Pierre Elliott Trudeau asked Desmarais in 1976 to make life at the PQ impossible

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A once secret document from the US State Department suggests that former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau in 1976 asked one of Quebec's greatest business leaders to "make things as difficult as possible" for the government newly elected Parti Québécois and discreetly transfer jobs out of the province.

A text byElizabeth thompsonIn addition to this, you need to know more about it. (New window)In addition to this, you need to know more about it., from CBC

In a telegram dated December 22 of that year, just over a month after the PQ took power, US Ambassador Thomas Enders informed Washington that Prime Minister Trudeau was considering taking an approach. more aggressive with the Lévesque government.

<q data-attributes = "{" lang ": {" value ":" fr "," label ":" Français "}," value ": {" html ":" Despite what cabinet ministers say, Mr. .Trudeau could send punitive signals to the Quebec economy "," text ":" Despite what cabinet ministers say, Mr. Trudeau could send punitive signals to the Quebec economy "}}" lang = "fr”>Despite what cabinet ministers say, Trudeau could send punitive signals to the Quebec economy, he wrote in a telegram classified secret.

<q data-attributes = "{" lang ": {" value ":" fr "," label ":" Français "}," value ": {" html ":" The president of Power Corporation Paul Desmarais, who is the main ally of Mr.Trudeau in business and the most important businessman from French Canada, tells me that Mr.Trudeau suggests "making things as difficult as possible" for Quebec, writes the ambassador. Mr.Desmarais, whose companies employ 48000 people in Quebec, think that Mr.Trudeau wants him to leave his company's organizational structures in the province intact, while moving as many operations and investments as possible to the rest of Canada. The idea would be to reduce the provincial unemployment rate from 10% to 15% or even 20% next year. "," text ":" Power Corporation president Paul Desmarais, who is Trudeau's main ally in the business world and the most important businessman in French Canada, tells me that Mr Trudeau suggests "making things as difficult as possible " for Quebec, writes the ambassador. Desmarais, whose companies employ 48,000 people in Quebec, thinks Trudeau wants him to leave his company's organizational structures in the province intact, while transferring as many operations and investments to the rest of Canada. as possible. The idea would be to lower the provincial unemployment rate from 10% to 15% or even 20% next year. "}}" Lang = "en”>Power Corporation President Paul Desmarais, who is Mr. Trudeau's main business ally and most important businessman of French Canada, tells me that Mr. Trudeau suggests "making things as difficult as possible" for Quebec, writes the ambassador. Mr. Desmarais, whose companies employ 48,000 people in Quebec, thinks Mr. Trudeau wants him to leave his company's organizational structures in the province intact, while transferring as many operations and employees to the rest of Canada. investments as possible. The idea would be to lower the provincial unemployment rate from 10% to 15% or even 20% next year.

But according to this telegram, Mr. Desmarais was not the only businessman who spoke with Thomas Enders.

<q data-attributes = "{" lang ": {" value ":" fr "," label ":" Français "}," value ": {" html ":" Canadian Pacific President Ian Sinclair, who is the most influential businessman in the country and who also contacted Mr.Trudeau for advice, tells me that he was not instructed to withdraw (from Quebec), but that he also received no encouragement to stay there "," text ":" Canadian Pacific President Ian Sinclair, who is the country's most influential businessman and who has also reached out to Trudeau for advice, tells me he has not been instructed to step down ( of Quebec), but that he did not receive any encouragement to stay there either. "}}" lang = "fr”>Canadian Pacific President Ian Sinclair, who is the country's most influential businessman and who has also reached out to Trudeau for advice, tells me he has not been instructed to step down ( of Quebec), but that he also received no encouragement to stay there, he continues.

Forcing the PQ to commit to economic issues

A month earlier, on November 18, 1976, Thomas Enders had sent a telegram to the State Department describing a 40-minute conversation he had had with Prime Minister Trudeau about post-election tactics. Mr. Trudeau had told him in particular that the debates – rather than focusing on Ottawa, which would have the effect of unifying the PQ – should rather focus on economic issues, which could divide the party.

If ever the government of Quebec is forced to make decisions on the ownership of industry and resources, social benefits, rights of employees and employers, it will be subject to serious internal tensions., the ambassador wrote to the State Department.

<q data-attributes = "{" lang ": {" value ":" fr "," label ":" Français "}," value ": {" html ":" M.Trudeau noted that these tensions would be amplified by the need to come to an agreement with foreign investors, he continues. He agreed that investors should not take any hasty steps to pull out or invest in Quebec, but rather adopt a wait-and-see attitude to make it clear to the new government that they want reassurance about their future in the province. . "," text ":" Mr. Trudeau pointed out that these tensions would be amplified by the need to come to an agreement with foreign investors, "he continues. He agreed that investors should not take any hasty steps to pull out or invest in Quebec, but rather adopt a wait-and-see attitude to make it clear to the new government that they want reassurance about their future in the province. . "}}" lang = "en”>Mr. Trudeau noted that these tensions would be amplified by the need to come to an agreement with foreign investors, he continues. He agreed that investors should not take any hasty steps to pull out or invest in Quebec, but rather adopt a wait-and-see attitude to make it clear to the new government that they want reassurance about their future in the province. .

Mr. Enders at a press conference.

Former US Ambassador to Canada Thomas Enders (1977)

Photo: Radio-Canada

The telegrams are part of several documents recently republished by the Office of the Historian of the United States Department of State as part of its “United States External Relations” series.

These documents were quietly declassified several years ago.

A career diplomat, Thomas Enders was Ambassador to Canada from 1976 to 1979. He died in 1996. Pierre Elliott Trudeau died in 2000 and Paul Desmarais died in 2013.

It is major, said Lisée

Journalist and author Jean-François Lisée, who led the PQ from 2016 to 2018, obtained thousands of US government documents on Quebec's sovereignist movement for his award-winning book in 1990 In the eye of the eagle. He describes the telegram from Thomas Enders as a bomb.

It's major, we never knew any of thisMr Lisée said, adding that the telegrams were consistent with other documents he obtained for his book.

We don't know how far it went and how effective it was, but this temptation to sabotage part of the Quebec economy seems to have been part of the strategy from the start., he added.

<q data-attributes = "{" lang ": {" value ":" fr "," label ":" Français "}," value ": {" html ":" This is not only the first proof, c is also the first direct testimony of a major player, Mr.Desmarais, to an irreproachable source, Mr.Enders, wanting this to have been at stake. "," Text ":" This is not only the first proof, it is also the first direct testimony of a major player, Mr Desmarais, to an irreproachable source, Mr .Enders, wanting that to have been in play. "}}" Lang = "en”>This is not only the first evidence, it is also the first direct testimony from a major player, Mr. Desmarais, to an irreproachable source, Mr. Enders, that this was at stake.

According to Lisée, the documents show that Pierre Elliott Trudeau was ready to go beyond the usual limits of democratic debate to counter the sovereignist movement, as when the RCMP spied on the Parti Quebecois.

A misunderstanding, believes Marc Lalonde

Marc Lalonde leafing through documents.

Marc Lalonde was a key member of Trudeau's cabinet when the Parti Québécois came to power in November 1976.

Photo: The Canadian Press / Fred Chartrand

That said, Marc Lalonde, who was a key member of Trudeau's cabinet at the time, questions Thomas Enders' account of his conversation with Paul Desmarais, saying the account differs from what cabinet members were telling chiefs. after the election of the PQ in 1976.

<q data-attributes = "{" lang ": {" value ":" fr "," label ":" Français "}," value ": {" html ":" The statement about Mr. Desmarais, I don't think it represents what he understood at the time. If he understood what the ambassador reported, then there was a misunderstanding in the transmission of the information, because I spoke to Mr.Desmarais myself on several occasions during this period. "," Text ":" The statement about Mr. Desmarais, I don't think it represents what he understood at the time. If he understood what the ambassador is reporting, then there was a misunderstanding in the transmission of the information, as I spoke to Mr Desmarais myself on several occasions during this period. "}}" lang = "fr”>The statement about Mr. Desmarais, I don't think it represents what he understood at the time. If he understood what the ambassador is reporting, then there was a misunderstanding in the transmission of the information, because I spoke to Mr. Desmarais myself on several occasions during this period.

There was great concern in the Quebec business community, which was afraid to invest, he explained, adding that the federal government had also told companies that it would understand if they chose to make new investments outside Quebec.

Our goal was not to encourage divestment.

Marc Lalonde, former cabinet minister Trudeau

Mr. Lalonde declared that Quebec went through a difficult economic period after the crisis of October 1970. He declared that the Trudeau government did not want another economic crisis and that it had to spend large sums again. money to support the province's economy.

Power Corporation defends itself

Stéphane Lemay, vice president of Power Corporation, said he could not comment on the document and the reference to Mr. Desmarais given that it was aboutan alleged conversation between two people who have since died.

However, Mr. Lemay said Paul Desmarais did not cut jobs in Quebec during this period.

<q data-attributes = "{" lang ": {" value ":" fr "," label ":" Français "}," value ": {" html ":" The actions of Mr.Desmarais and the Power group of companies, during all the years concerned, do not support at all the theory which is advanced in the document "," text ":" The actions of Mr Desmarais and the Power group of companies, during all the years concerned, do not support at all the theory which is advanced in the document "}}" lang = "fr”>The actions of Mr. Desmarais and the Power group of companies, during all the years concerned, do not at all support the theory that is advanced in the document., he wrote in an email response to CBC News. <q data-attributes = "{" lang ": {" value ":" fr "," label ":" Français "}," value ": {" html ":" The company, continued Mr.Lemay, did not move jobs, operations or facilities outside of Quebec during this period. "," Text ":" The company, continued Mr. Lemay, did not move jobs , operations or installations outside Quebec during this period. "}}" lang = "fr”>The company, continued Mr. Lemay, did not move jobs, operations or facilities outside of Quebec during this period.

<q data-attributes = "{" lang ": {" value ":" fr "," label ":" Français "}," value ": {" html ":" In fact, following the election from the Parti Québécois in 1976, Mr.Desmarais encouraged business leaders to maintain their activities in Montreal and in the province of Quebec. "," Text ":" In fact, following the election of the Parti Quebecois in 1976, Mr. Desmarais encouraged business leaders company to maintain their activities in Montreal and in the province of Quebec. "}}" lang = "fr”>In fact, following the election of the Parti Québécois in 1976, Mr. Desmarais encouraged business leaders to maintain their activities in Montreal and in the province of Quebec.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's office declined to comment.

Trudeau and Enders "got along well"

Graham Fraser, Principal Investigator at the University of Ottawa and author of the essay PQ: René Lévesque and the Parti Québécois in Power, said the telegram linked to Paul Desmarais was news to him, but that it was also a time when the Trudeau government was taken by surprise by the election of a sovereignist government in Quebec and wondered how to react.

I think it's a given that at that time all kinds of ideas like these were circulating.

Graham Fraser, author of the essay PQ: René Lévesque and the Parti Québécois in Power

Mr. Fraser was also struck by one of the other recently released documents – a memorandum of conversation between MM. Trudeau and Enders at their first meeting in March 1976, which was also classified at the time. For him, it is clear that the two men got along well.

It is a conversation in which they covered a whole range of Canada-U.S. Issues in which they were quite undiplomatic in a way, going well beyond their respective mandates to speak in quite theoretical and hypothetical ways. what governments could or should do.

The memorandum portrays a warm relationship between MM. Trudeau and Enders. After discussing these ideas, they agreed to continue talking to each other and conceptualize together – although Mr. Trudeau asked his interlocutor not to share the fruit of their conversations with his ministers.

For heaven's sake, don't tell them we're conceptualizing together, the Prime Minister reportedly told the Ambassador.

The next day, Thomas Enders sent a telegram describing his impression of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, writes the Historian's Office.

<q data-attributes = "{" lang ": {" value ":" fr "," label ":" Français "}," value ": {" html ":" M.Trudeau was as advertised: elegant, annoying, fragile, unable to resist intellectualization, preoccupied with Galbraithian thoughts that few people in Canada share with him. He was also very friendly. "," Text ":" Monsieur Trudeau was as advertised: elegant, annoying, fragile, unable to resist intellectualization, preoccupied with Galbraithian thoughts that few in Canada share with him. He was also very friendly. "}}" Lang = "en”>Mr. Trudeau was as advertised: elegant, annoying, fragile, unable to resist intellectualization, preoccupied with Galbraithian thoughts that few in Canada share with him. He was also very friendly.


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