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Pierre Elliott Trudeau


Montreal city in 19th
Montreal city in 19th

Pierre Elliott Trudeau, a Québec law professor and longtime opponent of special status for Québec, entered federal politics in 1965 to promote French power in Ottawa. He argued that a bilingual, bicultural Canada could provide full scope for the aspirations of French Canadians without the need of new provincial powers. Trudeau succeeded Lester Pearson as leader of the Liberals in 1968 and led his party to electoral triumph soon after; he held the prime minister’s post almost continuously from 1968 to 1984 and received massive support from Québec voters even when they elected nationalists to govern the province.

Trudeau promoted French Canadians within the federal civil service and increased the spending of federal money in Québec. In 1969 his government passed the Official Languages Act, which made Canada officially bilingual. The act required federal agencies to offer bilingual services coast to coast. Some English-speaking Canadians resented this assertion of French culture as much as they did Québec’s political demands for greater provincial power. See also Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism.

Trudeau came to power intending to modernize government and reform the constitution, but he soon found his agenda hijacked by economic troubles. Both inflation and unemployment rose, and expensive social and economic programs had led to large and continuing budget deficits despite high taxes. Canada’s economic problems were compounded when the price of oil increased dramatically during the oil crisis of 1973. The crisis was provoked when the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which included many of the major oil-producing nations of the world, cut back on production. In an effort to shield Canadians from high oil prices, Ottawa tried to control sales of oil. The province of Alberta, a large oil producer, resented these efforts. Westerners also resented federal investment in depressed regions, particularly Atlantic Canada and Québec. "Canada" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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