Jean Chretien

Liberal Party

Pierre Trudeau

Canadian Alliance

A Systematic Look at Trudeau's Legacy

Date: National Post
Source: OCT16-00
Keywords: despotism, communism, demoralization
Comment: More documentation explaining the anti-democratic behaviour of the Liberals. The Liberals under Chretien have an agenda, and it is not dissimilar to Trudeau's. (See Chretien Quote)
Posted: NOV11-00
Pierre Trudeau Index

'The evil men do lives after them'
George Jonas

When Pierre Elliott Trudeau died last month, many Canadians, even among those who recognized the flaws in his legacy -- his support of Soviet tyranny, his taste for command economics, and the deep fissures created by his multiculturalism -- nevertheless suspended judgment as the nation indulged in a reprise of Trudeaumania. Here, George Jonas argues that while Trudeau's charm and charisma are gone, his execrable ideas and institutions live on.

Like a flashback from a bad LSD trip, Canada has been in the grip of Trudeaumania. One standard dictionary defines "mania" as an "obsessional enthusiasm." This is at best. The primary definition is "a mental disorder characterized by great excitement." Perhaps Trudeaumania fit the kinder definition in 1967, but 33 years later it can only be defined in the primary sense. In the year 2000, obsessive partiality to Mr. Trudeau's legacy presupposes either ignorance of what his legacy is, or a mental disorder.

Mr. Trudeau walked among us between 1919 and 2000. He concerned himself with public affairs during the 55 years spanning 1942 and 1997, first as a student and journalist, then as a politician and national leader, and finally as an elder statesman. During those years, the first main domestic argument in Canada was between free enterprise and the interventionist economy, and the second between the unitary and the devolutionary state. Internationally, the main argument was between liberal democracy and totalitarianism. [emphasis added]

It's safe to say that in the first and the third of these arguments, Mr. Trudeau took the wrong side. The jury is still out on the second.

Some would argue Mr. Trudeau didn't take the wrong side between liberal democracy and totalitarianism, only the middle ground. This is silly. One cannot take the middle ground between life and death. If one proposes to conduct electricity, declaring neutrality between brass and rubber won't do. Mr. Trudeau did make a choice, and -- to stick with the same metaphor -- he chose rubber. Domestically, he favoured the command economy over free enterprise, and the unitary state over devolution. Internationally, he sided with Marxism-Leninism over liberal democracy. No wonder the lights failed to go on.

The wonder is that many of the same people who wouldn't see eye to eye with Mr. Trudeau on minimally two of the three fundamental questions that confronted him during his stewardship of Canada -- i.e. people who take the failure of Communism and the command economy for granted -- still grew misty-eyed at his passing, and spent the past two weeks extolling his legacy in near-hysterical terms.


David Frum (whose piece in The Wall Street Journal was titled "A Great Man, but a Catastrophic Prime Minister"), writing in this paper, helped to dispel one particularly misleading myth about Mr. Trudeau with his accurate description of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms as "the opposite of a liberty-enhancing document." Though initially even the National Post joined the chorus of weeping and wailing, by Oct. 7, in an editorial titled "His communist pals," the paper put Mr. Trudeau's relationship with totalitarianism squarely on record. Some journalists refrained from writing about Mr. Trudeau for days after his death, because (as the columnist Michael Coren put it) "I thought it fit that he was buried before comment." Seemly as such reticence was, it allowed a deluge of appalling nonsense to inundate the media virtually unchallenged for the first number of days.


Mr. Trudeau was cut of the same cloth. He was bright, had an acid tongue and didn't suffer fools gladly. This might have been fine, except he regarded everyone who disagreed with him as a fool. Such leaders run the risk of surrounding themselves mainly with groupies, sycophants and nonentities. Mr. Trudeau was no exception. As Mr. Fulford wrote, his cabinet eventually "turned into a collection of mediocrities."


Mr. Castro acted as pallbearer at Mr. Trudeau's funeral because he and the former prime minister of Canada were friends. On a 1973 visit to Havana, Mr. Trudeau felt moved to shout "Viva Castro!" Returning to this country, he defended his gesture by saying it was just a customary greeting in Cuba, a bit like "good morning" in Canada. On this basis we might have expected him to shout "Heil Hitler!" in Nazi Germany.

Shouting "Viva Castro!" was by no means an aberration. Mr. Trudeau embraced Communist despots wherever he could find them. On his four visits to China between 1960 and 1979, he continually played the role of appeaser and apologist, first to Mao Zedong, and later to his heirs. In 1973, he defended Mao's policies in Canada's Parliament, oblivious to (or uncaring about) the fact that he was seeking accommodation with a system responsible for the deaths of some 80 million people. In 1981, Mr. Trudeau expressed sympathy for Poland's General Wojciech Jaruzelski. This was after the notorious general in his trademark pink Neophane glasses banned Solidarity and jailed or sent into hiding its leaders, including Lech Walesa. In 1983, Mr. Trudeau argued with some passion in Parliament that he simply "couldn't believe" the Soviets would knowingly destroy a commercial airliner. This was after the Kremlin finally admitted knowing that Korean Air Flight 007 was a passenger plane, and justified shooting it down along with its 269 passengers because it was "spying."


In a free country, people are entitled to their opinions. Still, having a soft spot for a Mao, a Castro or a Jaruzelski exceeds ordinary political latitudes. There's a material difference between alternative ways of looking at the world and apologizing for mass murder. Consorting with killer despots may be viewed as a fundamental flaw. If Mr. Trudeau had a similar weakness for Nazi-type regimes and rulers, it would have made him a pariah, and rightly so. But in an astounding reversal, even the mention of Mr. Trudeau's Communist associations has been viewed as not quite comme il faut in Canadian society.


As a counterweight to Quebec's special status in Confederation, Mr. Trudeau took the idea of the cultural mosaic one step further. He advanced multiculturalism. According to this notion, all inhabitants of Canada from any part of the world could retain -- forever, if they wished -- their separate identities and traditions. The whole mosaic would be Canadian, while the constituent bits in it could remain as distinct as they have ever been. But none, not even the Québécois, would be more distinct than any of the others. Mr. Trudeau cleverly proposed to abolish special status by offering special status to all.

Did this multicultural ideal lead Canada to a colourful but harmonious pattern, or did it lead to a fragmented country of ever-multiplying solitudes? ...


Mr. Trudeau flirted with the command economy. More precisely, he liked to command, and neither knew nor cared much about economic matters. Since he couldn't control a free market by definition, it held little fascination for him.

Mr. Trudeau's economic ideas embraced wage-and-price control, deficit financing, confiscatory taxation, intrusive social engineering and the National Energy Policy. [emphasis added] The last, apart from the harm it did to individuals, created a sense of alienation in Western Canada second only to the separatist sentiment in Quebec.

It's possible to quantify the economic results of Mr. Trudeau's legacy of Big Government, as the columnist Eric Margolis did recently. The national debt grew from $11.3-billion in 1968 to $128-billion in 1984. The annual federal deficit went from zero to $25-billion. Ottawa's spending rose from 30% of Canada's total economic output to nearly 53%; our dollar plummeted from around US$1.06 in 1970 to 66 cents today. The unemployment rate has been running between three and five percentage points higher here than in the United States, and Canada reduced itself from being one of the world's three richest nations 30 years ago (along with Switzerland and the U.S.) to one of the three leading debtor nations in the West, alongside Belgium and Italy.

Though Canada no longer runs an annual deficit, the debt Mr. Trudeau entrenched, and Brian Mulroney continued to cultivate, remains. Today it exceeds half a trillion dollars. To service it, Canada's taxpayers paid $41.5-billion in interest in 1999 alone [emphasis added] -- four times more, as Mr. Margolis pointed out, than they spent on national defence.


One of the most telling examples of Mr. Trudeau's thinking occurred many years ago when it came to light that the RCMP had burned down some barns belonging to Quebec separatists. There was a big fuss in the media. Mr. Trudeau shrugged, and said that if people were so upset by the Mounties burning barns illegally, perhaps he'd make the burning of barns by the Mounties legal. It seemed not to occur to him that it isn't wrong to burn down barns because it's illegal, but it's illegal to burn down barns because it's wrong.

Like other statist politicians, Mr. Trudeau seemed to think his ability to set out for his country what is legal and illegal also entitled him to set out for his citizens what is right and wrong. He either didn't see, or resented, that right and wrong are only reflected by the laws, not determined by them. [emphasis added]

To the dismay of Plato's latter-day disciples who are forever trying to set up the Just Society by central edict, right and wrong are resolved by the inner moral compass of people, though modified from time to time by their religion, common experience, climate, technology, social organization, historic period and cultural fashion. Even commissars or ayatollahs have to deal with something akin to Immanuel Kant's categorical imperative. Philosopher-princes find this a hard pill to swallow, and Mr. Trudeau was no exception. He had no patience with anyone's moral compass but his own.

[The editors of this site hold that the Word of God in the Christian Scriptures is the final standard for morality. All other ethical ideas are valid only as far as they reflect God's transcendent law-word.]


... Mr. Trudeau's legacy has been particularly forgettable. The social models he promoted and admired, from outright Communism to the lib-left's peculiar quasi-Marxist, quasi-Keynesian structures of command economy, have not only been discarded and discredited, but ended up "in the dustbin of history," to borrow the Politburo's favourite idiom. Mr. Trudeau's promise of unifying the country also came to nothing. Bilingualism didn't do the trick. Non-traditional immigration and multiculturalism may have changed the face of Canada, but they did little to either unify or imbue it with a new sense of identity. Today, Canada is as much a nation of "two solitudes" as it was in 1945 when Hugh MacLennan used the term for the title of his novel.

If anything, Canadian society is more fragmented than it was before the Trudeau era. Some of the concepts that contributed to Canada's splintering into hostile, self-seeking xenoliths were inspired by Mr. Trudeau's ideas, and some evolved as reactions to them, but in either case the result was the same. Multiculturalism, Western alienation, interest-group politics, the gender wars, and aboriginal separatism created only an increasing number of solitudes. [emphasis added] In this sense, Mr. Trudeau still walks at night. Even driving a stake through his heart may no longer make a difference. The mini-vampires of his legacy have taken on bloodthirsty lives of their own. His repatriated Constitution has turned a relatively respectable judiciary into a seething army of Frankenstein monsters who lurch around making law without regard to the original purpose of the legislation. By now the country resembles an elaborate survival game, in which hostile tribes of Canadians clamour for the attention of governments and courts to enforce their claims against other Canadians. [emphasis added] It's not a pretty picture, and Rachel Sa's contemporaries shouldn't worry if they don't recall much about the man who conjured it up.

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