The case against Trudeau: that's it? (UPDATED) -

The case against Trudeau: that’s it? (UPDATED)

The usual charges that Trudeau mishandled Quebec and the economy are overstated


Reading David Frum’s assault on Pierre Elliott Trudeau in this morning’s Ottawa Citizen, I kept waiting to feel hurt. I admit it: Trudeau was a boyhood hero of mine. Although I’ve long since come to recognize his serious shortcomings, it’s like the hockey player you idolized as a 10-year-old—you never entirely get over it.

Yet that sick feeling I feared never came. Frum’s indictment boils down to two familiar charges: Trudeau mishandled the October Crisis and generally inflamed serparatism; he mismanaged the economy and left his successors a deficit problem.

That’s it? I won’t be tearing up my signed Trudeau rookie card on that basis.

“Pierre Trudeau was a spending fool,” Frum says, noting that he tripled spending through the 1970s. Like bell bottoms, though, it was the style at the time. U.S. federal spending rose from $195.6 billion in 1970 to $590.9 billion in 1980. But Trudeau was crazy for economic intervention, Frum tells us, as evidenced by his nutty wage-and-price controls. Sure, sort of the like Nixon’s 1971 wage-and-price control gambit  in the U.S. and Britain’s 1972-74 “Statutory Incomes Policy.”

Yet such a “statist” was Trudeau, we’re reminded by the eminent Republican, that he actually instituted a system for reviewing foreign investments. Of course, his Liberals never actually blocked any takeovers—that didn’t happen until Stephen Harper’s evidently even more statist Conservatives rejected major foreign investments in Canada’s satellite and potash industries.

However, it wasn’t the economy, but rather the nation itself on which, Frum asserts, Trudeau “inflicted his greatest harm.” It all started with his terrible mishandling of FLQ kidnappings. Never mind that William Tetley’s 2007 book The  October Crisis, 1970 makes a cogent, insider’s case that the excesses of Trudeau’s response have been overstated and the dangers of the moment underplayed. And pay no attention to John Engish, who concludes (in a biography Frum finds useful in other respects): “After 1970… kidnappings ended in Quebec, and democratic governments of the twenty-first century are more likely to follow the pattern set out by Trudeau and his colleagues than the one recommended by his opponents…”

Leaving aside the troubling complexities of 1970, here’s a breezy thought experiment: with Rene Levesque’s folksy brand of separatism ascendant after his 1976 provincial election win, how might the cause of federalism have fared under a Prime Minister Stanfield? Or, during the 1980 referendum, under a Prime Minister Clark? Frum doesn’t seem to have pondered those counterfactuals. He just says Trudeau left a national unity mess for those who came after him—and I guess that means Brian Mulroney—to sort out. If he seriously thinks Mulroney somehow had no choice but to plunge recklessly into deep constitutional waters, he might want to read this fresh Michael Bliss piece on the Meech Lake fiasco.

Trudeau was far from perfect. He admitted later in life that as a very young man he shamefully failed to understand what the Second World War was all about. His National Energy Program was a spectacularly bad idea. More broadly, however, his weakness on economic policy mostly reflected the shared confusion of governments in the age of oil shocks and stagflation. And his record on national unity is strong: it’s hard to imagine much support in Quebec for Canada today had he not pushed ahead with bilingualism in federal institutions.

Frum’s piece sums up his side of a debate with Lawrence Martin over Trudeau, sponsored by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute. Martin’s case for the defence is slated to be published tomorrow.


And, as promised, today brings us Lawrence Martin’s bid to uphold Trudeau’s reputation, complete with a gutsy explanation of (apology for?) the NEP, and an astute reminder that Trudeau’s lasting allure must be understood in light of his “uninspiring” predecessors at 24 Sussex Dr.


The case against Trudeau: that’s it? (UPDATED)

  1. Frum writes:
    Wage and price controls were succeeded by the single worst economic decision of Canada’s 20th century: the National Energy Program. 

    The NEP tried to fix two different prices of oil, one inside Canada, one outside. The NEP expropriated foreign oil interests without compensation. The NEP sought to shoulder aside the historic role of the provinces as the owner and manager of natural resources. Most other Western countries redirected themselves toward more fiscal restraint after 1979. Counting on abundant revenues from oil, the Trudeau government kept spending. Other Western governments began to worry more about attracting international investment. Canada repelled investors with arbitrary confiscations. Other Western governments recovered from the stagflation of the 1970s by turning toward freer markets. Under the National Energy Program, Canada was up-regulating as the U.S., Britain, and West Germany deregulated. All of these mistakes together contributed to the extreme severity of the 1982 recession. Every one of them was Pierre Trudeau’s fault. 

    Frum, surely a student of US Repulican politics, would know that the idea of two prices for oil (domestic and world) originated in the Nixon and/or Ford White House.

    US Oil Price Controls – Bad Policy?

    The rapid increase in crude prices from 1973 to 1981 would have been much less were it not for United States energy policy during the post Embargo period. The US imposed price controls on domestically produced oil.  The obvious result of the price controls was that U.S. consumers of crude oil paid about 50 percent more for imports than domestic production and U.S producers received less than world market price. In effect, the domestic petroleum industry was subsidizing the U.S. consumer.

    Trudeau’s policy was at odds with US policy when Reagan became president and abandoned the two tier structure.

    But true, the NEP did go farther than that, largely blown out of proportion by revisionists.

    My NEP rebuttal video I have posted here before:


    • Speaking of counterfactuals,what if no NEP in 1980?

      * More investment in conventional oil in Western Sedimentary basin? Just means the investment profile was shifted – conventional oil investment and production was spread out further over time – Alberta’s conventional oil production has already peaked and begun its decline later. Is this good or bad?

      * Less exploratory drilling in frontier areas – Beaufort Sea for example (therefore less delineation of what potential lies in the far north) Is this good or bad?

      * It seems to me more R&D funding was directed towards the tar/oilsands during this period, but that may be coincidental and not directly related to NEP funds/funding/incentives. Is this good or bad?


  2. Rightwingers waste an enormous amount of time fretting over dead people.

    Of course Trudeau made mistakes…we’ve never had a perfect PM, just as we’ve never had a perfect human being.

    But he was the right man for his time, and he gave Canadians a wider view of themselves and the world….and people loved him for it. They still do.

    • Some people loved him for it.  Some people still do.

      • We’ve never had a PM that everybody loved, and we never will.

        However, Trudeau remains our most popular PM.

        • It depends on how you define “our”.  I would agree, for instance, that he remains Ontario’s most popular PM.  He remains Alberta’s most unpopular PM.

          But of course Liberals don’t consider Albertans to be “real Canadians” . . . which, parenthetically, helps explain why the LPC doesn’t currently don’t hold a single seat in Alberta  . . .

          • Once again, Emily fails rudimentary reading comprehension.

            The polls you cite provide absolutely no regional breakdown of results.  So they don’t address or refute my point.

            Seeing as you’re sending links Emily, here’s one for you:


          • @OrsonBean 

            No, they don’t…nor is it necessary.

            Now lose the chip.

          • How on earth can you make a ststement that liberals don’t consider AB’s real Canadians?You’re talking ancient history. That’s silly hyperbole.Define what an AB is please. Half or more of AB is made up of other Canadians.This is just a silly game the political class play…”real Canadian”don’t give a crap about it.

          • On these comment boards and other boards heavily populated by Liberals, I have seen that charge levelled against Albertans many, many times.  A typical form of it is that Albertans are accused of being “American wannabes”.  Another form of it is the assertion frequently trotted out by Liberals that “Liberal values are Canadian values”; the obvious flip side being that if you don’t vote Liberal, you’re not a real Canadian.  Ergo, Alberta being a Conservative bastion, its values are somehow alien (codespeak for American).

            The charge is often personalized:  Stephen Harper is often accused of being the agent of insidious American right-wing operatives.  How often do we hear from Liberals that “Harper Hates Canada”.  Talk about hyperbole.

          • Bean lives in a glass house. 

          • Um, JanBC, do you have an actual example you can give?

          • Reply for OB – weird system.

             I don’t deny there’s been a lot of AB bashing – most of it callow political carping. But you can’t deny that AB is a different kind of place. I think the US way of doing stuff is widely admired – but mostly in the political/chattering class and perhaps in the old guard original, largely rural Albertans, for want of a better term for it. Not that’s an inherently bad thing – but it is pretty different from much of the rest of the country; i’ve lived in BC for about as long as i did in AB and it is hardly present there. Or in the North where i spend most of my time now. 
            The only real point i wanted to make is that has not been a one way street. I don’t know who started it but the PCs have been dining out on in for a very long time too. They were not blameless in whipping up anti- eastern sentiment [ remember the old’ let the eastern bastards freeze in the dark’ bumper stickers, or Ralph’s calling easterners’ bums and creeps?’ Both sides, liberal and provincial conservatives played that old tune for way too long for electoral advantage – shame on them both. 
            As for the Harper hates Canada stuff – hyperpole sure! But he sure gave people a lot of juicy quotes.

          • reply to kcm2 – I agree, weird system . . .

            I agree with most of your post.  But I spent over 20 yrs in Alberta, still go back frequently, and the supposed “Americanness” of Alberta is usually greatly exaggerated and overstated by those who tend to make that assertion.  Alberta has WAY more in common with the rest of Canada than it does with any American jurisdiction, and the average Albertan has just as great an attachment to Canada as anyone anywhere else.  Generally speaking, it’s Quebeckers who have an “issue” with attachment to Canada.  And that’s part of what burns me — I find some Liberals spend all their time with their guns turned on Alberta for being “un-Canadian” when it’s Quebec that overwhelmingly and overtly thumbs its nose at Canada (or, really, flips its middle digit at Canada) — yet for some reason Quebec gets a free ride.  Part of it, I suppose, is that Quebec is seen as having “progressive” values and Alberta is depicted (often by people who have never set foot in the place) as some sort of benighted right-wing dystopia.

            I do agree with you, though, that there is a business-friendly culture in Alberta which is notable in contrast, e.g., to B.C.  And there are a number of social and historical reasons for that (e.g., the lack of a labour union culture in Alberta, owing to its completely different industrial base).  Foreign business people and investors definitely pick up on that difference.

            As for your observation about stuff cutting the other way, I agree, but . . . much of what you cite is 30-year old stuff (e.g., Klein’s comments).  All provincial premiers bash Ottawa for political gain.  But to me the most important fact is this:  these days, Stephen Harper and the CPC behave like a party that is truly interested in getting elected EVERYWHERE in Canada.  The Liberal Party of Canada does not, IMO.  And that’s why they currently hold one effing seat in the multi-thousand mile expanse from Central Ontario to Vancouver. 

          • @OrsonBean 

            Alberta is pre-industrial…a primary resouce economy.

            That’s why it’s different.

          • I am a lifelong Albertan and I would say kcm2 and Orson both have good points to make about Alberta. There is a great variety of opinion, however our provincial government is far too one-sided and is becoming increasingly more toxic. I agree with Andrew Nikiforuk, another Albertan, who calls it a petrostate; as such it is profoundly undemocratic.

            Yes, there are rural rednecks and bigots, but there are other rural people who hark back to our history of cooperatives and working together and tolerance for eccentricity. 

            Some of the most rabid rightwingers are imports; like Craig Chandler who moved here from Ontario and started telling Albertans they have to vote Conservative. Or Harper; I doubt that he feels much connection to my province – it’s just a useful base for him.

            And I remember how angry we all were at Trudeau, because he was pretty stupid about the western provinces; and I remember how we mourned him when he died because he was a great Canadian leader. He helped build up Canada to become more aware of the world and more broadminded. Harper is tearing Canada down.


          • Suck it up princess. I mean honestly, as if “Liberals” don’t consider all Canadians to be Canadians. That’s a bunch of partisan nonsense propoganda.

            I swear to god this regional “playing the martyr” thing is just getting pathetic. Is there a province left in this country that has any self-confidence worth talking about?

            And BTW, are you suggesting that just because many dislike the things that the CPC does, that Harper isn’t everyone’s Prime Minister?

            That would explain why you don’t think he should be answerable to all Canadians I guess!

            Unfortunately, he is our Prime Minister, as much as he is anyone else’s, and it’s embarassing as hell, but that doesn’t lead me to believe that Westerners collectively consider easterners to “not be Canadian” or whatever.


          • Your response is full of non-sequiturs.  You’re “replying” to things that I didn’t say.  Look, I’m not pointing out that there’s a propsensity among Liberal supporters to diss Alberta out of some martyrdom schtick.  I’m pointing it out because I think it goes some way to helping to explain why the Liberal Party of Canada is currently a third-place party that has one seat between western Ontario and Vancouver. 

          • Sounds like a typical Albertan. I wonder if he thinks Quebecers are real Canadians.

        • I have to agree with Orson on this one. Trudeau IS eastern Canada’s most popular PM. 
          However in the west opinions range from general apathy in BC, a visceral dislike in Saskatchewan and Albertans view him a Canadian Pol Pot.

          He was an arrogant narcissistic fop, masquerading as a playboy personality. A bully and a ersatz intellectual who tore the division between the east and west that’s still not fully healed.

          • Alberta lives on myths…and they all involve victimology.

          • Yes Emily, those Albertans are simply awful, aren’t they?

          • Why do you hate Albertans so desperately, OriginalEmily1, that your willing to demagogue for a 3rd rate shill like Trudeau?

            Did an Albertan run over your dog? Spill wine on your macrame vest? Borrow your favorite Noam ChomskyXMichael Moore slash fiction novel and forget to return it?
            Or do you find them evil, simply because some of their political opinions are incompatible with your own turgid ideology?

            Defame the “other” ’cause they’re different hmmm? Just like good ol’ PET.

          • Because they post the kind of stupidity you just did.

          • Watch it, Orson will not tolerate hyperbole. 

          •  Tha’ts funny.

             As of 2010, the population of Alberta is 3.5 million. As of 1980 – that is, if we take the last year of Trudeau, and if we count every single living body in Alberta, toddlers included – it was 2 million. If we take 1960, which is more reasonable for people who were actually following politics when Trudeau was around, it was 1.3 million.

             How on Earth can Trudeau be the most hated of all prime ministers in Alberta if half of the people weren’t actually around to witness him? Or is it some sort of Eleventh Commandment? 

          • Good point – as i said earlier, it’s largely because later ABs have been told what they must think of him, mostly for partisan political reasons. Personally i don’t mind at all that some people choose to dislike or hate him, but for goodness sake at least do your own thinking first. 

          • Trudeau’s policies had an enormous and immediate detrimental impact on Albertans livelihoods. Far greater than the impact of closing of the Cod fishery had in Newfoundland. It’s only historical equivalents would be the Expulsion of the Acadians, or the farm tax foreclosures during the Depression.

            To make it understandable to Ontarians; imagine if the Harper government instituted a policy that shuttered every single manufacturing plant in Ontario. What would happen? 

            Every street in my town had at least two or three families lose their home, four or five lose their cars, and many many more lose their jobs. Food banks couldn’t keep up with the demand, and families had to winter in relatives basements, school gymnasiums, or even unheated campers.
            Just like a majority of other Albertans, my own family was destitute. Living off of relatives, no heat or running water, thrift shop clothes, no car.
            And you wonder why we don’t forget.

            It was a social disaster on an epic scale, and one that was created, on purpose, by the Trudeau government with the full support of eastern Canadians.
            The social impact of the NEP calamity on Alberta, even today continues to be deliberately ignored by the eastern establishment.

          • @twitter-200696158:disqus 

            The world price of oil crashed, you numpty…Trudeau didn’t do it.

          • Fancylad

            That is absolutely over the top uber hypoblic bilge…the explusion of the Arcadians [snort]
            I lived trough the NEP and i didn’t see endless soup lines. 

    • “Rightwingers waste an enormous amount of time fretting over dead people.”

      Especially when invited to do so:

      They should just be like the left wingers, who never NEVER fret over dead people:

      • And if people had wanted to hear it they’d have attended.

        Fretting over people long dead is rather different than mourning someone who just died.

        • “And if people had wanted to hear it they’d have attended.”

          I’ll forward your comment to John Geddes/Ottawa Citizen with a stern warning that if they publish anything more about historical Canadian political figures, they’ll have you to answer to.

          “Fretting over people long dead is rather different than mourning someone who just died.”

          Fair enough – here’s another one for you:

          • There is rarely a day on here when someone doesn’t drag Trudeau out to blame him for something or other….political crap years later because they can’t let go and regard him as a historical figure.

            Same with you.

          • Well, I’m not John Geddes, David Frum, or a MacDonald Laurier Institute administrator, so I can’t claim responsibility for dragging him out this time.  As for letting go and regarding him as a historical figure, I wish his disastrous legacy would allow for that, but the flesh is weak (although not so weak as to explain my current affliction of responding to your inanities). 

          • @GreatWallsofFire:disqus 

            You are beating a dead horse with the ‘disasterous legacy’ crap…..he remains our most popular PM

    • It is needed because the shape of we are today is because of T’s incompetence

  3. Ottawa Citizen, May 2006:

    A new biography of the former prime minister, whom Canadians have long been taught to regard as a great liberal politician, reveals that as a youth and young man, Mr. Trudeau was an anti-Semite, admired fascist dictators such as Hitler and Mussolini, promoted revolution and longed for an independent and Catholic Quebec that would be home only to francophones

    Toronto Sun, July 2011:

    Statistics Canada also released a report last month that documented a 42% increase in hate crimes in 2009 compared to 2008. More than 70% of these crimes were targeted at the Jewish community, according to the data.

    • Just what’s your point?What is important is that he grew up and realized just how cloistered and narrow minded was the Quebec milieu throughout his formative years, much of which was fostered by a witches brew of ethnic nationalism aided and abetted by the church[ on which his crictics remain silent, but most Quebecers of his generation are well aware of this]  – the man changed, he was not an anti-semite throughout his life, niether was he sympathetic toward fascism.I very much doubt that even today you would find much sympathy for Frum’s myopic view of Trudeau in the Jewish community.  You’re constant selective muckraking is tiresome.

      • “… the man changed, he was not an anti-semite throughout his life, niether was he sympathetic toward fascism …. .I very much doubt that even today you would find much sympathy for Frum’s myopic view of Trudeau in the Jewish community.”

        Canadian Press ~ Dec 2006:

        Bob Rae was the target of anti-Semitic attacks during the Liberal leadership contest, motivated at least in part by the fact that his wife is Jewish. Sources close to Rae say that his wife, Arlene Perly Rae, was approached during last weekend’s convention by a delegate who didn’t realize she was the candidate’s wife. The delegate told her not to vote for Rae “because his wife is Jewish.”

        Globe/Mail ~ Sept 2011

        An Ipsos Reid exit poll of voters in the last federal election found that 52 per cent of Jewish voters supported the Conservatives, 24 per cent the Liberals and 16 per cent the NDP. If remotely accurate, the exit poll reflected an enormous shift in voter preference among Canadian Jews.

        George Jonas ~ NatPost:

        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.

        • Seriously… reading your comments is like reading a ransom note made from various letters cut out of various magazines.

          WHAT IS YOUR POINT?!?! I have the internet as well, and can look up this library of vaguely relevant context-free quotes just as well as you. I’m sure they support your position quite well. I just have no clue as to what your position is.

          From what I can tell here, you are accusing Trudeau of being a communist zombie who used anti-Semitic views to prevent Rae from winning the Liberal leadership. 

          • I genuinely laughed out loud at this one….especially that first sentence….that’s priceless…and entirely accurate!

          • “… you are accusing Trudeau of being a communist zombie who used
            anti-Semitic views to prevent Rae from winning the Liberal leadership.”

            You only missed the fact that Trudeau’s right-wing sympathies in the 40s caused a sharp increase in anti-semitic incidents in 2009.

          • Sush…don’t distract him…70 years is nothing when it comes to holding a grudge or induging in bizarre exercises in cause and effect for TA. He still holds the enlightenment responsible for the breakdown of moral standards in the western world.

    • So you’re saying the further we get from Trudeau, the more anti-semitic we become?

      • Tony’s point seems to be[ to the point of utter tedium] that once you make a mistake of any size you’re done; you must wear it for life. You can never learn, never change. Unless you’re a libertarian, who never make errors of judgement since they never get the opportunity…their creed isn’t for this imperfect world, never to be tested by failure or implemented, because that would expose them to the same reality as most of the rest of us  – there are no perfect solutions, ideaologies and most imortantly of all…people.

  4. The Secular State ~ As Minister of Justice In 1967, Trudeau personally and on his own initiative introduced the Liberal government’s proposal for legalizing abortion, ignoring even the hearings which were being conducted on the subject by a joint House-of-Commons/ Senate committee. As he explained to the Calgary Herald in December 1967, he deliberately placed the abortion item amid 108 other items in an Omnibus Bill in order to weaken resistance to it. 

    Abortion In Canada ~ More than three million unborn babies have died from abortion in Canada since 1969, when abortion was first decriminalized. Statistics Canada tables show a recorded total of 2,822,293 abortions between 1969 and 2005. Assuming an annual average of 100,000 abortions for 2006 and 2007 (and recognizing that reported numbers since 2000 reflect about 90 percent of abortions) the total number of abortions is more than three million.

    • Trudeau did not legalize abortion, he decriminalized it.

      In 1988 the Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional.

  5. Lorrie Goldstein ~ July 2003:

     Instead of public debate about a justice system that has become increasingly soft on crime ever since the Liberal government of Pierre Trudeau abolished capital punishment in 1976 and falsely promised life would mean life – at least for murder – we now have a totally different discussion. 

    Soft media interviews with corrections officials about how hard it is to re-integrate criminals into society and what a splendid job they’re doing of it. Criminal lawyers forever complaining the system is too harsh. Statistical stories assuring us that overall, crime is down – oh, except maybe for homicides and drug offences – and how the fear of crime is the real bogeyman, not the criminals themselves.

    Ian Lee ~ Myths & Urban Legends Concerning Crime In Canada:

     An examination of the Statistics Canada table on Page 19 record that 221 violent crimes per 100,000 were reported in 1962.  This figure increased year by year, doubling by 1970 to 480 per 100,000, increasing again to 636 per 100,000 by 1980 and finally peaking at 1084 per 100,000 by 1992– a 500% increase in 30 years or a third of a century.

  6. Impromptu interview of Pierre Elliott Trudeau with Tim Ralfe of the CBC and Peter Reilly of CJON-TV on October 13, 1970

    Q: No, I still go back to the choice that you have to make in the kind of society that you live in.

    A: Yes, well there are a lot of bleeding hearts around who just don’t like to see people with helmets and guns. All I can say is, go on and bleed, but it is more important to keep law and order in the society than to be worried about weak-kneed people who don’t like the looks of …

    Q: At any cost? How far would you go with that? How far would you extend that?

    A: Well just watch me.

    Dec 2010: 

    Ontario Ombudsman André Marin today issued a brief additional statement about his special report Caught in the Act.  The statement addresses issues and questions surrounding the use of police powers granted by the province’s enactment of Regulation 233/10 under the Public Works Protection Act.

    “Efforts have been made to downplay the questionable use of Regulation 233/10 during the days surrounding the G20 summit in Toronto, on the basis that only two persons were arrested under its authority,” Mr. Marin says in the statement.  “It is important when considering this information to understand that while there may have been only two arrests using Regulation 233/10, many people were detained, searched, questioned, and redirected under its authority.  That regulation played a huge role in the violations of civil liberties that occurred.  Arrests were only a small part of it.”

    • Tony, can you keep your comments to a single entry please? I look at the number count of the comments and think we’ve got an interesting discussion going on, but in reality it’s just you chatting with yourself.

      • Ah, but he has so much to say. No matter that it’s the same thing
        over and over again.

        • And usually someone else said it before he did.

          • Tony merits a blog page of his own; we could all go over there whenever we are feeling particulary masochistic, in need of a giggle or being partially or wholy misinformed.

    • Some days I really hate Google.

  7. Regardless of how seperatism would have ascended or not ascended under a less charismatic leader, I think the Frum is right about the FLQ crisis, albeit for the wrong reasons. The arbitrary arrest of so many innocent people under the War Measures Act is one of the lowest moments for civil liberties in Canadian history and arguably the legacy of that is helping to buttress some of the less obviously odious but nevertheless anti-democratic surveillance and arbitrary justice measures that were introduced after 9/11.

    • Trudeau invoked the War Measures Act at the request of the premier of Quebec, Robert Bourassa, and the mayor of Montreal, Jean Drapeau. And it was under the direction of Bourassa and Jean Drapeau that the arrests were made, mostly by the Sureté du Québec.  All arrests, to my knowledge, were done by the Quebec authorities, and the army on the soil of Quebec was under command of the civil authorities of Quebec.

      I was a young adult living in Montreal at the time and I remember  those years very well, and particularly the year before the October Crisis.  In 1969 the Montreal police and firefighters went on strike and the city went wild, rioting. The police refused to intervene.  The next morning the army was in the city protecting the major buildings.   I was more scared in 1969 than I was in 1970.
      Frum and other anglos find very simplistic ways to vent their racism against French-Canadians and display their cowardice by attacking a dead man.  They must have enjoyed throwing rocks at the Frenchies in their youth.

      The CBC archives give us a good picture:

      • What a disgusting way to end your response – this is about civil liberties, not language or race.

        If you look at the rest of the archives, you’ll also see the courageous speach of another dead man, Tommy Douglas, standing up for civil liberties on principle. If we give up these principles every time some silly people get scared, we’ll never be anything but scared.

        • If it’s about those who attacked the civil liberties of the citizens of Quebec in 1970 Frum should write about Bourassa and Drapeau who were in control of the police forces and army and responsible for all arrests. But it isn’t about defending civil liberties, it is about promoting hatred toward a dead French-Canadian prime minister.  The truth is often disguting, and the liberty to speak freely isn’t always pretty.

          • What, so anybody who has a bad thing to say about Pierre Trudeau is anti-French-Canadian?  That’s preposterous.

    • I was an anglophone living in Quebec at that time. with a young family. The FLQ were really frightening. It was the only time in my life that I went to bed with a loaded shotgun in the bedroom-and it was not because of my francophone neighbors but those violent nuts that were roaming the country. I was thankful when Treadeau used the war measures act and rounded up hundreds of people, all of whom openly supported the FLQ that by today’s standards would be called terrorists.

  8. As Trudeau was NOT perfect, he fails to meet the high standards of Mr. Frum. I look forward to our current PM speaking, in his dotage, about the mistakes he made.

    And, cue the future crickets.

    • It was a debate

      • And I am holding Mr. Frum’s side of it up to the light. What’s your point?

  9.  A counter factual of him is necessary.Trudeau didn’t govern in a bubble; like anyone, you have to view the man in the context of his time  and theworld he lived in.
    Well said JG. I’m pretty much in the same camp as yourself; believed he could do no wrong as a young man, obviously i’ve tempered those views since. Yet still the qualities of the man still shine through his massive flaws – very much like Sir John A. I had began to change my view of Frum; but this piece is just so lacking in nuance or context – it’s basically a childish tirade.. Conrad Black has a far more generous and informed opinion on Trudeau’s legacy as regards national unity in this country, although i’m sure he agrees with Frum’s view of Trudeau’s economic legacy.
    Trudeau like Sir John and MK is one of out great icons. If you can’t be bothered to see the good in the man as well as the fallible why bother – you’re just preaching to a choir in an echo chamber that is fast becoming ancient history.   

    • I agree that one-sided anti-Trudeau tirades don’t do anyone any good and don’t add anything useful to debate or the historical record.

      I think he was extremely effective and a positive force in moving the French fact forward and getting the French fact officially recognized at the federal level.  The Charter IMO is probably his most notable accomplishment, although the Charter is not perfect, but what is?

      I agree with Frum and others, though, that economically and especially fiscally Trudeau did a lot of damage.  Any thoughtful look at debt and deficit numbers during his tenure reveals that to be the case.

      The other area in which Trudeau was a massive failure IMO was his ill-treatment and arrogant disregard for Western Canada and especially Alberta.  His “screw the West, take the rest” electoral strategy was politically successful in its time but left a bitter legacy that lasts to this day.  It was a deliberately divisive strategy worthy of Stephen Harper (and Keith Davey and Jim Coutts, its primary architects, were as Machiavellian as they come).  The Liberal Party of Canada is paying dearly for this today, when it can no longer count on getting 60-70 seats out of Quebec, and thus needs to be genuinely competitive in Western Canada in order to have a realistic shot at forming government.  A LOT of Liberals are still in massive denial about this.

      • ‘Let’s not forget certain things. Standards of living grew appreciably in the Trudeau years, far more so than in the three decades following when they have flatlined. Under Trudeau, the percentage of Canadians living in poverty dropped from 23 per cent in 1968 to 13 per cent in 1984. Repeat, from 23 per cent to 13 per cent.

        It need also be recalled that when Trudeau arrived in power, Lester Pearson had just put in place major components of the welfare state — the Canada Pension Plan, the Canada Assistance Plan, medicare supplements. It was the Trudeau government that had to pick up the tab. Pearson had established a super-expensive matching formula of 50-50 with the provinces on education and health care. It was left to Trudeau to pick up the tab. In the Trudeau period there were two globally triggered recessions. People who think any prime minister would not have run major deficits through this period are simply deluding themselves.’

      • I think Emily makes some good points below [ although i don’t know where she gets her poverty numbers from]. Nonetheless Trudeau’s lack of interest in the economy is odd; odd because for that time he had a pretty good economics education[ At Harvard the Austrian Schumpeter was a favourite of his, not particularly Keynes – go figure]. Don Drummond was in the MoF during some of Trudeau’s time and seemed to regret that more was not done to convinced Trudeau that eventually the bill would come in – i guess it did, but on Mulroney’s watch, which probably pleased Trudeau. As Emily and JG mention there were some awful economic downturns during both Trudeau’s and Mulroney’s time in office – neither can be wholy blamed for them – similar difficulties and failures were being experinced elsewhere at the same time.Frum’s resort to hindsight is rather pathetic really. Who wouldn’t say expect SH not to a beneficiary of Trudeau’s mistakes – as someone will be of Harpers
        His seeming distain for the west was a puzzler. I lived in AB during much of that time and while it is true he became very unopoular it is also true he was still widely admired particularlyby lots of us youngsters – he had qualities that are still admired in AB today…courage, boldness, directness, humour and a massive distain for the politically correct. It was always my opinion that the rift was made much worse after Lougheed[ who i also admired]. Klein and PC machine, coupled with a ludicrously toadying press never lost an opportunity to widen the rift.
        SH should be wary he doesn’t make similar miscalculations over Quebec – he doesn’t really need them right now; it would sad indeed to see history repeat itself, but this time on the other side of the country.

        • I think you are correct about the harm Klein did, and I remember how he palled around with Bouchard and Quebec, though at least Klein did not quite support the idiot Alberta separatists who got much more attention than they deserved.

          And it is true that many in Alberta admired Trudeau. When he and Lougheed fought, they could respect each other, not like the partisan vicious liars that we have infesting political parties nowadays.

      • I am often told these days that I should give a break to Stephen Harper.  The deficit is not his fault, there’s been a recession, haven’t you noticed? they tell me. Has anyone ever given a break to Pierre Trudeau because he governed during the 1973 oil crisis and had to live with the 70s stagflation, (double digit unemployment rates, double digit interest rates and double digit inflation rate) ,  a phenomenom that affected the economies and public finances of ALL THE INDUSTRIAL NATIOINS ?  Have you ever heard a Conservative talk about this when they blame Trudeau ? If memory serves, in the summer of 1981 the Bank of Canada posted a rate of 21 %  Now pull a calculator and figure out what would happen to the public finances of Canada now under the circumstances encountered by Trudeau.

        As for the West, Trudeau came into politics at a time when a man called Réal Caouette was brushed aside by the premier of Alberta, Ernest Manning, father of Preston, who said that said that his province would never accept a francophone Catholic as party leader for the Social Credit.  Seriously, do you think that these Albertans would have accepted a francophone Catholic as leader of their country?  The arrogance and the disregard had a source.  It didn’t come from Trudeau.  It came from Alberta. 

        Those were different years….

        • I do agree that many have now forgotten just how rascist toward Quebecers some westerners were at the time,but i still i don’t think you are being fair. If there was overt rascism among some of the AB ruling class at the time, i don’t think that’s fair to hang that around the necks of all Albertans or westerners. I can also recall  acts of kindnesss directed toward Quebecers who came out looking for work out west. As a unilingual Anglo also recall being treated kindly while tramping through Quebec over 30 years ago now. There are ignorant and prejuiced people everywhere you go.

          • I agree with kcm2.  My dad was a rank-and-file Alberta Progressive Conservative at the time, and he loathed the NEP, yet in the middle of his life, in his 50s, inspired by Trudeau, he set out to learn French.  He and his ilk had a lot of issues with Trudeau, but there’s no question that Central Canadians grossly overestimate the level of anti-French, anti-Quebec sentiment in the West.  You have to distinguish between legitimate political differences and grievances on the one hand and visceral, rank bigotry on the other.  There was lots of the former, and with good reason.  But the latter is grossly exaggerated.  Some nut or nuts on an open-line radio show say something incredibly bigoted about Quebec, and that’s taken to respresent the outlook of an entire province.

            Consider, for example, the boom in French immersion schools over the decades since Trudeau.  It’s huge in Alberta, even though the native Francophone population in Calgary and Edmonton is negligible.  There are a lot of people from Alberta who wholeheartedly embrace the French fact in Canada, even though they may have huge problems with certain other aspects of Trudeau’s legacy and performance.

          • I did write ‘those Albertans”, not Albertans, and that those were different days.  In the early seventies I moved from Montreal to Alberta and I found Albertans most welcoming, extremely generous, more than any other Canadians IMO.   But the political class then and now was certainly playing the East vers West card like Heifetz a Stradivarius.  As for the legitimate political differences, I still think that a policy to secure the provision of oil for Canada was in order.  The US certainly developped one after the 73 crisis, and today have a very large strategic reserve.  As far as I know we have none in Canada.  Norway has one.  We just have to keep our fingers crossed, I guess.

      • Who left the biggest national debt when he left office? Trudeau? or Mulroney”

  10. Excellent analysis by Frum.  Only real point of dispute – the Charter was the worst thing Trudeau foisted upon us, not a “great accomplishment”.

    • But it was probably ok when Dief did it eh?

      • Not particularly, although Dief’s Bill of Rights at least didn’t become a anti-democratic blunt instrument in the hands of unelected & unaccountable judges to reshape Canadian society into their own flawed vision that the Charter has become.

        • Our rights have been a long time in the making, and people regard it as one of the best things in our history. Dief was an early promoter.

          Why Cons today want to be seen as anti-rights is a mystery.

          • Conservatives aren’t anti-rights, they’re just not rights fetishists.  They also tend to view rights to give rise to responsibilities and are therefore dismayed the latter never seems to be considered in the zeal to recognize exciting new iterations of the former.

          • Well you are either for or against human’s not a vague wishy-washy thing that you can sometimes be for, and other times ignore.  It’s not a buffet either where you can pick and choose the rights you like.

            We could also have a charter of responsibilities with…I dunno…requiring everyone to vote I suppose or things like that…but that would be much harder to enforce.  And it would lend itself to being used to insist on personal beliefs foisted on those who don’t hold the same beliefs.

          • “And it would lend itself to being used to insist on personal beliefs foisted on those who don’t hold the same beliefs.”

            Speaking of foisting, and bearing in mind your contempt for those who consider such things to be of divine origin, from where do YOU think these non-vague, non-“wishy-washy” “human rights” derive?

          • @GreatWallsofFire:disqus 

            Like everything else humans do….we made them up as we went along.

            After several thousand years developing on this planet, most people have a pretty good idea of things that ought to be established as the basic law of the land.

          • “After several thousand years developing on this planet, most people have a pretty good idea of things that ought to be established as the basic law of the land.”
            I’m not sure whether to regard this statement as sand-poundingly moronic or pathetically naive.  I’m sure you’ll deny the latter, which leaves us, regrettably, with the former. 

          • @GreatWallsofFire:disqus 

            Which means you have no answer to it, and figure attacking me will work as a substitute.

            It doesn’t.

    • The Charter was not Trudeau’s great accomplishment.  Considerably more important was his omnibus bill on justice.  Anyone here would like the return of a ban on contraception pills?  Anyone can imagine the state so much into your private life?

      When I recall the Trudeau years I always think of our neighbour Yvette, in tears, seated at our kitchen table with her little baby in her arms, her fifth child.  She was crying because her family doctor had refused to prescribe her birth control pills, and because there was no healthcare in those days in QC, Yvette could not afford to see another doctor.

      Maybe you have to have lived those years to understand.  Harper’s justice bill is to address crime.  Trudeau’s was to remove the state from the bedrooms of the nation.  This sentence today is always said in relationship with the decriminalization of homosexuality; forgotten is that Trudeau completely legalized contraception.

      • “Harper’s justice bill is to address crime.  Trudeau’s was to remove the state from the bedrooms of the nation. ”

        Ah yes, the ol’ ‘ “state out of the bedrooms of the nation” canard.  Whatever Trudeau might have done to get the state out of the nation’s bedrooms in the late 60’s, it lasted about 20 years until the 80s and 90s, when he kicked in the bedroom door and sent in the judiciary  to declare certain activities taking place therein constitutionally sacred.

        • I musta missed that kicking in the door bit….and the constitutionally sacred part too.

          Since Trudeau left politics in 1984, you must be thinking of someone else.

          Perhaps you just made the whole thing up.

          • Too subtle for the likes of OE1, I guess.  Here’s some help:  What particular sexual proclivity has now been enshrined in our constitution by judges “reading it into” the rights actually enumerated in the Charter?

          • Nothing.

            The word ‘equality’ has been there from the beginning.

            That’s how I knew you were making things up.

  11. I guess if the defence is that Trudeau did what everyone else was doing it makes him rather average as an idol, not exceptional.

    The FLQ crisis was handled about as well as it could be at the time, the War Measures Act being a blunt instrument.  One of the useful outcomes was the Emergencies act.

    The deficit spending has been an utter disaster – well over a trillion dollars in debt servicing charges flushed so far due to the ’75-’85 overspending binge of around $210 billion, and no end in sight.

    • I tend to agree with you.  I’m surprised in a way that Frum spent so much time dumping on Trudeau about events surrounding the FLQ and the October Crisis.  I realize that his implementation of the War Measures Act continues to polarize in some circles, but overall I can’t fault him for his handling of a very difficult situation and for his handling of the so-called national unity file in general.  He had a very centralist vision of Canada, you can disagree with it, but he did a decent job imposing his vision and brand of federalism, and we federalists won the 1982 referendum by a reasonably comfortable margin — that was probably his biggest crisis moment, and he and Canada prevailed.  He deserves credit for that.

      I do think that there are other people aside from David Frum who could probably do a better job of presenting the anti-Trudeau side of this debate.  Andrew Coyne comes to mind.

      • The referendun was in 1980 – no matter, i agree, it was his finest hour; who else could have bested Levesque who was immensely popular? Certainly not Joe.
        Coyne would be a very interesting choice, although he might be be a little too close to the Trudeau legacy for some critics –  Coyne has been an unrelenting critic of Mulroney for instance. He once wrote[ in the NP i think?] what i consider to be the seminal critic of Meech lake…it was as good a demolision job as i’ve ever read on the subject, and one of the first pieces that led me to consider AC as much more then a conservative mouthpiece – which he isn’t.
        Another good choice might be Gordon Gibson.Ex lib. I like him. He parted ways with trudeau over his centralized vision of the country, but retained a very high opinion of Trudeau as one of the most remarkable human beings he had ever come across.[ even picked Mulroney over trudeau as a better PM because of his superior consensus skills]. It’s long been my view that most interesting critics of our politicians are those who have worked closely with them but parted ways for some reason or other – Tom Flanigan on Harper comes to mind.

  12. Thanks to Mr. Geddes for the cogent, ‘counter-factual’ points. Frum certainly comes bearing his grudge cudgel. And as another poster wrote, one can have fanboy infatuations in earlier life that get tempered by time. Still, Frum ought note that without the temper of the times that Trudeau inhabited and politically expressed, it’s unlikely that his Mother would have been given the esteem and pride of place our national broadcaster, rightly, gave her. Without that, one could argue, Little Davvid Frum’d be little but a dentist/developer’s gadfly offspring. And nobody’d give him the time of day.

    Trudeau was the culmination of of many events – the Quiet Revolution, Centennial Euphoria, the post-Pearson sense of a nation coming into its own. The idealistic Youthquakes of the time.  Revolutions. And as far as one could get from Dief The Chief.Flawed? Mistakes made?  For sure. But the only thing less seemly than dredging Trudeau from his lying-in-state is the determined effort by the current drop of dredging up the grisly remains of Diefenbaker and expecting Canadians to be in thrall. 

    • I agree with some of what you say there, but you do seem to be setting up a bit of a Trudeau-Dief false dichotomy there.  The fact that someone is a critic of Trudeau does not necessarily or automatically mean that that same person is an admirer of Diefenbaker, or is setting Dief up as the paragon of a PM.

      • No such dichotomy is suggested. Pearson was the Anti-Dief. Trudeau, as successor, obliterated that ghastly era. Along with that of Duplessis.

        Nor is it suggested that anyone who disagrees with Trudeau is an admirer of Diefenbaker. Rather, the current government seems to have an unhealthy fascination with the man. Renaming buildings, trotting out the Ensign that belonged to Diefenbaker to drape the halls, fealty to monarchy, etc. There seems to be a symbolic refutation of progress. And a determined march backwards.

        • Sorry, I hadn’t noticed the Dief resurrection that you’re talking about.  But I’m not in Ottawa.

          • Diefenbaker had his faults but he did accomplish things. He gave the vote to First Nations men and women. He appointed the first woman to Cabinet, the first man of Ukrainian descent to Cabinet, and the first aboriginal Senator. His ancestry was neither English nor French and he was a prairie populist who was outside the political establishment, and they never forgave him for that.

          • I don’t think anyone ever thought about where he was from…this is victim stuff again.

        • “Trudeau as successor, obliterated that ghastly era. Along with that of Duplessis” you say?

          I was in Scheffervile on the 1959 labour day weekend on a job interview. Duplessis died in the Iron
          Ore Company of Canada guest house on that weekend. I don’t remember Trudeau being active in federal politics at that time. He was too busy traveling the world and supporting the unions at the asbestos mines on the south shore.

  13. Loved the column mentioned in the update. I particularly thought this was apropos of the usual discussions around Trudeau:

    “… Opponents tend to focus on his economic record – the big deficit, inflation, joblessness. I’m no fan of his economic record either. But like any PM’s economic record it must be weighed in the context of the time.
    Should we blame Stephen Harper, for example, for the recession we’ve been through? Is he singularly responsible for it and for today’s large deficit? Hardly. To lay the blame on him without giving preponderant weight to global conditions is intellectually infantile. The same in the case of the Trudeau record. The stagflation of the period in which he governed pummeled not just Canada but almost every western democracy…” ~ Ottawa Citizen

    “Intellectually infantile” love it.

    Regardless of political stripe, I think we need another “Trudeau” type politician to give us a collective shot in the arm. Someone with charisma and vision who projects a self-confidence that people can relate and buy into, because honestly, this current crew does nothing but make me cringe with embarassment.

    • Amen

    • We do in a way – trouble is he’s the anti-Trudeau; it’s one of the reasons the conbots adore him. They’re covinced he’ll undo Trudeau and all his works – of course he can’t and wont.

  14. J. Geddes editorializes:  “And, as promised, today brings us Lawrence Martin’s bid to uphold Trudeau’s reputation,complete with a gutsy explanation of (apology for?) the NEP,”
    So, what “gutsy” words did Martin write? Was it these:

    Trudeau’s mistake was the assumption made not just by him but by virtually every expert everywhere that oil prices would continue to rise. If they had, much of the sting of the NEP would have been removed and the federal deficit would have fallen appreciably. Stunningly the contrary happened, the policy flopped and the West, which had been a wasteland for the Liberals before Trudeau arrived, became even more of a wasteland,

    .I followed the NEP debate and one-upmanship between Trudeau and Lougheed while in university in Ontario. I recall Lougheed threatening to shut off supply to the east and gradually closing the spigots. And Trudeau responding in part by entering into long term contracts for supply of Venezuelan crude.

    And I also recall after prolonged discussions and negotiations, Lougheed emerging with Trudeau to announce that they had reached an agreement that Lougheed claimed was good for both Albertans and Canada. Does any politician from Alberta remember that?

    So, what happened? It was as L.M. indicated. I was involved in doing economic forecasts for a large O&G company for a brief period around 1982 onward and EVERYONE (industry, gov’ts, banks that financed the investments) were predicting the continuing rise of oil prices, up to $100 in 1980’s dollars.

    That’s what drove the frenzy, and ultimately resulted in the crash/depression when the oil prices fell back to earth. 

    Lots of mythology concerning the NEP since that time – Trudeau’s NEP was a convenient scapegoat for many poor investment decisions.

    Nothing gutsy about saying that.

  15. No….that’s not it.  His 1969 Omnibus Bill was a sociological disaster that continues to this day.

    • I thought progressives were opposed to omnibus bills.  Strange.

  16. Thx for the update JG. That was a pretty fiesty rebuttal – good on LM, when so many today are too cowed to not preface any positive opinion of Trudeau with some kind of disclaimer…

    I only took real issue with the claim that Trudeau caused the constitution to be repatriated and the charter negotiated on his own; this is nonesense. I subcribe to Potter’s view that those 12? men were the real fathers of confederation  [at least of modern Canada], and of course Trudeau did not get everything he wanted, either in or out of the document – there were many actors –  which is as it should be. It was a monumental achievement of ALL our premiers including of course the principle driver…Trudeau.

  17. Interesting that nobody mentioned the repatriation of constitution and `The Charter` v. BNA Act.

  18. Test1

  19. Trudeau was one of the top 3 Canadian Prime Ministers of all time.
    Reading what David Frum has written and most of the comments written here it is obvious to me, having lived with my family in Quebec from 1959 to 1985, that the authors were not yet dry behind the ears when these events took place.
    It is also obvious the Albertans (perhaps all Westerners) are still the same arrogant, aggressive, selfish bunch of cowboys in big pickups that they have always been. And in case you want to accuse me of not knowing Albertans you should know I lived in Edmonton from 1953 to 1959 and have dozens of nephews and nieces who still live there. I include my relatives, that I love dearly, in my description of Albertans.

  20. With respect the the East’s Comrade Trudeau, as stated in this posted internet acticle (retrived from

    “Trudeau was simply a terrible leader. He had no respect for individual rights
    and freedoms. This is evident in his lifelong admiration of dictators, his
    imposition of military rule in Canada, his political philosophy and his
    repatriation of the Constitution. His arrogance and immaturity served as the
    basis for his popularity, rather than any meritous achievements. His actions and
    policies were deleterious, harming not only Albertans but also Canadians. His
    actions will eventually lead to the breakup of Canada. Ironically, Trudeau gets
    credit for holding Canada together, but he should get credit for helping to
    break it apart.”

    Nothing more has to be said!

    Mr. Bullinski
    Vegreville, Republic of Alberta