Sunday, April 06, 2008

On This Date In History...

Forty years ago today, Pierre Elliott Trudeau was the fourth ballot winner of the Liberal leadership. You can watch the victory clip in the CBC archives.

One of my first history essays I wrote in undergrad was on the 1968 convention and it was an absolutely fascinating leadership race to study up on. What was really remarkable was that there seemed to be both a certain inevitability for a Trudeau win but, at the same time, this was a guy who'd been pegged as a 75-1 long shot at the start of the campaign and who nobody knew a year beforehand. Had Pearson not promoted Trudeau to Justice when he did, had Jean Marchand spoken better English, had Trudeau not spared with Daniel Johnson publicly, had Mitchell Sharp not dropped out and endorsed him...well, history could have been a lot different.

I dug out my old essay and present a dozen tid-bits about the '68 campaign - some well known, some not so much:

1. When first asked if he was going to run following Pearson's resignation, Trudeau answered "are you serious?"

2. What really launched Trudeau's leadership was the perfectly timed Divorce Bill and criminal code changes he brought in as Justice Minister a few weeks before Pearson resigned. This legislation upset one Cabinet Minister who sarcastically suggested their slogan be: "For abortion, homosexuality and easy divorce - vote Liberal!"

3. In his memoirs, Paul Martin Sr. claimed that "like any good puppet-master (Pearson) was pulling the strings behind the scenes".

4. The '68 race marked the third failed attempt for Paul Senior at Liberal leadership. It would eventually take five tries before someone named Paul Martin finally won a leadership convention.

5. The always fun Quebec caucus nearly revolted against Trudeau in the days leading up to the vote and threatened to support Winters, until Jean Marchand quashed the revolt.

6. Trudeau only officially entered the race February 16th. Runner up Robert Winters didn't declare until March 1st. Compare that to the marathon the 2006 leadership race was.

7. Paul Hellyer paid $2,000 for the rights to use the Broadway song "hey now Dow Jones" as his theme at convention.

8. Trudeau got 26% of the media coverage during the campaign - second highest was Mitchell Sharp at 10%.

9. A live mic overheard Judy LaMarsh telling HellyerDon’t let that bastard win Paul...He isn’t even a Liberal” at the convention.

10. During his convention speech, John Turner said he wasn't running to help him win a hypothetical convention in 1984.

11. One of Mitchell Sharp's advisors, a young Jean Chretien, moved with Sharp to Trudeau on the Wednesday of convention week.

12. Lloyd Henderson was a fringe candidate in the race who got zero votes at convention, despite the fact that his wife was a voting delegate. So I guess, it retrospect, it could have been worse for Scott Brison in '06...

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