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Pierre Trudeau: A triple march toward Ottawa

The Story

Thanks to the "three wise men" -- Jean Marchand, Gérard Pelletier and Pierre Trudeau -- Liberals triumph in Quebec in the 1965 federal election. But outside Quebec, the news isn't as good for the party. Lester Pearson's Liberals fall just short of a majority. When asked about the disappointing minority win, Pierre Trudeau, the newly elected MP of Montreal's Mont Royal is caught off guard. "I haven't seen the results... I wish you wouldn't ask me too much about things I don't know," says Trudeau, displaying some of his characteristic insolence.

Medium: Radio
Program: CBC Radio News Special
Broadcast Date: Nov. 8, 1965
Guest(s): Pierre Elliott Trudeau
Interviewer: Alec Bollini
Duration: 2:10

Did You know?

• The Liberals had heavily wooed prominent Quebec labour leader Jean Marchand to run for Parliament. But Marchand would only agreed if the party accepted Trudeau and Pelletier as candidates as well. The Liberals were reluctant at first, but eventually found ridings for all three candidates.

• Trudeau himself was also somewhat reluctant about his entry into politics. He turned up for a crucial 1965 pre-nomination meeting with Liberal organizers "dressed in an open-collared sports shirt, a suede jacket, a beat-up old peaked hat, muddy corduroy slacks, and sandals," according to Trudeau, George Radwanski's 1978 biography. He was sent home to change into something more suitable before the meeting began.

• When they announced their entry into the campaign in September of 1965, the three made a great splash in the media. A Toronto Star editorial called this "an event of high and hopeful import for Canada as a whole… Three of the best minds and hearts in French Canada have decided to join in the main task of nation-building on the basis of a real partnership between the two major cultural groups established by Canadian history."

• The "three wise men" moniker seems to have been coined by Progressive Conservative leader John Diefenbaker. A Globe and Mail article from Sept. 29, 1965, has Diefenbaker "scornfully" describing the Liberals' three latest recruits in Quebec as the "'three wise men' who say they are going to save Canada."
• The political trio was also dubbed the three musketeers, the three doves and the three virgins of Canadian politics, a reference to their political inexperience.

• All three men were easily elected in their ridings in the Nov. 8, 1965, federal election.
• In that election, the Liberals had a total of 131 seats. Quebec voted in 56 seats, almost half of the Liberal's national total.
• The Progressive Conservatives won 97 seats, the NDP had 21, the Ralliement créditistes had nine, Social Credit had five, and there were two independents voted in.

• Trudeau was appointed Lester Pearson's parliamentary secretary in early 1966. The move was controversial. Some members of Parliament complained, accusing Trudeau of not being a true Liberal.
• The accusations rose from the fact that in 1963 Trudeau had campaigned for a close friend and NDP candidate Charles Taylor. That same year, Trudeau had vocally attacked Pearson, calling him "the unfrocked priest of peace" for permitting nuclear warheads on Canadian soil when Pearson had previously opposed them.

• Trudeau's relationship with Pearson had improved greatly over time. Trudeau wrote in his memoirs, "I learned a great deal from my time working with Lester Pearson, although our styles were very different."


Pierre Elliott Trudeau: Philosopher and Prime Minister more