Justin Trudeau. Pierre Trudeau. Canada And Imperial Globalization..... Part VI
Written by Robin Mathews
Reading Justin Trudeau’s Election-time book, Common Ground (2015) is not a richly rewarding experience. In the face of the Stephen Harper/Conservative Party incipient fascism, however, Justin Trudeau’s insistence upon democratic consultation and multi-racial equality in the book is important. But his depiction of Pierre Trudeau seems … simply unreal.
Did father and son never discuss politics, political philosophy, public service, Pierre Trudeau’s record? Was it all about keeping physically fit and learning to paddle a canoe? Doubtless Justin Trudeau’s writing hand was guided by Election Strategy and Party Advisors. But … still ….
I thought back. Pierre Trudeau became prime minister in 1968. Justin was born in 1971. He was not sixteen years old until his father had been out of active politics for a few years. Those of us who were politically active nationally at the time of Pierre Trudeau’s arrival as prime minister know much more about the political Pierre Trudeau than Justin ever can, no matter how many of Canada’s bad historians he reads, no matter how many close colleagues of his father Justin consults. Those ones will be sure to clean their recollections for the sake of their own reputations.
Pierre Trudeau began his Liberal career as an internationalist – only one of the reasons he was determined to abort the ‘monster’ of Quebec independence. (That subject should be a column, and a book of its own.)
In 1969 he appeared at Carleton University in Ottawa to engage with students. At that time Canadians were on a downward curve to becoming a minority holding university teaching positions in Canada. A ‘Canadianization’ movement had begun and was gaining strength across the country – to provide justice for bright young Canadians, to assure them majority place in the operation of Canada’s universities, colleges, art galleries, museums, etc.
A student asked Pierre Trudeau what he thought of the work being done on the matter. The student newspaper reported Trudeau replied that he didn’t care who taught in Canadian universities!
At about the same time word was abroad in porous Ottawa that Trudeau had said he didn’t care who owned Canada as long as they paid the taxes required to finance government of the country. No source for that statement can be named. But the man most effectively and determinedly working to repatriate ownership of the Canadian economy was Walter Gordon – and his relation to Trudeau tells much.
He began work on Canadian independence in the 1950s, became Lester Pearson’s minister of finance, and in a famous 1963 budget created a “takeover tax” and policy to begin regaining Canadian control of the economy. The Stock Markets went berserk; Erik Kierans, head of the Montreal Stock Exchange, flew to Ottawa. Lester Pearson crumpled and “accepted” Gordon’s resignation. But not before Pearson agreed the government would set up a Task Force to examine foreign ownership. It was created in 1967.
In his memoirs Gordon reports that Pierre Trudeau (campaigning to become Party Leader) seemed to convey sympathy for the work of the Task Force. When Trudeau became prime minister, however, Gordon (in his gracious way) suggests he was double-crossed by Trudeau.
The Report of the Task Force on Foreign Ownership and the Structure of Canadian Investment, called “the Watkins Report” was published in 1968. Pierre Trudeau was not sympathetic to it. That was so clear that following the creation of the Waffle Movement (“independence and socialism”) in the NDP (1969), Walter Gordon and others, less Left than Wafflers, created (1970) The Committee for an Independent Canada. They did so, in fact, to push (as the Waffle was pushing) against Trudeau ‘internationalism’ and growing foreign ownership of the Canadian economy. (They were largely Liberals trying to force Liberal Trudeau to pay attention to foreign takeover.)
Then – public interest being high – two more Reports on foreign ownership (from government ranks) appeared. The first was The Wahn Report (1970) gaining modest attention. In 1972 the (Herb) Gray Report caused much more discussion and did not please Trudeau (since the issue was insistently present).
Despite a large Committee For An Independent Canada petition and a gathering of members in the Chateau Laurier, followed by an 8 or 9 person delegation meeting with Trudeau, he refused to release the Gray Report to the public, saying (the delegates reported back to us) that to do so would upset the Markets.
Subsequently, the Report was leaked to the (Toronto) Canadian Forum which printed large parts of it. Only then did Trudeau release the Gray Report.
That was the ambiance of the Trudeau prime ministership for some years. For the 1970 Manitoba Centennial Celebration at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, Trudeau arrived with Barbara Streisand (U.S. Movie Star) on his arm (probably the first time Ms. Streisand learned that a place called ‘Manitoba’ exists).
I wrote a letter about the inappropriateness of Trudeau’s companion, published in the Ottawa newspaper. As if to heighten the symbolism of ‘imperial globalization’, it was answered by a particularly bombastic U.S. citizen, a professor in Ottawa, to “correct” my idea of appropriate Canadian protocol … to which I replied. To cap the symbolism, our letters were featured in the Canadian edition of Time magazine. (Not in any Canadian publication.) A few years later, Trudeau didn’t like some of my lampooning (about his failure to resist takeover)… and said so. The editor to whom he made his remarks (in porous Ottawa) relayed them to me shortly after their utterance.
It was in that “internationalist” (?) milieu that the Bank of Canada (1974) gave up powers to the Bank of International Settlements and ceased providing interest-free loans to Canadian governments for Infrastructure and related undertakings.
The sale in 1970 to U.S. McGraw Hill of Ryerson Press, Canada’s oldest text book publisher, and publisher in the twentieth century of major Canadian writers, brought people into the streets.
On one cold winter morning, demonstrating at a major Ottawa United Church (Ryerson Press was owned by the United Church), the demonstrators were surprised to see the arrival of Governor General Roland Michener for the religious service.
He had to wait outside for his welcomers to appear, and so I asked him if he had come to join the protest against the hateful sale of Ryerson Press. He replied that he had come to worship at the Church where his parents worshipped before him.
The committee of the Church, arranging tea and biscuits for the worshippers after the service, were (strongly) not antagonistic to the demonstrators and invited all in after the service … for warmth and refreshments.
When the matter of the sale of Ryerson Press was brought up in the House of Commons and the government was urged to keep Ryerson Press Canadian (at really very little cost), Pierre Trudeau, like Atlas, shrugged, and he refused even to consider the idea.
His conversion to Canada came late … and slowly. The 1975 creation of Petro Canada as part of the National Energy Program was a response to world conditions, a desire to increase revenues for Ottawa, and (finally!) the intention to have a major Canadian presence in the Canadian Oil Patch!
Pierre Trudeau’s attitude to Canada didn’t fully change until he had been in office almost ten years. (People forget that.) His attitude is especially strange since a strong push from Canadians existed all through the late 1960s and the 1970s for ‘Canadian Independence’ and a Canadian Industrial Strategy. The Canadian population was willing to try new and controversial measures. In fact, the Conventional Press and Media have created non-history concerning the National Energy Program. It was hated by international capital, of course (and so the Right press says ‘Westerners’ hated it). But a poll of Canadians at the time revealed 80% of Canadians supported the NEP – and 80% of Albertans did, too!
When Pierre Trudeau returned to the prime ministership (after the brief Joe Clark, Progressive Conservative interlude) in 1980, a move was talked of again … seriously … to create an Industrial Strategy for Canada. “There was” … the Canadian Encyclopedia reports “another attempt to formulate an industrial strategy, inspired by the government’s National Energy Program. This attempt also failed, partly because of growing American objections….” (Vol. 2, 1988, p. 1063)
What the Encyclopedia doesn’t report is that U.S. pressure to keep Canada a Resource Colony was intense. And threats almost certainly were made and kept secret. For Alan MacEachen, minister of finance and deputy prime minister, flew to Washington to apologize and record Canada’s submission to U.S. will. And almost at the same time Jean Chretien, minister of energy, mines, and resources, flew to New York to give a speech to assembled U.S. power merchants – the theme of his speech being.......
‘Canada is Open For Business’.
Until he left politics, Pierre Trudeau oversaw the growing dissolution of Canadian Independence. Through many of Justin Trudeau’s growing years his father was an internationalist with contempt for independence seekers and for movements to unite Canadians around the idea of a Canadian-owned economy and culture.
We may not be surprised, then, that in his book, Common Ground, Justin concentrates on the domestic father urging his son to keep in good shape and learn to paddle a canoe through the wilderness of untamed nature – away from the wilderness of untamed political sell-out, betrayal, and colonial administration.
Written by Robin Mathews
Time to step up to the plate Justin Trudeau.....Petronas's Pacific Northwest LNG proposal is a carbon bomb located in prime wild juvenile salmon rearing grounds...Science has spoken, .....Petronas's location is problematic to say the least.....With all the other west coast LNG proposals that have fallen by the wayside...Clearly there is another British Columbia location available.....
Make me proud Justin Trudeau by making the right thing...Grant G
The Straight goods
Cheers Eyes Wide Open