The Red Menace Interviews
Prime Minister Trudeau
There is little doubt that the present period in our history is
one of the most critical that the Canadian nation has ever lived
through. Dominating public attention is of course the challenge
to the very existence of Canada that the election of the Parti Quebecois
has posed. But equally important are the twin economic dilemmas
of inflation and unemployment, which have called into question the
viability of the free enterprise system as we know it, and the whole
range of social stresses and problems that are tearing at the very
fabric of Canadian society.
During these troubled times, fraught with peril, the tiller of the
Canadian ship of state rests firmly in the hands of Pierre Elliot
Trudeau, Prime Minister since 1968, who then as now dominates the
clouded horizons of national politics. For a time, it appeared that
the Trudeau administration might be in some difficulty, but in the
course of the last year, it has become increasingly apparent that
there is no other figure in our national life who has the stature
to challenge the Prime Minister. There are currently no credible
contenders for leadership within the Liberal Party, and it is clear
that Tory Leader Joe Clark is unable to lead his own party, let
alone a country.
So for better or worse, Pierre Trudeau is the captain of our national
destiny as we sail into an uncharted future. What are the views
of this often enigmatic man? How does he see the future of Canada
We are fortunate in having obtained the transcript of a previously
unreleased interview that the Prime Minister granted to free-lance
interviewer Will Basically last month. It appears that the interview
was mysteriously "killed" for "national security"
reasons after it was recorded. This magazine, however, obtained
a copy of the interview through a government source. After confirming
its authenticity, we have decided to publish it here in the public
interest. The picture of the Prime Minister and his views that emerges
here is perhaps the frankest statement that has been made available
to the Canadian public to this time. It should be of vital interest
to all Canadians.
Will Basically: Prime Minister, you said that
the free market society was passe and that we must move to a society
with greater government intervention. Now you are saying that we
have to rely on the market. How do you resolve that difference in
your two positions?
Prime Minister: I did say that free enterprise
is gone if indeed we ever had such a thing in the first place. Galbraith
makes this point and I basically agree with him when he says that
instead of many competing firms and a government as umpire so to
speak, we've got Big Business, Big Labour and increasingly Big Government.
What we need is a society where these groups can sit together and
work out problems sensibly. Now this will be a society based on
different values than the ones we have now. As Rousseau would say
le volonte generale ... uh, the general will ... the good
of all must prevail over the particular will. Now there are problems
because a lot of people don't see it that way and they need a reminder
and the free market society will tend to keep them in line.
'"My thinking is along the lines of a
of manpower units into basic nourishment materials."
WB: How would things be different in the "new society".
PM: Well take unemployment for example ... please!
We face a real problem here. Basically people are suffering from
a surplus manpower situation in as much as forseeable demand for
increments to the stock of labour supply is increasing at a slower
rate than entry into the job market. And this is tough for a lot
Now some of these people are students coming into the job market
for the first time and they are saying -- give us a high paying
job or Unemployment Insurance. Well, instead of rushing in with
a make-work scheme or welfare the government is saying -- if you
can't find work here go somewhere else -- travel. But don't come
begging for hand-outs.
WB: But what about people who can't afford to
PM: Well, that is a problem and clearly something
has to be done. But the situation is different now. We don't simply
have a temporary slump which we can get out of by Keynsian pump-priming.
We have a long-term moderate growth prospect with inflationary pressures
-- we can't just pour in more money and hope for the best. What
we are thinking of is something like this. We loan people money
to look for work abroad and let them pay us back. We take this money
and invest in transportation out of the country thus employing some
of our surplus manpower. Eventually we can cut employment down to
virtually nil. Now of course some countries may not want our surplus
WB: What do we do about that?
PM: Well if labour can't be sold it's because too
much is charged or there's a glut on the market. The same situation
applies to farm products like eggs or wheat or livestock. So that
parallel between the two markets with their chronic over-supply
problems made me think that the same solution applied to farm products
could be used for surplus manpower. We could have a marketing board.
"Confederation is not a dry legal document but a nation
two languages which anyone can speak at least one of and sometimes
WB: You mean sell manpower just like wheat?
PM: Yeah, why not? We could project demand and
issue positive and negative incentives for families to produce manpower
units as the market for them rose and fell. I know it seems like
a totally new idea but in a way it's been tried before. In many
African countries government sold surplus manpower and it seemed
to work pretty well. We could do the same and receive cash. Manpower
could be provided at competitive rates and this would benefit the
buyer. And owners of manpower would get badly needed food, clothing
and shelter without the stigma of being a burden to society. Everybody
would benefit. With the extra revenue we could cut taxes and thus
stimulate the economy without having to resort to inflationary methods.
If we ever ran short of manpower we could always buy some back --
but we'd only buy it when we needed it. Now of course even then
we might find that the market for manpower units is glutted and
so we would have to find other uses. Now we all know that one present
cause of inflation is the high cost of food and we could use some
of our surplus manpower units to help solve that problem. My thinking
is along the lines of a transformation of manpower units into basic
nourishment material. Many of our surplus population are relatively
well-fed and tender especially students and others who come from
middle class families. Many others would be better employed as fertilizer
because the toughness of their flesh makes them unsuitable as food.
They could however find real satisfaction however in returning to
life, so to speak, as food for a happier and healthier nation. They
would provide a cheap source of fertilizer for farmers and thus
cancel out the decline in revenue resulting from lowered meat prices
due to the entry of former manpower units on the market. And of
course the money spent on welfare for these people could be used
to reduce taxes for food processors and distributors thus cutting
food costs. The government could help further by publishing recipes
for the preparation of former manpower units as food and by advising
how full nutritional value could be extracted from this exiting
new food source.
WB: A lot of people will probably criticize
this measure as an unwarranted interference by the gov-ernment in
PM: Yeah, well what are their solutions? I don't
hear any useful suggestions from Broadbent or uh ... the frizzy
haired kid who does the Diefenbaker imitations.
WB: Turning to Quebec ... what are your opinions
on current developments there?
PM: Well, I think that the wish to go it alone
is only held by a small minority. After all, this nationalism is
really a regressive desire to return to the stone ages when savages
huddled around fires in their own separate caves grunting curses
at anyone who tried to join them. To be fair, I am not saying that
this is what Levesque is actually proposing but it is implicit in
WB: What can we as ordinary Canadians do to
counteract this trend?
PM: Well, I think that we need a change in our
attitude to the nation. Confederation is not a dry legal document
but a nation united by two languages which anybody can speak at
least one of and sometimes more.
WB: And bilingualism is obviously the key to
keeping this nation together.
PM: Right! Because this government has shown such
determination to increase the number of posts in the civil service
requiring the use of both languages it is now possible for French
Canada to have more power than ever before -- certainly more than
would exist in the banana republic Levesque wants to create. And
now it is possible for any French Canadian boy or girl to grow up
to become Prime Minister or at least understand him part of the
time when he speaks on television.
It is also possible for French Canadians to travel across this
country and still be able to use their native language when they
travel on the federal transportation system. And when they buy their
food at the supermarket they can read in French what it is and contains
whether Post Toasties, Pop Tarts, Whip'n' Chill or whatever. Because
of the Governments' firmness and decisiveness bilingualism has been
made a reality for Canadians all across this country. The first
thing they see when they wake up is their morning breakfast cereal
with its contents described in both languages. Even very little
children can learn that "Cric, Crac, Croc" is French for
"Snap, Crackle, Pop". This is a very real way the struggle
for the hearts and minds of the nation is being won on its cereal
boxes. And lest I forget there are French language TV stations financed
by the federal government. There movies originally produced in English
are shown with French dubbing. When you have heard John Wayne speak
French you have gained some idea of what bilingualism can mean.
"When you have heard John Wayne speak
you have gained some idea of what bilingualism can mean."
Inspired by such a policy Canadians from all walks of life can
unite behind a vigorous national policy of keeping things pretty
much as they are right now. Let our slogan from Sea to Sea (or at
least from Sea to the Ottawa River) be "Business as Usual".
WB: Do you think that the entry of Jack Horner
into your government will help the cause of Confederation?
PM: Definitely. Quebecois will see that English
Canadians no matter how bigoted, narrow-minded, parochial, and stupid
can still appreciate and accept this government's policies as long
as the rewards to them are carefully spelled out.
WB: Pursuing that last topic how do you see
Mr. Horner's role in your cabinet?
PM: Well, first off we will have to provide him
a place to sit. While Mr. Horner has not complained I think he feels
a bit left out standing outside the Cabinet Chambers during meetings.
As to his duties -- well, I think that he could play a strong role
in Transportation and Energy policy. Specifically he could pack
and carry Otto Lang's baggage for him when he makes one of his many
airplane trips and he could turn out the lights in the Parliament
Building when we have left thus emphasizing how greatly the government
is concerned about energy conservation.
WB: Thank you Prime Minister for an interesting
and instructive interview.
Published in Volume 2, Number 1 of The
Red Menace, Summer 1977.