I’ve been in and watching politics for a few years now and have seen a lot of politicians come and go.
As a child I remember my parents always chiding Mackenzie King for his weirdness, yet always voting for him.
Back then I was a precocious little bastard and loved politics and remember how my parents and the rest of the Vancouver “establishment” demonized the CCF, forerunners to the NDP. The foreman in my Dad’s paper box plant was, so Dad confided in me, a CCFer, and I saw Charlie Knowles as a rather benign, kindly person who somehow presented a serious threat to our way of life.
The first charismatic leader I can remember was John Diefenbaker, who won an upset minority government in 1957, then achieved a huge majority in the Spring of 1958. To demonstrate my perversity, I voted Liberal in 1957 when the big swing to the Tories was happening and when it seemed that no one was voting Tory, I still voted Liberal.
I distrusted the Tories because they had always been perceived (correctly in my view) as haters of French Canadians, as we then called them, and cozy friends of the manufacturers of Ontario.
This brings me to 1968 and closing in on what I really want to say today.
In 1968 I was caught up in Trudeaumania which was sweeping the country.
I thought that Trudeau had a better grasp of what the country was all about, not only in Quebec, but here in the “west beyond the west”, in the words of historian/author Jean Barman. I was sure wrong on the latter count, because whether it was his failed marriage to a BC woman or just bloodymindedness, Trudeau showed his contempt for our province, best exemplified when he refused to speak to a crowd in Salmon Arm and literally gave the crowd the finger.
In the late 70s and early 80s I saw him through the constitutional lens and saw a man who didn’t want a Canadian consensus at all but was “my way or the highway”.
What I did see, I must grudgingly admit, was a man who saw clearly that if he could win in Quebec and Ontario, the rest of Canada could like it or lump it.
In my 30+ years in politics and broadcasting I learned that all federal governments, at best, were indifferent to the needs and ambitions of my province, which they simply lumped into one region which they called “the West”. And, yes, if I must make a confession one more time, I consider myself a British Columbian before a Canadian and that if I had been in the Legislature in 1871 I would have voted no on joining Canada, with which we had no physical connection and never to this day a full political one.
OK, folks, that gets me to today and a budding charismatic politician, Justin Trudeau. I support him but not out of some yearning for a clone of his old man – God knows we don’t need that! I support him because he has a background in BC, having lived here and taught here as well as spending vacation time here. His mother, Margaret, is a native British Columbian. Whether or not the death of his brother here is in the equation, I can’t say.
Here, however, is my basic point.
British Columbia is under merciless and massive corporate/political attack which, if not stopped, will change this province much for the worse. To now think that a prime minister Justin Trudeau will change that may be wishful thinking but we’re really like the man falling from a great height, flapping his arms in a move he knows won’t help him but it sure as hell isn’t going to make matters worse.
Justin Trudeau has condemned the Enbridge pipeline in clear terms, putting a clear issue into the mix. He couldn’t have done this as a throwaway line – at least I don’t think he could have – which means the two opposition parties come together on this issue. Admittedly Tom Mulcair has not been quite as forthcoming as I would like but Trudeau understands that in the new Canadian political game BC will be important. Prime Minister Harper has made the game into a clear division – into “me or them” – and while both opposition party leaders will want to stake out their own positions, it won’t be by supporting any major Harper policy.
It is, I confess, a thin reed indeed, but with all the delays that we can create, it just might be that Trudeau represents a chance to save our lovely province in its struggle to save ourselves from the destruction of what we hold so dear – our heritage, and, dare I say it, our very soul?