionist, faith healer and born-again Socialist for all the voters know. Rumor has it he is looking puffy and out of it. Not true. Looks great. Modestly disclaims any ambition for the post; his supporters drooling at the mouth to spring his machine into gear. He has trained too long for this bout to back out now.

Pierre Trudeau: Longs to stay at Sussex Drive. Has learned to like the idea of servants. Would like to pull Uncle Sam’s tail once more at economic summit in London in June. Dreams of strutting the world stage with the Pope in September. Party pressure too strong. Polls too revealing. He’s not wanted. Shed a tear. The trooper’s through.