Blog Canadian history Justin Trudeau Liberal Party of Canada Pierre Elliot Trudeau

From one Trudeau re-election bid to another – Active History

By David Blocker

The 1972 federal election was one of the closest in Canadian political historical past.  The exact outcomes of the election remained unsure for a number of days after the polls closed on October 30, 1972.  After recounts indicated the Liberals had tied with the Progressive Conservatives at 109 seats Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau determined to remain in authorities with a minority.[1]

Considering the parallels between the circumstances across the 1972 election campaign and the present context raises several fascinating questions.

First, after profitable power with a marketing campaign filled with euphoric promise, will progressive disappointment in Justin Trudeau’s first time period end in Liberal election losses, as it did for Pierre in 1972?

Second, in the 1972 federal election the query of Canada’s relationship with the USA loomed giant due to a right-wing American president’s protectionist economic agenda.  How will comparable circumstances affect the 2019 federal election?

Third, will a divided conservative vote in Quebec benefit Justin Trudeau as it did his father in 1972?

Lastly, is Jagmeet Singh prepared and/or in a position to undertake the left-populist rhetoric that labored for David Lewis within the 1972 marketing campaign propelling the NDP to its greatest outcome (on the time) and leaving the get together holding the stability of energy within the Home of Commons?

The first, and most blatant, point of comparison between 2019 and 1972 is the Trudeau connection. Four years after profitable authorities on a wave of common help, emulating the Trudeaumania phenomenon that swept his father to power in 1968, Justin Trudeau will seek a second majority authorities in October 2019.  He will undoubtedly hope for a greater end result than his father achieved in his 1972 re-election bid.

A lot as was the case with Pierre in 1972, nevertheless, the progressive promise of Justin’s profitable 2015 campaign has worn off. Younger individuals, ladies and progressives who supported the Liberals in 2015 expecting one thing totally different from Justin Trudeau have been left dissatisfied. The government backtracked on its dedication to electoral reform, and the continuation of an arms cope with Saudi Arabia brought Justin Trudeau’s commitment to human rights in overseas affairs into question. In addition, the SNC-Lavelin scandal, which has centered across the Prime Minister’s remedy of former Lawyer-Basic Jody Wilson-Raybould, has brought into query Justin Trudeau’s commitments both to feminism and to reconciliation with First Nations and Indigenous peoples. Just some weeks in the past the Daughters of the Vote turned their backs on Canada’s first self-declared feminist Prime Minister.

When Pierre Trudeau confronted the citizens in 1972, young individuals, ladies and progressives expressed comparable disappointment together with his authorities’s failure to ship on the progressive promise of ‘Trudeaumania’ and the 1968 election campaign. Alongside his famous promise to create a “Just Society,” Pierre Trudeau and the 1968 Liberal campaign adopted the slogan “participatory democracy,” already a well-liked phrase within the Sixties zeitgeist, to indicate that he represented a new type of politics. After the election, Liberal celebration president Richard Stanbury took Trudeau’s commitment to participatory democracy critically and sought to contain the grassroots members of the get together, in addition to most of the people, in a course of to develop insurance policies and prioritize. This process, a elementary transformation of the Liberal celebration’s hierarchical construction, culminated in a 1970 coverage convention which empowered grassroots get together members to produce progressive insurance policies comparable to approving the government sale of marijuana and endorsement of a guaranteed annual revenue.

Finally the in depth means of public engagement and participation produced a doc entitled the “Liberal Charter for the Seventies” which encapsulated the insurance policies adopted on the 1970 convention and was meant to be the idea of the social gathering’s 1972 election manifesto. The document was dismissed by the Cabinet, nevertheless. That they had been unenthusiastic concerning the participatory course of from the beginning, leaving Pierre Trudeau to campaign with a self-congratulatory and vacuous platform on the much-derided slogan “The Land is Strong.”[2]

Pierre Trudeau’s strategy to overseas affairs once in government additionally introduced his progressive picture into query. Trudeau had repeatedly commented on the necessity to re-evaluate Canadian overseas coverage through the 1968 election campaign. His past remarks, together with speculating about Cold Conflict neutrality and questioning Canada’s commitments to NATO and NORAD and his frequent comments concerning the want to “review” Canada’s overseas and defense insurance policies, combined with increased public opposition to the American prosecution of the Vietnam Conflict, recommended that his government would undertake a extra left-wing strategy to overseas policy. Nevertheless, Pierre Trudeau’s dismissive response to requests for Canadian assist to those suffering within the Nigerian Civil Conflict – “where’s Biafra?” – dominated discussion of Canadian overseas coverage in 1968 and created an impression of the Prime Minister as boastful and insensitive. As his biographer John English explains, “Trudeau’s apparent indifference to the suffering of the Biafrans tarnished his liberal credentials.”[3]

In contrast to his son, Pierre Trudeau by no means declared himself a feminist. However his obscure commitment to making a “Just Society” was further tarnished by the criticism from feminists he faced over the continued illegality of abortion in Canada. The Liberal government’s 1969 amendments to the Legal Code, which allowed docs to perform abortions in hospitals only if a being pregnant threatened the well being or life of the lady, a choice made solely by a committee of docs, meant that the majority ladies have been nonetheless unable to acquire a legal abortion.

York University Libraries, Clara Thomas Archives and Particular Collections, Toronto Telegram fonds, ASC04612.

In protest, feminists throughout the nation staged an ‘Abortion Caravan’ of cars, carrying a coffin crammed with coat hangers “in memorial to the thousands of women who die each year from illegal abortion,” which travelled from Vancouver to Ottawa in 1971.  When Pierre Trudeau ignored the protestors, thirty-six ladies gained entry to the public gallery of the House of Commons, chained themselves to chairs, and disrupted proceedings with chants of “free abortion on demand” and “we want control of our bodies.”

Equally, the concept of reconciliation with First Nations and Indigenous peoples was not part of the Canadian political discourse in the early 1970s. Pierre Trudeau’s government launched a White Paper on Indian Affairs in 1969 that sparked a backlash from First Nations leaders over its assimilationist assumptions and insurance policies. The government’s proposal to get rid of the Indian Act and remove Indigenous rights angered First Nations peoples who, influenced by the Black Energy motion within the US, had already begun mobilizing resistance to their shameful remedy by the Canadian government. Harold Cardinal authored a e-book titled An Unjust Society, and the Meeting of Indian Chiefs of Alberta ready a point-by-point refutation of the federal government’s White Paper.  The doc, generally known as the Purple Paper, was adopted by the Nationwide Indian Brotherhood (now the Assembly of First Nations) and introduced to Trudeau and government officials in 1970, halting implementation of the White Paper’s insurance policies.

Simply as in 1972, questions over the longer term economic relationship between Canada and america will loom giant in the course of the upcoming federal election marketing campaign. Each Pierre Trudeau’s and Justin Trudeau’s governments have been shaken by the election of a right-wing American president and the White Home’s embrace of protectionist financial insurance policies which threatened Canadian trade with america. President Donald Trump’s insistence on renegotiating the North American Free Commerce Agreement on terms more favourable to the US and his imposition of tariffs on Canadian metal and aluminum imports have dominated the Trudeau authorities’s financial agenda. Equally, President Richard Nixon’s announcement of his New Economic Coverage (NEP) in a speech on August 15, 1971 marked a big shift in American financial and commerce policy.

Typically referred to because the “Nixon Shock,” the financial coverage shift has been described as an “epochal event in the history of Canada-United States relations,” as the People made clear Canada wouldn’t be exempted from protectionist measures.[4] Of specific concern to Canadians have been the ten % short-term import surcharge, the NEP’s ten % tax credit score for American-made machinery and gear, and the Home International Sales Corporation (DISC) which allowed American corporations to defer paying taxes on no less than half of their income earned from exports.  Authored by John Connally, the Nixon administration’s combative Secretary of the Treasury, the combined impression of these measures was meant to bolster American manufacturing within the face of accelerating competition from Western Europe and Japan.

But Canada too was in the crosshairs, thereby signaling to many the top to the ‘special relationship’ Canadians had loved with the US to that point. Notably worrisome have been documents revealing American objections to the Auto Pact’s safeguarding of Canadian economic pursuits. The announcement of America’s unilateral termination of the Auto Pact had only been faraway from Nixon’s speech at the final minute. The Nixon Shock led even the reliably pro-business Globe and Mail to editorialize “we have lately learned, and are still learning, that Canada’s economic and political dependence on the United States is not as easy, secure or undemanding as Canadian complacency has tended to assume in the past.”[5]

Justin Trudeau, like his father, might be counting on help from Quebec to stay prime minister after the autumn election. A lot as in 1972, the Liberal get together may benefit from a divided conservative vote in Quebec to keep their dominance in la belle province. Regardless of a decline in the common vote for the Liberals in Quebec from 1968 to 1972, the get together retained fifty-six of the province’s seventy-four seats. In consequence, the Quebec contingent constituted a majority of the Liberal caucus. In 1972 the Progressive Conservatives gained only two seats in Quebec despite capturing 17.four per cent of the popular vote, largely due to the attraction of the Quebec-dominated Social Credit score Get together, particularly in rural Quebec. Beneath chief Réal Caouette the Social Credit score Social gathering, which mixed social conservatism with Quebec nationalism, gained fifteen seats with over twenty-four per cent of the favored vote in Quebec in the 1972 election.

Whether or not Maxime Bernier can replicate the weird populist attraction of Caouette stays unsure. However Bernier’s Individuals’s Celebration appears positioned to appeal to help from the Conservatives’ right wing – perhaps particularly so in Quebec, where Bernier attracts further media attention. Furthermore, conservative Quebecois nationalists, who just lately helped elect the CAQ provincially, might wrestle to relate to Andrew Scheer, just as their predecessors struggled to determine with Robert Stanfield. The potential for a conservative cut up in the widespread vote might make it troublesome for Scheer to replicate the limited achievements of 2015 in Quebec, when the Conservative Social gathering gained twelve seats with 16.7 per cent of the popular vote in the province. Much might be decided by the destiny of the Bloc Quebecois, who’re once once more polling fairly nicely. But the celebration’s future remains in query after spending a lot of 2018 consumed by inner divisions over the controversial tenure of former chief Martine Ouellet and the speedy decline of the Parti Quebecois provincially.

Jagmeet Singh has struggled to appeal to consideration and constructive headlines since turning into NDP chief in 2017. Prior to the 1972 federal election newly-elected NDP chief David Lewis had little success breaking into the political discourse dominated by the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives. An inner NDP survey carried out early in 1972 revealed that underneath Lewis’s leadership there appeared to be little potential for improvement over the NDP’s disappointing 1968 election outcomes. Nevertheless, Lewis hit on a profitable theme early in the campaign by attacking firms that had taken benefit of presidency subsidies, grants, and tax loopholes despite making giant income. With great relish he labeled them “corporate welfare bums.”[6] The federal NDP analysis employees uncovered numerous examples of outstanding corporations enjoying “corporate rip-offs,” enabling Lewis to release new revelations to the press every day.

The NDP’s embrace of left-populist rhetoric in the course of the 1972 marketing campaign drew vital media consideration and re-energized celebration activists. The election outcomes – thirty-one MPs elected because of an elevated well-liked vote and the celebration’s holding the stability of power within the House of Commons – was the perfect within the NDP’s history to that time and appeared to vindicate the celebration’s left-wing messaging through the campaign. Some New Democrats have recommended that the NDP adopt an identical left populist message of the “people versus the powerful” within the 2019 federal election, as Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn have achieved with some success in Britain and the US.  Early indications are that Singh has taken this suggestion to coronary heart.  Whether these measures can be enough to enhance the NDP’s electoral standing stays to be seen.

In fact, quite a few and vital differences between the 1972 and 2019 federal elections exist.  But sure intriguing parallels recommend that Canadian political observers might study by wanting back to 1972.

David Blocker is a PhD candidate at Western College whose dissertation is entitled “To Waffle to the Left: The Waffle, New Democratic Party and Canada’s New Left during the Long Sixties.”


[1] In truth the ultimate outcomes left with Liberals with 109 seats, the PCs with 107, the NDP with thirty-one and Social Credit with fifteen.

[2] Joseph Sporting, The L-Shaped Social gathering: The Liberal Celebration of Canada, 1958-1980 (Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson Limited, 1981), 141-173; John English, Just Watch Me: The Life of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, 1968-2000 (Toronto: Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 2009), 77-Eight.

[3] English, Just Watch Me, 67.

[4] Bruce Muirhead, “From Special Relationship to Third Option: Canada, US, and the Nixon Shock,” American Assessment of Canadian Studies 34, no. three (2004), 439-62. The coverage additionally included removing america dollar from the gold normal, marking the top of the Bretton Woods international financial system.

[5] “The visit could have value,” Globe and Mail, October 16, 1971.

[6] Terrance Willis, “Lewis gleefully latches on to a lip-smacking election phrase – Corporate Welfare Bums,” Globe and Mail, August 16, 1972.