Memories of our first PM with a brown belt in judo
Saturday, September 30, 2000
Yesterday, the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto placed on exhibit the leather sandals worn by former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau when he was a student. The footgear was donated by Mr. Trudeau, who said in a note: "I am happy to enclose the autographed sandals in which I bummed around the world in 1948-49."
Here, we retrace some of his early political steps -- and missteps:
1965: He becomes an MP
"Pierre Elliott Trudeau, law professor and millionaire bachelor who is one of Quebec's new-look Liberals, faces a four-way [nomination] fight tonight in his fledgling attempt to enter federal politics. . . . the dashing, coldly logical professor has been learning grassroots politicking" (Robert Rice, The Globe and Mail, Oct. 7, 1965).
"One hard-bitten campaign worker still says rather dazedly: 'It's the first time I ever saw an election won on sheer intellectual appeal.' He forgot to add that Trudeau's social background and manners are impeccable, and that women, especially, find his charm irresistible. . . . He's openly a man of the Left, and a source of some disappointment to the NDP, which hoped for years to enlist him." (Norman DePoe, Weekend magazine, March 26. 1966).
"[Quebec] Premier Jean Lesage's advisers are casting worried eyes on Pierre Elliott Trudeau. . . . Trudeau still has a long way to go before he becomes a popular and commanding political figure in this province, but his speeches and statements have a peculiar way of swaying editorial writers in the French press." (Dominique Clift, The Toronto Star, Jan. 22, 1966)
The Commons fashion plate
"Pierre Elliott Trudeau [is] surely the most singular minister of justice in our long, ambiguous history. Trudeau has been subtly changing his image as he has progressed up thatsic stairway to the stars; gone are the corduroy pants and bulky knit sweaters, though he still brushes his hair forward in the style now in favour with younger ad men. . . . Image-wise, the federal Liberals have taken a mighty stride forward by putting Trudeau, [John] Turner and Jean Chrétien up front where they can be seen virtually every night in one Ottawa newsclip or another." (Dennis Braithwaite, The Globe, April 6, 1967)
"Opposition Leader John Diefenbaker yesterday extended his criticism of government ministers into the field of men's fashions, lashing out at Justice Minister Pierre Trudeau for wearing a sporty Ascot tie in the House of Commons. Mr. Diefenbaker told the 46-year-old bachelor that he was 'improperly dressed.' Outside the Commons, Mr. Trudeau, wearing a yellow Ascot beneath a button-down shirt and jacket, snapped back that he thought 'people are more interested in ideas than dress.' Mr. Trudeau's clothing has been a subject of discussion since he was elected to Parliament in the 1965 election. . . . On the day of the Trudeau appointment as Justice Minister, Prime Minister Lester Pearson had joked that one of his aides remarked that Mr. Trudeau must have known he was to get a cabinet appointment, because he was wearing a tie. 'And shoes,' cracked Registrar-General John Turner at the time." (Michael Gillian, The Globe, July 6, 1967)
1968: A future PM?
"Cool, but looking a trifle bewildered, Justice Minister Pierre Trudeau slipped into the Ontario Liberal convention yesterday, stole the show from his prospective rivals and placed himself at the brink of entering the federal leadership race. . . . Mr. Trudeau's appearance at the convention was by no means universally acclaimed. . . . One of the province's most powerful Liberals, who said he had met Mr. Trudeau only once, was appalled. 'Here we are thinking seriously of electing a man whom most of the people in the party have never seen,' he said. 'It's an incredible phenomenon.' " (Geoffrey Stevens, The Globe, Feb. 10, 1968)
"After a considerable amount of reflection and self-inspection, Pierre Elliott Trudeau -- everybody says his name that way, all at once, in the manner affected by some football players . . . has decided he wants to become prime minister. . . . Without a doubt, Trudeau the swinger -- the man with the hollow cheeks, the thinning early-Merseyside haircut, the pocked face -- would be enormously popular with younger Canadians. Canada has never had as prime minister a man who holds the brown belt in judo. Trudeau does." (Robert Miller, The Toronto Star, Feb. 16, 1968)
The TV image
"I am moved to climb out on a limb. Despite the adulation being heaped on him these days by numerous writers and broadcasters, Pierre Trudeau will not become the next leader of the federal Liberal Party. . . . Quick answers to our numerous problems -- no matter how logical they sound -- do not necessarily have the same impact upon a political delegate as they do upon a television audience." (Bruce West, The Globe, March 25, 1968)
"The nymphet covered with Trudeau buttons was standing in the lobby of the Skyline Hotel when suddenly the place was lit up with harsh, bright lights. . . . 'Ah,' she said, 'c'est Pierre, c'est Pierre.' She couldn't see Pierre Trudeau, Justice Minister and glamour man of the Liberal leadership race, because of the crush . . . but you don't have to be in Ottawa long to learn that where the television lights are brightest, there you will find Mr. Trudeau." (Leslie Millin, The Globe, April 5, 1968)
Vive la différence
"If bachelor Pierre Trudeau becomes prime minister, he will be able to find a hostess for his parties, but it won't necessarily be the same person at each party." (Leone Kirkwood, The Globe, March 4, 1968)
Thought du Pierre
"In a sense, he's the man we would all like to be: charming, rich, talented, successful. Walter Mitty dreamed of instant accomplishment: Mr. Trudeau joined the Liberal Party one day, became an MP almost the next, leaped into the cabinet in a few months and is being considered as prime minister when he has barely got his feet wet in politics. And we are all Mittys at heart." (Anthony Westell, The Globe, Feb. 12, 1968)