Ralph Goodale only MP to serve under both Trudeau prime ministers

The man Justin Trudeau asked to serve as his deputy leader, prior to the 2015 election, was also the only MP to ever serve under both Trudeaus.

Goodale met Justin Trudeau while serving under Pierre Trudeau’s government

Pierre Trudeau with the 1979 Liberal candidates from Saskatchewan. Ralph Goodale is circled. (submitted by Ralph Goodale's campaign office)

The man Justin Trudeau asked to serve as his deputy leader, prior to the 2015 election, is also the only MP to ever serve under both the late Pierre Trudeau and his son Justin.

It was kind of a baptism of quick immersion.- Ralph Goodale, Liberal MP

Ralph Goodale was first elected to the House of Commons in 1974 as part of Pierre Trudeau's government. He was 24-years-old, only two years out of his law degree from the University of Saskatchewan and in love with politics. 

"It was a little bit intimidating, but a little bit exhilarating," Goodale said of his first few days. The pressing issue at Parliament was about the grains industry, a topic very important to the farm boy's constituency. His first debate was as one of the first speakers on the legislation. He had no time to get nervous.

"It was kind of a baptism of quick immersion."

That summer he also met Justin Trudeau for the first time. 

It was a warm summer day, as Goodale recalled, and Pierre Trudeau was moving towards him as he was standing by an entrance to the House of Commons. In his arm was his son, Justin. 

"He was carrying Justin under his arm like a sack of flour," said Goodale. "I remember Justin was squirming around a little bit, like little boys really do."

Pierre Trudeau is saluted by RCMP Officer as he carries son Justin into Rideau Hall in 1973 to attend an outdoor reception for visiting heads of the Commonwealth countries in Ottawa. As a child, Justin didn't know exactly what his dad did other than that he was "boss of Canada." (Peter Bregg/Canadian Press)

He exchanged a few lines with the young boy who wasn't yet three-years-old. 

"It's funny, you know," Goodale said. "I remember that encounter very well. He has no recollection of it."

It was a successful term in office, and would turn into a very successful career. But Goodale was about to strike out in a few elections. 

He ran twice in the same federal riding of Assiniboia and lost narrowly both times. Turning to provincial politics, he became the leader of the Saskatchewan Liberal Party. He ran in two provincial elections and was elected once. In 1988 he resigned to run federally again, but lost. Goodale thought he was done with politics.
Ralph Goodale's campaign poster for president of the Saskatchewan Young Liberals in the 1960s. (Submitted by Ralph Goodale's campaign office)

"It had been a good run, very interesting … but I had really concluded that I would pursue my interests in the business world."

Goodale applied his legal training to financial institutions. He worked in Regina and then moved to Calgary right before he was asked to come back home. 

The Liberal Party was starting to plan towards the 1993 election and he was asked to move back to the riding of Wascana. He did market research before making his decision, checking how people would react to him running. Finally, he decided he had a shot. He returned to Saskatchewan and won the party nomination for the riding. 

Former prime minister Paul Martin, centre left, greets his former finance minister Ralph Goodale as he and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, left, campaign at an event in Toronto. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

He won his seat in that 1993 federal election. When Goodale was elected on Oct. 19 2015, it was the eighth time in a row he has won the riding. Goodale has held several high-level positions, including minister of finance.

The thing that you need to remember is that it is all about people, and it's not about you. Very often people in political life get that paradigm backwards.- Ralph Goodale, Liberal MP

Since 1997, his riding has been a lone red spot in a province that is mostly blue. Yet, even when Saskatchewan people turned away from the Liberal Party, they kept electing him.

Goodale is a regular at city events, whether they are political, business or cultural. He has the most Facebook likes of any Saskatchewan MP.

"If you didn't like it, and didn't like working with people, it would be very hard to stick with it," he said. "But I do enjoy it a great deal."

On a regular basis people in other Saskatchewan ridings contact him. 

"For their own reasons, they want to have contact with a Liberal or a representative from that philosophy or point of view. And if they don't have one in their own riding they go to the next available alternative."

Goodale says he does his best not to step on the toes of other MPs, but he does try to deal with those issues, too. 

"The thing that you need to remember is that it is all about people, and it's not about you. Very often people in political life get that paradigm backwards."

Goodale, 66, says he's not looking to retire any time soon.

That little boy he saw on Parliament Hill that day, would grow up to become the party leader who convinced him to run in the 2015 election.

"When [Justin Trudeau] was chosen leader, that really answered the question for me about whether I would run or not," Goodale said.

"We have the opportunity to work together and work really well together."


Tiffany Cassidy is the Digital Associate Producer at CBC Saskatchewan.


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