Federalism And The French Canadian Pierre Trudeau

1577 words - 7 pages

Pierre Trudeau was always a bit of a paradox. He grew up in a bilingual household in a bilingual city in the only francophone political state in North America. He came of age right along with Quebec's fabled Quiet Revolution, leading the way as a voice for reform. Always independently wealthy, he adopted a modest form of socialism, constantly looking out for the farmers and blue collar workers with whom he shared so little. He received the finest education: Harvard, Paris, and London. Yet, a teaching position in Quebec was long denied him. Not surprising then, Trudeau developed original ideas and a unique attitude towards the political situation in Canada in general and Quebec in particular. ...view middle of the document...

The fundamental condition is the time-to-time transferal of power from political majorities to minorities. And, since Quebec has never dominated Ottawa, the system has not yet come to a head. The question of the province of Quebec constituting a federal minority is rather contentious; Prince Edward Island has yet to rule over the land either but there are no cries from the Island claiming our democracy is broken (it seems quite ironic that once Trudeau gained control of the Liberal party, and in turn, the country, he did not relinquish it for sixteen years, save for a nine month hiatus).For further proof of this mentality of conflictual federalism one need only look at the reasons given for the backwardness of the Quebec state. Trudeau believes that the third of the country living inside Quebec does not fully believe in the essence of democracy. Yet, and perhaps even more telling, "the remaining two-thirds provide them with ample grounds for distrusting it." (102) It is an oversimplification to reduce the other nine provinces, even though overwhelmingly anglophone, to a homogenous block set out to deny Quebec democratic rights. It seems that it all boils down to Lord Durham and his infamous observation of "two nations warring in the bosom of a single state." (The Durham Report [Coupland ed., Oxford, 1945], p 15)It bears reiteration, though, that when most of these essays were written Trudeau would not have had the extensive contact with the other provinces that he had after joining the Liberals and certainly after becoming Prime Minister. Obviously, Western Canadian issues would not have been of paramount importance to a francophone in the 1950s and 1960s (although some would say with Trudeau they never were). To put it briefly, Trudeau broadened his horizons upon moving from Montreal to Ottawa. This book merely represents a snapshot of a period of his ideological development.It cannot be emphasized strongly enough that in this book, and at this point in Trudeau's career, federalism consisted of Ottawa-Quebec conflict. Very little attention is paid to the other provinces with their struggles and successes. These limitations, implicitly stated in the title of the book, focus the content and arguments quite well. For example, the first quarter of the book is spent looking at Quebec and the constitutional question. In this article, Trudeau offers thought-provoking analyses of nationalists' arguments, including the desire for increased provincial control."In the circumstance, it seems rather surprising that some Quebecers should choose this very moment [1965] to clamour for a new constitution. Twenty years behind the times as usual, they are at last coming to terms with the reality described in the Rowell-Sirois Report of 1940, and preparing to charge the centralizing dragon just when it has stopped breathing fire." (39)This critique is by no means unique; he makes a concerted effort throughout the book to poke holes in the arguments he disagrees...

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