TORONTO – "Speak not ill of the dead," the ancient sages cautioned.
Sometimes, however, we must.
As now, when we watch the memory of Pierre Trudeau, who died last week, being cynically manipulated, grossly distorted, and cloyingly sentimentalized by his Liberal Party heirs to win votes in upcoming elections. Trudeau's sainted ghost is to be used like the corpse of the Spanish hero, El Cid, strapped onto a horse and sent into battle.
Most Canadians have been brainwashed into believing the charming, charismatic Trudeau was a great prime minister who built a strong, prosperous, humane Canada that was morally and socially superior to the United States. This fable was charmingly echoed by the increasingly leftish Toronto Globe & Mail, in one of many weepy hagiographic tributes to St. Pierre: u2018PM Jean Chretien…considers himself the main defender of Mr Trudeau's liberal vision of a just and compassionate Canada.'
Let me precisely quantify the costs of Trudeau's u2018just and compassionate Canada,' both for Canadians who wish to continue Trudeauismo, and for Americans who are being told by Democrats that socialized Canada offers a far more successful and humane culture than the USA:
- In 1968, when Trudeau went from rich, socialist professor who had never held a real job in his life to prime minister, Canada's national debt was a modest $11.3 billion; the federal deficit was zero. When Trudeau left office in 1984, the debt had mushroomed to $128 billion; the deficit to $25 billion annually. But this was just the beginning.
- Canada's Great Helmsman created a vast bureaucracy, and massive welfare programs to buy votes for his Liberal Party. He restricted trade and free markets, imposing confiscatory taxes.
Trudeau drove Canada so far left that today's opposition Canadian Alliance – a moderate centrist party by world standards – is routinely termed u2018rightwing' or u2018far right.' The state-owned Canadian Broadcasting Corp (which I call the Ministry of Truth), teachers unions, the monoculture leftist academia, and left-leaning media keep brainwashing Canadians that high taxes and big government are good for Canada and the essence of national identity. Anyone who questions rule by bureaucracy, deficit spending, unlimited immigration, or social engineering is denounced as a far-right racist.
When Trudeau entered office, Ottawa spent 30% of Canada's total economic output (the same as the USA). When he left, government spending had skyrocketed to almost 53%. With half of Canadians working directly or indirectly for Ottawa, the nation became infected with bureaucratic and union work ethics – state-sponsored laziness.
Trudeau and his successor quickly learned a basic strategy of Europe's socialist governments: if the state can employ over half of voters, they will always vote for the party of government.
Government is supposed to serve taxpayers. But under Trudeau and his Liberal Party, it became Canadians who labored to serve an increasingly disdainful, autocratic government. Canadians were gulled into believing that when Ottawa taxed them ten dollars, and gave back two, they were getting u2018benefits' and u2018social services.'
Many adored Trudeau – but I'd also be adored if I had a hundred billion of borrowed taxpayers dollars to give away.
- In 1970, the US, Switzerland, and Canada were the world's three richest nations. Canada's robust dollar traded around US $1.06 – ie 6% more than the US dollar. Today, thanks to Trudeau's socialism, and Brian Mulroney's failure to uproot it, the dollar has sunk to a pathetic, humiliating $ .66 cents.
C$100 invested in Canada in 1970 would be worth only 66 dollars today.
Little wonder foreign investment, the lifeblood of Canada's growth, dried up. Most Canadians didn't understand their assets have depreciated, in real value, by 33%. By relentlessly devaluing the dollar, Ottawa literally stole people's savings.
- After Trudeau retired, his unstoppable socialist juggernaut picked up speed. Canada's federal debt – the amount Ottawa borrowed in the past that remains unpaid – has skyrocketed to C$ 576 billion – $54,000 per taxpayer.
Almost third of your current federal taxes go to paying interest on this debt – just like on a credit card with an unpaid balance. In 1999 alone, Canadians paid $41.5 billion debt interest, four times what Ottawa spent on defense.
Add $ 2.3 trillion of unfunded pension liabilities, and the figure rises to a staggering $244,000 owed per taxpayer. Canada's u2018just' and u2018compassionate' society is built on a mountain of debt, passed on to coming generations.
- In 1970, Canda had one of the lowest debts -and lowest taxes — among industrial nations. Today, Canada ranks as one of three leading debtor nations, with socialist-run Belgium and Italy. While Ottawa's annual deficit was ended by imposing crushing taxes, the monster debt overhang remains. The US is projected to pay off its entire national debt by 2012.
At Ottawa's puny repayment rate, it will take Canada 288 more years!
- Behind the charade of peacekeeping, Trudeau destroyed Canada's once powerful armed forces, leaving the nation a helpless military eunuch, with virtually no international influence, and totally dependant on the much-reviled u2018aggressive' US for national defense.
- The crown jewel of Canadian socialism, state-run medicine, is a mess. u2018The cruel, heartless, capitalist' US spends 13.5% of national income on health; Canada spends 9.5%. Unemployment in Canada's u2018compassionate, gentler' society has run 3.5-5 points higher than in the US. Canada's smartest, most entreprenurial people are fleeing south. Canada has become an economic, intellectual and cultural backwater – bureaucratic Ottawa, writ large.
- Trudeau was ardently anti-American, even allowing Cuba's intelligence service to operate against the US from Montreal. He despised the free market, tried to transform Canada into another socialist Sweden, and fawned on marxist dictators like Mao, Nyere, and Castro.
Thirty years ago, Canada was rich, powerful and respected. Three decades of bullying Trudeau socialism undermined Canada's economy, the core of a nation's strength, and encouraged separatism in Quebec.
The immense historic economic damage inflicted by Trudeau and his successors on Canada may have fatally weakened this once robust nation to the point where joining the US becomes inevitable. This prospect, trillions in debt, and a 66 cent Canadian rupee are Trudeau's real legacy.
The great grandchildren of today's Canadians will still be paying for Pierre Trudeau's "just and compassionate society."
October 8, 2000
Eric Margolis is foreign correspondent for the Toronto Sun.