The late prime minister Pierre Trudeau knew how to quit. He did it twice.
His son should promptly follow this excellent example, at least once.
Pierre Trudeau announced his intention to resign as Liberal leader after Joe Clark’s Progressive Conservatives won a minority government in 1979.
But PC bumbling in the House led to defeat on a confidence vote, the government fell, and Trudeau’s resignation never took effect.
He won the election and remained as prime minister for four more years. In 1984, after his famous “walk in the snow,” Pierre Trudeau quit for good.
Smart leaders know when their time is done. Far better to jump than be pushed. But it’s not clear that Justin Trudeau sees the crushing defeat his party will face if he leads it into another election.
Behind all his preaching lies an alarming lack of decisiveness and moral clarity.
An episode last week, when Trudeau was pursued by pro-Hamas demonstrators in two Vancouver establishments, brings another unflattering comparison to mind.
The day before the 1968 election, Pierre Trudeau stood on a balcony in Montreal during the annual St-Jean-Baptiste Day celebrations.
Separatist militants began to riot. A police car was overturned, another set on fire. The rioters threw projectiles and chanted “Trudeau au pot-eau” (Trudeau to the gallows).
Trudeau was flanked by former Quebec premier Daniel Johnson and Montreal mayor Jean Drapeau. Both fled the platform.
Trudeau stayed where he was. He waved at the crowd and didn’t budge even when a bottle was aimed at him.
At one point a Mountie threw a coat over him for protection. Trudeau impatiently tossed it aside. He would not bow before extremists.
Even those who came to loathe Pierre Trudeau for the National Energy Program and other measures always admired the man for that one moment. The guy had guts and you always knew where he stood (literally).
In Vancouver, Justin Trudeau left two venues under escort without confronting the shouting protesters. He has not made the essential point that physical intimidation is absolutely forbidden in Canadian political life.
This Trudeau prevaricates over the war and much else. He blurs the plain fact that his own government designates Hamas a terrorist organization.
Pierre Trudeau was at his most decisive in the face of crisis. He understood that sometimes a leader must be firm even if there’s a political cost.
Justin Trudeau now wilts before our eyes under the competing demands of his caucus and political constituencies.
On the issues where he is at least moralistically clear — especially climate change — he has led the Liberals into disaster.
The Supreme Court has ruled that large parts of the Impact Assessment Act, which was designed to control virtually all resource projects in Canada, was unconstitutional.
Now, a Federal Court justice says Ottawa’s declaration that all plastic manufactured items are “toxic” also violates the constitution.
Based on that, Ottawa imposed a ban on single-use items such as plastic bags, cutlery and straws.
Just as happened with the Impact Assessment Act, Ottawa sent the private sector scrambling to comply with laws that were improper in the first place.
This disrespect for the Constitution was not some idle mistake. It was an intentional effort to move the dial sharply toward central power in this country, using climate change as the rationale.
The courts are now saying, no, you can’t do that. Even when the cause is just, the response must respect the rules enshrined in the 1982 constitutional agreement — which was led by none other than Pierre Trudeau.
The carbon tax is deeply challenged by the revelation that heating oil was exempted for regional partisan gain. Liberal Minister Gudie Hutchings admitted that Atlantic ministers and MPs pressured Trudeau personally.
In the signpost policy where Justin Trudeau appeared absolutely firm, he caved.
His father was a classic eastern politician from a generation that still treated the western provinces as colonies. He, too, was quite the raging centralist. But he also knew when to back off.
Justin Trudeau wobbles down the same path with far less conviction and skill. You’d think he would have learned better by now.
Not so. Unfortunately, he hasn’t learned how to quit either.
Don Braid’s column appears regularly in the Herald.