He haunts us still. Unfortunately
Question: What do the following have in common?
a) The impending election
b) The injunction by our Supreme Court judges that they are not to be
addressed as "Lord" and "Lady"
c) The attempted renaming of Mount Logan
d) The National Post from Friday September 30th to Wednesday October 4th
Answer: They are all manifestations of the rictus grip in which Pierre
Trudeau still holds this country. To take them in order:
a) The impending election is not only "unnecessary" but also a
constitutional affront. The Parliament of 1997 was elected for five years
and just because poor old Jean Chrétien is the premature ejaculator of
Canadian politics and sadly incapable of going the distance is no reason for
the Governor-General to keep passing out writs of dissolution like Viagra
prescriptions. Mr Chrétien's two feeble three-year terms are the shortest
majority governments in Canadian history with the exception of Laurier's
last ministry, which he cut short for the "Reciprocity" election of 1911.
(Incidentally, if you're one of those Trudeaunecromaniacs who believe that
the great man is the "Father Of Our Country" or that "he gave us our
country" or that "we are all his children," you may find allusions to
anything more than 30 years old disorienting and confusing. "1911" in our
calendar would, of course, be year 57 PET, or Pre-Era of Trudeau.)
If you question the Prime Minister's right to call an election for his own
convenience, Mr. Chrétien flips you the finger and says, "Just watch me."
Under the Liberals' one-party Monopoly, the object is to pass Go and collect
$200 as often as possible. But there's nothing in constitutional convention
that says the rest of us have to go along. A prime minister has no right to
a dissolution before the fifth year of a Parliament unless there is a
pressing new issue of public policy (as in 1911), or there is no alternative
government. That's why Lord Byng refused Mackenzie King in 1926. The
circumstances are far more clear-cut this time: Not only does the Prime
Minister have no right to an election, but the country has the right not to
have his flaccid three-year electoral cycles enshrined as precedent. The
Governor-General would do the state a great service if she told Jean to take
a hike. If ever there were a time to say, "I'm Adrienne Clarkson and you're
not," this is it.
But, alas, I seem to be the only one who holds out any hope that her
viceregal eminence will resist Mr. Chrétien. In his later years, Pierre
Trudeau would occasionally tell friends in Montreal that the monarchy was a
lot of nonsense and that he would have got rid of it if he could. He was, to
put it mildly, dissembling. He was no believer in republican government,
unless it was the "people's republics" of his late chums Erich Honecker and
Nicolae Ceausescu. He was an ambitious man of autocratic bent and an
attenuated, nervous monarchy suited him well, as it did Mussolini. So he
weakened the institution, undermined its legitimacy -- and then lodged it
permanently in place in what I see we now call the "Trudeau Constitution" of
1982, thereby ensuring that the only monarch in Canada would be the prime
minister. Just to make the point, he began the tradition of installing
third-rate non-entities in Rideau Hall. Whatever one thinks of those English
toffs or the first generation of native viceroys -- Vincent Massey and
Georges Vanier -- they would have seen the Prime Minister's crappy little
scheme to gerrymander the electoral cycle for what it was, and they would
have had the stature to resist it. Madame Clarkson should politely reject
the notion that Canadian democracy, like Mount Logan, is just another one of
the Prime Minister's baubles to dispose of as he wishes. She should tell Mr.
Chrétien that he has no basis on which to make his request, unless, of
course, the elderly gentleman is feeling tuckered out, in which case she
naturally understands and could he ask if there's anyone else in the
building who'd like to have a go -- Mr. Martin, say? Go on, Your Excellency,
do it. A grateful nation would be eternally in your debt.
Some of us are not yet ready to accept the national myth. Some of us think
the four and a half centuries before 1968 are also relevant to modern
Canada. And, if Jean Chrétien wants to run an election on the Trudeau
legacy, I for one think we should call his bluff. But, if on November 28th
da liddle guy is presiding over his one-party state for another three years,
we at the National Post will have played our shameful part.
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