When Pierre Trudeau predicted the PCs would 'never' form government

It was a harsh prediction about the future of the Brian Mulroney-led PCs, and it was also dead wrong.

Prognostication came 5 months to the day that the Brian Mulroney-led PCs would win a majority

A prediction from Pierre Trudeau in 1984

44 years ago
Duration 2:27
In April 1984, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau made a prediction about the Brian Mulroney-led PCs that proved to be inaccurate.

The National's intro made it sound like a wrestling match.

And that may have been appropriate, as the prime minister and the Official Opposition leader had been engaged in a verbal back-and-forth tussle in Parliament.

"Pierre Trudeau and Brian Mulroney went at it in the House of Commons today," anchor Knowlton Nash told viewers on April 4, 1984.

Nash said Mulroney was pushing Trudeau and the Liberals to maintain a throne speech promise relating to western farmers.

'Lethargic' ministers, MPs 'goofing around'

Man in glasses standing and holding papers in the House of Commons
Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was critical of how the Progressive Conservatives had been acting in the House of Commons. (The National/CBC Archives)

Mulroney called on Trudeau to "prod his lethargic ministers" to move forward on the issue.

Trudeau said the government would act if Mulroney and the Progressive Conservatives worked with them on moving some other bills forward.

That comment drew boos from MPs, and Trudeau started to bring the fight back to the PC leader.

"Mr. Speaker, the leader of the Opposition has just come back from the West and he's discovered that the western farmers have some requirements," said Trudeau, who also accused Opposition members of "goofing around" and "wasting time" in general in the House of Commons.

"Suddenly, he discovers one constituent that needs assistance and he stands up on that."

'All you get is a jokester'

PC Leader Brian Mulroney gesturing in the House of Commons
PC Leader Brian Mulroney is seen responding to a comment from Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau on April 4, 1984. (The National/CBC Archives)

Before he was finished, Trudeau began reading from the order paper and then chiding Opposition MPs to "have more time seriously spent on legislation instead of goofing off with ringing bells."

Mulroney was fired up in his response.

"You ask a question on behalf of western farmers, whose bankruptcies were up 110 per cent last year, and all you get is a jokester, hamming around with a piece of paper," he said.

The PC leader also claimed that "when the interests of western Canada are involved, they are always tied to something else."

'You'll never be the government'

During his response, in which Trudeau tried to make the point the government had to deal with many files involving many interests, the prime minister said Mulroney and the PCs would "never learn this because you'll never be the government."

But that was not a very accurate prediction, as Mulroney and the PCs swept to power in the federal election that September, relegating the Liberals to the opposition benches. (The Mulroney-led Tories would win a second majority four years later as well.)

It wouldn't be an issue for Trudeau, though, as he was about to leave public life behind and would be replaced by John Turner as Liberal leader that June.

Mulroney and Trudeau maintained a civil relationship in the long term, based on an invitation the rookie prime minister extended to his Liberal predecessor that fall — a coffee meeting the two had, which was covered on The National.

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