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Trudeaumania on the campaign trail in 1968

The Story


"It's like electing a Beatle for Prime Minister," says one spellbound reporter of Pierre Trudeau's 1968 campaign. Crowds swarm his car, young girls rush up to kiss him on the cheek and audiences listen to him with a rapt enthusiasm. Enjoying a unique kind of celebrity that few politicians have experienced, the charismatic Trudeau seems mildly, and perhaps smugly, bemused by it all. The Liberals will go on to win the election, winning 155 seats to the Tories' 72.

Medium: Television
Program: The Way It Is
Broadcast Date: June 16, 1968
Guests: Fraser Kelly, Pierre Trudeau
Host: John Saywell
Duration: 9:09

Did You know?


• In his memoirs Trudeau recalled, "We had just come out of the Centennial celebrations; the year before had seen the remarkable success of Expo 67. The mood of the country was still one of festivity, and I happened to be there to profit from it."

• Trudeau's opponents had a hard time keeping pace during the 1968 election campaign. NDP leader Tommy Douglas was a compelling orator but struggled with the medium of television.

• Progressive Conservative leader Robert Stanfield was a highly intellectual and resolute leader. In his memoirs Trudeau recalled, "[Stanfield] had been chosen to succeed the tempestuous John Diefenbaker as Conservative leader for a certain set of reasons, which were perhaps no longer in the public's mind by the time I was chosen. It seemed that Canada was no longer inclined to vote for a quiet man."

• Under Trudeau's leadership, Canada ushered in the Official Languages Act of 1969, the Canadian Charter of Rights and the Constitution of 1982. Trudeau also governed the country during the October Crisis and made the controversial decision to implement the War Measures Act.

• In 1972 the Liberals narrowly edged out Robert Stanfield's Conservative party by two seats. Trudeau blamed himself for the decline of Liberal power. Running on the untranslatable slogan "The Land is Strong," Trudeau intellectualized his campaign in an effort to escape the emotionalism of Trudeaumania. He recalled in his memoirs, "The voters wanted a leader to guide them, and I was giving them a professor."

• From 1972 to 1974, Trudeau acted as Prime Minister until a motion of no-confidence was passed in the House of Commons on May 8, 1974 regarding the Liberals' proposed budget. A federal election was accordingly called.

• In the 1974 federal election campaign, the Conservative party issued the "fuddle duddle" dollar from the "bank of Trudeaumania." Voters were advised: "Your dollar has lost 39 cents of its purchasing power since Trudeau was first elected in 1968.
   • Food prices have gone up by about 40 percent
   • Government spending has gone up by 140 per cent
   • Rents have gone up by more than 50 per cent"

• During the 1974 campaign, Trudeau had an ace up his sleeve -- his young and beautiful bride Margaret. In "Northern Magus," author Richard Gwyn recalled her first public speaking event. "'He's a beautiful guy,' she said, gauche and nervous, to a crowd of 2,500 in West Vancouver. 'He taught me a lot about loving.'" As Trudeau's aides scrambled to do damage control, they were surprised to learn that Margaret had in fact charmed the crowd. Gwyn writes, "Overnight, Margaret had become a magician in her own right."

• In 1974, Trudeau steered the Liberals to a majority government, claiming 141 seats to the Tories' 95. The NDP won 16 seats and the Social Credit party secured 11.
• Joseph Philippe Pierre Yves Elliott Trudeau was born on Oct. 18, 1919 in Montreal to a French father and a Scottish mother. In 1971, Trudeau married Margaret Sinclair. They had three sons together before divorcing in 1984. He had a daughter with constitutional lawyer Deborah Coyne in 1991.


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