Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Trudeau Feigns Ignorance

Justin Trudeau seems to have forgotten how his father dealt with separatists

There is one thing about being ignorant of your country's history. Some believe that in Canada we've refined this down to an art.

Apparently, Justin Trudeau has done likewise. But for a man like Trudeau to be ignorant of his family's history -- that is something else altogether.

In a Full Comment blog post, Graeme Hamilton insists that Pierre Trudeau would have been A-OK with the deal that the Liberal party has hatched with the Bloc Quebecois. And he isn't alone.

Justin Trudeau also insists that Trudeau's father would have welcomed the deal.

“My father for years got along with [former Parti Québécois leader] René Lévesque before they were both in politics. My father had separatist friends. My father understood that the important thing for this country was to keep the country strong,” Trudeau insists.

And certainly, this is true. Trudeau, Levesque and Jean Marchand and Gerard Pelletier were all active within Quebec's labour movement during the Maurice Duplessis era.

When the four formally entered politics, it was as Liberals. Trudeau, Marchand and Pelletier joined the federal party. Rene Levesque found himself recruited into the provincial Liberals, where he served as Minister of Labour under Jean Lesage.

Levesque was always a nationalist. But his turn to separatism became public when he left the Liberal party in 1967. The party had refused to discuss Quebec sovereigntism at its convention. He formed the Mouvement Souveraineté-Association. In 1968 the MSA merged with Gilles Gregoire's Ralliement National to create the modern Parti Quebecois.

Levesque's ascension to the Office of Premier of Quebec in 1976 naturally brought tensions between the two to a head. These tensions would reach a pinnacle in 1980 during Levesque's referendum on Quebec sovereignty.

During the sovereignty campaign Trudeau promised to negotiate the repatriation of the Canadian Constitution. This promise helped the non side win the referendum with a decisive margin, and would set the table for Trudeau's most famous dealing with Levesque.

Dealings which Justin Trudeau seems to be ignorant of.

“What we got in this case was an assurance by Gilles Duceppe that he was going to keep all national-unity measures, confidence measures, off the table until June, 2010. That’s a better deal than anybody has gotten in years of working with the Bloc Québécois in the House,” Justin insists.

But he should know better. First off, Duceppe should not be trusted to keep promises he can't afford to keep.

Beyond this, Canadians remember how Pierre Trudeau dealt with separatists. During the negotiation of the 1982 Constitution, Trudeau, along with then-Minister of Justice Jean Chretien masterminded a deft end-run around Levesque in order to dismantle his "Gang of Eight" coalition of Provincial Premiers opposed to the Constitution.

In what has become known as "the night of the long knives", Chretien negotiated a "notwithstanding clause" into the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Gang of Eight acquiesced and the Constitution was settled.

For his own part, Levesque was infuriated. "We had been betrayed, in secret, by men who hadn’t hesitated to tear up their own signatures, and without their even taking the trouble to warn us," Levesque complained. On the flight back to Quebec City, Levesque is said to have said it rather differently.

"[Trudeau] fucked me," Levesque is said to have fumed.

For his own part, Justin Trudeau doesn't seem to be worried about the demands that Duceppe should be expected to make of this coalition government.

“We have a provincial election going on in Quebec and separatism is not one of the issues," Justin continued. "The fact that the Conservatives are spending so much time talking about national unity and bringing up all those old divisions, it’s just out of their playbook of divide, divide, divide.”

But Trudeau couldn't be further from the truth.

So long as the Bloc Quebecois and Parti Quebecois exist, separatism will always be an issue in Canadian politics -- unless, that is, both of these parties formally and finally renounce it.

In the absence of such a complete renunciation, the Libereal-led coalition is just another page out of the Liberal playbook of doing whatever it takes to get power, no matter what the consequences.

As for Trudeau, it's hard to believe that he would be this ignorant of his vaunted family history. It's significantly easier to believe that he would be disingenuous in the name of claiming political power.

Some other bloggers writing on this topic:

"The" Scott Ross - "The Liberal-NDP Coalition is Undemocratic

Sit, Think, Good Blog - "Marriage of Convenience"

Propter Hoc - "Of Separatists and Socialists (or, 'It's Very Simple Stupid')"

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