Changing of the Grit guard
United Nations peacekeeping. Canada's first Nobel Peace Prize. The Maple Leaf flag. Official bilingualism. The Canada Pension Plan. These are a few of the achievements that can be credited to Prime Minister Lester Bowles Pearson during his 40 years in public service. But the passionate and pragmatic Pearson was also a sportsman, intellectual and war veteran who defied easy definition.
• While Pearson publicly refused to endorse any one candidate for the Liberal leadership, he privately worked to secure funding for Trudeau and secretly advised him during the campaign.
• Pearson's wife, Maryon, was also taken with Trudeau. She is seen here hugging him several times and Trudeau even jokes that he was keeping her on staff as a party planner.
• Even though his wife nods and smiles when he jokes about her homemaking skills, Maryon Pearson was no shrinking violet. A feminist and academic when she met Pearson in the 1920s, she was a strong-willed woman who wasn't entirely at ease in her role as a politician's wife. One historian would later refer to her as a "feminist disguised in a single strand of pearls."
• Paul Martin Sr., who had fallen short once again in his leadership bid, was secretly miffed at Pearson's backing of the younger Trudeau. Martin's son, Paul Jr., would later experience a similar fate as he would wait in the wings for years before getting a chance at the leadership.
• He would have to wait for Prime Minister Jean Chrétien to resign before claiming the leadership role his father never achieved. In a historical twist, a young Chrétien can be seen on the stage following Pearson's speech - just on the other side of the podium from Martin Sr.
• As part of the Liberal party's send-off for Pearson, they gave him a West Highland puppy as a going-away gift. While he would later say that he was surprised by the gift (he was expecting an oil painting or a pair of slippers) the sleepy pup, named "Toby", would go on to become a cherished part of Pearson's retirement.
• Though he faced criticism for his leadership qualities, Pearson was certainly a keen judge of talent. Along with Trudeau, both John Turner and Jean Chrétien were ministers in Pearson's cabinet. Each of them would go on to become prime minister.
• Other prominent Liberals on the stage that April night included, Mitchell Sharp, Jack Pickersgill and Allan McEchearn.
• Though Trudeau clearly owed a debt to Pearson, he would prove to be his own man. Almost immediately after the convention he called a federal election in a move that was seen as disrespectful of Pearson's tenure.
• Trudeau would also distance himself from Pearson's approach to international affairs. He disliked the various "goodwill" tours that his predecessor was known for, and would all but reject them outright in his years as PM.
• During this clip the CBC's Norman DePoe talks about a new style of politics marking Canada's entry into the 1970s. While Trudeamania would prove undeniable to many, some of his policy decisions owed a great debt to Pearson.
• Pearson instituted official bilingualism in the civil service during his final year in office, though much is made about Trudeau's continuation of this policy. Pearson had also talked publicly about wanting to patriate Canada's constitution - something that Trudeau would follow through on in the 1980s.
• Trudeau would later soften somewhat on his disavowal of Pearson. He would step up his foreign visits in later years and oversee the renaming of the Toronto international airport to Lester B. Pearson International Airport in 1984, his final year in office.
Program: CBC Television News Special
Broadcast Date: April 6, 1968
Host: Norman DePoe
Speaker: Lester B. Pearson, Pierre Elliott Trudeau
Last updated: November 6, 2014
Page consulted on November 6, 2014
All Clips from this Topic
Pearson tackles the ever-elusive Canadian identity in this speech at t...
Lester B. Pearson becomes the first Canadian to win the Nobel Peace Pr...
The first Canadian to recieve such an honour.
Pearson outlines his vision for a UN peacekeeping force.
The now-popular Pearson makes an appearance on Front Page Challenge, a...
As the country reacts to Charles de Gaulle's controversial words, Pear...
Pundits and colleagues reflect on Pearson's term in office following h...
Pearson bids farewell to politics as Trudeau is picked as his successo...
Pearson argues attacking injustice can be a moral alternative to war a...
A day in the life of Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson is documented in...
Pearson throws his hat in the ring for the leadership of the Liberal p...
A look at Lester Pearson's formative years before politics came knocki...
Pearson discusses the first volume of his memoirs with Peter Gzowski.
Live coverage of Pearson's state funeral held in Ottawa on a cold Dec....
Pearson speaks with Weekend's Larry Zolf.
After five years spent as leader of the Official Opposition, Pearson f...
United Nations peacekeeping. Canada's first Nobel Peace Prize. The Map...