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Monday, December 14, 2009


Governing as if he had a majority. Counting as if he'd never passed elementary school. Joe Clark in a nutshell. Allan MacEachen, the senior Liberal cabinet minister and Trudeau loyalist, gives his take on December 1979.

Success in politics involves reacting to opportunities created by your adversaries. That is what Liberals did 30 years ago following presentation of the December 1979 budget by Tory finance minister John Crosbie.

The socially regressive provisions of the budget, including the repugnant 18-cent per gallon gasoline tax, ensured from the beginning that the Liberal opposition would vote against it. That was an almost automatic decision. But engaging in an enterprise to defeat the government was, on the other hand, a daring and more complicated decision. In fact, it was the culmination of a process that had to be nurtured at each of several stages. The principal actors, and I was one of them, took it one step at a time, never quite sure if the ultimate goal could be reached.

Now having gotten beaten, albeit narrowly, by Joe Clark earlier in 1979, Pierre had submitted his resignation as leader in November of that year. The defeat of the Clark government took place on December 13th. Trudeau was on the way out until MacEachen, who just after the election had saved Trudeau from a caucus coup, engineered his return to power. Had Crosbie's budget passed there almost certainly would have been no NEP and no Charter. A handful of votes in the Commons at the right moment. I'll say this, had Stephen Harper been Prime Minister in 1979, Trudeau would have vanished quietly into the political sunset. Politics is called a game, but it's one that requires a considerable amount of skill to play. 

Posted by Richard Anderson on December 14, 2009 | Permalink


If I had invested $10,000 in the TSX in 1964, I'd be a millionaire now. [I didn't and I am anyway]

Posted by: Agha Ali Arkhan | 2009-12-15 4:15:21 PM

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