Archives

When Pierre Trudeau heckled the hecklers

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau let the hecklers know he saw them and he had some advice for them, too.

Forty years ago, the PM told the 'credit-card revolutionaries' to 'get off their ass'

On the campaign trail in 1979, Pierre Trudeau had sharp words for some hecklers. 2:11

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau let the protesters know he saw them and he had some advice for them, too.

Forty years ago, Trudeau had travelled to Vancouver to support two Liberal candidates hoping to win seats in the upcoming spring federal election.

At a rally on April 7, 1979, he saw protesters carrying placards decrying high unemployment in British Columbia. And in Trudeau's view, they were putting on a show.

'Yeah, we saw you ... get off your ass'

"Yeah, we saw you last night with your painted and hired signs and your hired friends," he said, when pointing at them and calling them out. "Eight of you holding signs, like little boys. C'mon, go and look for some jobs."

The crowd is seen at a rally Pierre Trudeau attended in Vancouver on April 7, 1979. (The National/CBC Archives)

He also told the protesters that "there are people here who are working and they are doing an honest day's work. They're not just being paid to carry a sign around like you are. Get off your ass."

Later that day, Trudeau said his remarks were aimed squarely at the individuals carrying the signs and not at unemployed people in general.

"I'm telling people who are obviously credit-card revolutionaries and paid hecklers to get off their ass and look for some work," Trudeau told reporters later that day.

'A strong man' image?

The CBC's Mark Phillips told viewers that Trudeau's tough talk seemed to be part of a larger effort to project a certain image on the campaign trail.

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau is seen communicating with hecklers in Vancouver on April 7, 1979. (The National/CBC Archives)

"The tough-guy image seems deliberate, consistent with Trudeau's appeal for the need for a strong man at the centre, although there is some concern in his camp that it's all reinforcing his abrasive image," Phillips reported on The National.

The following month, the Liberals would find themselves heading back to the Opposition benches when Joe Clark and the Progressive Conservatives took power.

But the Liberals wouldn't be there for long — the PC government fell in December and then lost the ensuing forced election, bringing Trudeau and the Liberals back to power in February of 1980.