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Majority victory for Pierre Trudeau in ‘74

The Story

The 1974 election results are in. The once-again popular prime minister Pierre Trudeau has secured a majority government. But if the media expected a return of his trademark arrogance in his victory speech, they were disappointed. "Mr. Trudeau's speech was a model of courtesy and tact," states the announcer in this CBC TV clip. "There's still much to do in Canada," declares Trudeau. And in a nod to Westerners, who have been feeling slighted by Trudeau, he promises to be "a government for all Canadians." 

Medium: Television
Program: CBC Television News Special
Broadcast Date: July 9, 1974
Host: Lloyd Robertson
Guest: Pierre Elliott Trudeau
Duration: 2:22

Did You know?

• The final results of the July 8, 1974, election were: 141 seats for the Liberals, 95 for the PCs, 16 for NDP, 11 for Social Credit, and one independent.

• Between 1972 and '74, Trudeau had made a concerted effort to modify his image and his unpopular policies. He surrounded himself with new advisers and improved relationships with Liberal party members. He also amended some controversial policies - he tightened up his "open door" approach to immigration, for instance, and extended the deadline for requiring bilingualism in 25,000 key federal jobs. This all helped boost his popularity again.

• One of the key issues of the '74 election was controlling inflation. When PC leader Robert Stanfield proposed a wage and price freeze, Trudeau opposed those policies and mocked them as being simplistic with the phrase, "Zap! You're frozen!" This phrase was frequently repeated by the media throughout the campaign. And when Stanfield started to change some of his original plans for price freezes, Trudeau quipped, "Mr. Stanfield's freeze is beginning to drip."

• Besides deriding the PC wage and price control proposals, Trudeau's campaign also made numerous policy promises on such subjects as housing, transportation, consumer protection, agriculture and social security. The strategy was to project an image of being a very active government with confidence in the nation's future. "We're not tragic like the Tories, nor angry like the New Democrats. Sit down, relax. Liberal meetings are fun," he told a rally in Hamilton, Ont., near the end of the campaign.

• According to Trudeau biographer George Radwanski, the 1974 campaign was a much smoother operation than the previous election campaigns. "Through it all, there was no resemblance to the playful crown prince en route to his coronation in 1968 or the detached professor listlessly traversing the country in 1972... this time the man was a conventional politician, calculatingly emotional rather than coldly rational, verbally blazing away at his opponents like a political gunfighter in a high-noon shootout."

• The day after the election, a Globe and Mail editorial congratulated Trudeau on a well fought campaign and victory: "Not for Trudeaumania, this time, but for the work, effort and energy that he put into the campaign. He went to the country this time and did not, as he did in 1972, wait for the country to come to him."

• In October 1975, Trudeau flip-flopped on one of his big campaign promises - he implemented wage and price controls. This brought much scorn from the public, and contributed to the resignation of Finance Minister John Turner.

• Trudeau explained in his Memoirs that he really didn't want to bring in wage and price controls, but felt he had no choice. It had to be done to save Canada's economy. "The harsh medicine worked," he wrote. "From a rate of nearly 11 per cent in 1975, inflation declined to 7.5 per cent in 1976 and 7.9 per cent in 1977." But, wrote Trudeau, "I paid a heavy price in lost credibility."


Pierre Elliott Trudeau: Philosopher and Prime Minister more