When Pierre Trudeau wanted the Liberals to stick to the middle

An election had seen the Progressive Conservatives pass by the Liberals, but Pierre Trudeau wanted his party to stay in their lane.

The 1979 election left the Liberals in opposition, but Trudeau didn't want party to change course

'Being in the centre is not always exciting'

42 years ago
In October 1979, Liberal Leader Pierre Trudeau signalled the party would stick to its traditional political leanings. 1:28

In 1979, the Progressive Conservatives had passed by the Liberals — that much was clear from the election five months earlier that had made Joe Clark the prime minister.

Yet Pierre Trudeau wanted to see his party stay in its lane, which he saw as being in the middle of the political spectrum.

"We should remember that being in the centre is not always exciting. We are often scorned by the true believers, by those who are looking for absolute truths," Trudeau said, when speaking to a conference of Liberal International, an umbrella group for global liberals, in Ottawa on Oct. 6, 1979.

"But we must not concern ourselves with being, as it were, at some point on the political spectrum. We just have to remind ourselves that there is a totalitarianism of the right, as well as of the left."

In case anyone missed the point,The National's Mike Duffy clarified for viewers that Trudeau was not talking about political positioning in an abstract sense.

"By drawing attention in the speech here tonight to what he sees as the dangers of this polarization between the far left and the far right, Pierre Trudeau was implicitly making it clear that the Liberal Party of Canada will not — at least under his leadership — abandon its traditional position of being in the centre of the political spectrum," Duffy said.

More of the same would, in fact, be what the Liberals would drive toward in the months to come, as Trudeau would end up leading his party through one last election and returning to power in the 1980 election.

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