Trudeau: The Politics of My Way
Unlike the United States, with its generalissimo politics-Washington,
Jackson, Grant, Eisehower- the martial arts have been conspicuously absent from
Canadian politics. But there in one exception: in 1968 Pierre Elliot Trudeau
became the first Canadian leader to bring the gunslinger-Lone Ranger ethos to
Trudeau introduced to Canada the refined art of single combat; it was the
politics of “Doing It My Way”-the politics of going my way or being left behind.
Single-combat confrontation implied much mor than the loner or renegade in power,
and far far less than the shaman black tricks of Mackenzie King. Trudeau was
always far more the solo Philosopher King engaged in intellectual trial by
combat than the Magus Merlin conjuring up solutions by puffs of smoke, sleight
of hand or divine intervention. Ouijaboard politics was the occult domain of
Mackenzie King, a man virtually devoid of policy, a political palm reader
forever checking the whims and moods of his powerful baronial-Ralston Howe, St.
Laurent-and sometimes Byronian colleagues to see how best he could placate them,
or calm them, or Heap his beatitudes upon them.
Trudeau, from day one , was always more samurai than shaman. Even in his
pre-leadership days, Trudeau’s love of trial by combat was predominant.
Mackenzie King would have never touched the unholy trinity of divorce, abortion
and homosexuality: each one of these issues is a sleeping dog best left to lie;
each could only infuriate conservative Canada from coast to coast. Since King
dared not touch them seriatim he certainly would not have touched them together-
in an omnibus bill.
This, Trudeau did joyously. The myths-makers have it at this was
Trudeau’s first deliberated joust, the kingship being the final prize. But
Trudeau had no leadership aspirations at the time; all that he had, still has,
was the love of combat for the sake of combat and religious scruples be damned.
Trudeau the Catholic zealot tackle divorce, abortion and homosexuality active
Prime Minister in this country’s history, liberated the homosexual practitioners
of black acts totally abhorrent to him; ironically, in the process, Trudeau gave
irrational Canada a pretext for branding him a homosexual too.
P.E.T. has always hated the consensus building of Mackenzie King; even the
populist following of a Diefenbaker was an anathema to Trudeau. The single-
combat warrior “doing it my way” is always alone; he leads the people but is not
of them; like the prophet he wanders either in dessert or lush green pastures
and often, like the prophet, he watches his people march into the Promised Land
without him. For Trudeau, being alone is to be free; victory is a consequence
of solitude; companionship an act of weakness, cronyism even wise.
It is ironic that Trudeau, a devout Jansenist Roman Catholic, emotionally
and philosophically opposed to both divorce and abortion, should grant Canadians
greatly expanded divorce rights and their first right to legale abortion.
Trudeau took the unholy trinity then disturbing the bedrooms of the nation
because all three were trial combat, all three required one strong man to push
them through. In this minefield Canada’s political loner had walked alone and
apparently loved it.
Canada’s other solo flyer, John Diefenbaker, may or may not have been a
renegade in power, but the input his holitics received from Senate cronies and
Kitchen cabinets was enormous. The letters and advice that daily poured in to
the chief were a populist input that Diefenbaker slavishly adhered to. Trudeau
was no Diefenbaker; he was neither a populist nor a renegade. Trudeau was
simply a man who brilliantly massaged and manipulated others so that his single
will appeared to be the will of many, so that his will be always done.
The theme of my-way politics sheds much light on the vrai Trudeau, the
Trudeau that is, rather than the Trudeau people think there is. Trudeau has
never been the privacy-demanding recluse, the reluctant leader that herdsmen of
Canadian journalism insist he is.
In secular life Trudeau is no trinitarian; he has chosen his oneness
because, from the earliest politics, oneness worked for him so spectacular.
Trudeau’s personal handling of the constriction crisis was a “my way” all the
way. Trudeau, the self-proclaimed socialist prophet of his people, waxed ever
so eloquently against the sins of conscription, and yet Trudeau seemingly could
not see in War measures that potential greater evil of a Canadian fascism that
surly meant permanent conscription and enslavement of all. Equally puzzling is
the referral of Trudeau’s nationalist compatriots and colleagues in the years
since to give him any credit for fighting in 1942 a good nationalist fight on
behalf of the anti-conscription, quasi-separatist candidacy of Jean Drapeau; not
so puzzling in the refusal of Angelo Saxon patriots to give Trudeau any credit
at all for joining a reserve regiment before the war. There was both a typical
Trudeau “a plague on both your houses” in all this, and even more of the
gunslinger spraying bullets on both side of the saloon bar.
The style of the lone gunslinger was already apperant in Trudeau’s early
radical posture. Cite libre was a radical editorial collective run completely
by Trudeau. Trudeau the then internationalist and socialist shared ideological
bed and board with David Lewis, Frank Scott, Eugene Forsey and Theresa Casgrain,
but only Trudeau’s CCF and NDP membership cards mysteriously do not exist today.
Even that minor bit of collectivist discipline, the proud possession of a party
card, was abhorrent to the free-wheeling independent Trudeau.
The ideologically committed gunslinger found little in the democratic
process to nourish him. The social democratic Trudeau first entered the
electoral lists only only in the safest Liberal seat in the country. Trudeau
knew that group dynamic, group participation, in not ideologically and
politically effective as when the few shape the many.
This single-warrior syndrome explains many shifts and patterns in the
Trudeau character. Diefenbaker revelled in the democratic panorama; Diefenbaker
failed to keep urban Canada aboard his carousel and never really got french
Canada aboard in the first place, but the Chief’s strengths and weakness flowed
from the ordinary people who loved him and the sophisticates and big city people
who hated him. P.E.T. never did deal in democratic norms; instead, the elitist
Trudeau gave Quebec’s elitists the first crack at the bilingual club and
transformed the federal bureaucracy, at least on its highest levels, to be a
bilingual workplace in which the frankphone would be supreme.
Canada, and its record of careful middle-of-the-road politics has produced
leaders who were careful and middle-of-the-road as well, until 1968 when Canada
and the world was introduced to Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau.
He had walked and cycled through Europe, and been on the wrong side of the
bars in foreign jails. Not your average guy. Not your average Prime Minister.
The future Prime Minister was the second child and the elder son of the
family. He was born on October 18th, 1919. At a very young age Trudeau was the
current, attacking authority and not giving a “DAMN” for the public opinion.
In 1940 Prime Minister Trudeau entered the law faculty at the University
of Montreal. He says that he hesitated between law ; psychology, but had to
settle for law since Montreal didn’t offer psychology and the war kept him in
As a student he enlisted in the Canadian officers Training Corps. He was
given a commission on a lieutenant, a rank he held until his retirement in 1947.
Joseph Philippe Pierre Elliote Trudeau to say his names in order was born
an October 18, 1919. Pierre wasn’t the sort of person that you think would
become one of Canada’s longest in office Prime Ministers.
At home Pierre’s mother spoke mainly English, although she was fluent in
french. His mother provided the English balance. Charles-Emily Pierre’s
father taught him sports as Pierre was very good at them. Pierre practised the
art of KARATE and soon became a brown belt, one below black belt. He also knew
how to skin dive and could descend 150 feet off a cliff and come out without a
scratch. Other than teaching Pierre sports, Charles-Emile also put together a
franchise of gas stations that grew to include 15,000 members and filling
$1,400,000 for his stations.
As a boy, living in Montreal, he favoured the English instead of the
French and when his friends were unhappy of the French losing, Pierre was
celebrating. Many of his teachers in primary school said that Pierre was a
headstrong individualist who involved himself frequently in fights and practical
jokes. In 1924 or 1925 Charles-Emily, Pierre father died, and Pierre was only
fourteen years old at the time. Since his parents were so rich he got driven to
school by a chauffeur and ran with a crowd called LES SNOBS. As a student
Pierre joined the COTC, Canadian Officers Training Corps. Pierre lack of self
discipline got him into trouble a lot and he was soon kicked out of the COTC.
Pierre didn’t always get into trouble actually as he was a very smart kid and
one of his teachers commented that Pierre was a pupil who was good at every
subject. In 1940 Pierre entered the law faculty at the University of Montreal.