Sunday, March 24, 2013

Pierre Elliott Trudeau: The Just Society

Liberal Values

In this video clip (CBC Television News; Date: Dec. 21, 1967) of a news conference in Ottawa, then Justice Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau [1919-2000] of the reigning Liberal Party of Canada, announces sweeping changes to Canadian society in an omnibus bill that liberalizes many of the normal human desires that we now take for granted including sex, procreation and divorce.

The CBC writes:
"There's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation." Those unforgettable words made famous by Pierre Trudeau in 1967 caused a tidal wave of controversy that rippled across the entire nation. Trudeau's Omnibus Bill brought issues like abortion, homosexuality and divorce law to the forefront for the first time, changing the political and social landscape in Canada forever.
Conservatives to this day  hold Trudeau with contempt for these measures and others, such as multiculturalism, patriating the Constitution (1982), bilingualism and other liberal values that made Canada more tolerant and more inclusive. Even so, it was precisely such measures that brought Canada into the modern age and made it a better, more open and more secular democratic society. I have always admired Trudeau for having the courage of his convictions, even though I might not have always agreed with everything he said or did. I certainly admired his powerful intellect (his motto was "reason over passion"), his sense of humour and his sense of style.

Too many of today's politicians take themselves too seriously, lacking a true sense of self.  In my estimation, Trudeau was the best prime minister of the twentieth century. Academics in history, political science and international relations, in 2011, ranked Trudeau as the fifth-best prime minister in Canadian history.

On April 6, 1968, Trudeau became leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, where in his acceptance speech he used the phrase a Just Society, a phrase that would forever distinguish his political career. Pierre Elliott Trudeau, born in Montreal, my home town, was sworn in as the 15th prime minister of Canada on April 20, 1968; he then called a snap election for June 25, 1968, which he won, easily beating his Conservative opponent, Robert Stanfield. In sense, Stanfield was on the wrong side of history; Stanfield lacked the charisma needed for victory, as the times were changing, and Trudeaumania swept across Canada.

One of Trudeau's foreign-affairs accomplishment was establishing diplomatic relations with China early in his mandate, in 1970, many years in advance of the United States, and becoming the first Canadian prime minister to officially visit China, doing so in 1973.

I had the pleasure of meeting Trudeau when he was Prime Minister of Canada in 1974, when I was 16, at a downtown Montreal hotel. Although he had a security detail, they actually let a few of us go up and meet the prime minister as the red carpet was rolled out. I thought it was a great honour, even managing to have a brief chat with the prime minister. Another interesting note: I resided in the Mont-Royal riding in which Trudeau was my M.P.; when I turned 18, he always had my vote. I can't say the same for any political leader today.