#TrudeaumaniaMy earliest memory of Pierre Elliott Trudeau goes back to 1967, the year before he became prime minister.

I was ten years old that year, and Canada was celebrating its first 100 years as a country. We were a young country, everyone said, although it didn’t feel that way to me. We celebrated Canada’s centenary and being 20 million with songs and parties and a nascent sense of nationalism. Change was in the air. The Beatles were on the radio and my mother sat glued to our black-and-white TV, just as she did whenever anything big happened in those years: when President Kennedy was shot, when the first man walked on the moon, or when the race riots exploded south of the border.

Trudeau came on the scene as Canada was grappling with issues of identity: who were we, anyway? Were we English, were we French, were we British or American? Perhaps we were a bit of all those things, but somehow when Trudeau became our prime minister, we figured it out. We were the truth north, strong and free! We had our own flag and we learned how to wave it.

And we had a young, attractive PM representing us abroad. He was a bilingual French Canadian, and an intellectual. He was born in Montreal but he had all the glamour of the French. He was also a bachelor, and a bit of a ladies’ man. The women, including my mother, all swooned. Trudeaumania was born. My father scoffed, until someone told him he looked like Trudeau.

Trudeau reportedly had affairs with many famous women, including a personal idol of mine, Barbra Streisand. Then he married a woman thirty years his junior, a flower child called Margaret. Canada was shocked, Canada was thrilled. The couple produced three children while Pierre was in office. Sadly, the marriage did not last and Margaret went off the rails before remarrying and disappearing from public view. She was famously photographed dancing in Studio 54 when the Liberal party lost in 1979.

In his years in office, Trudeau stitched together the fabric of our bilingual and multicultural identity. He managed to calm the Québec sovereignty movement, although he did not make friends there, and made us proud with his stand on international issues.

Like most of my fellow countrymen, I am happy to see the last of Harper. He was boring, polite and oh-so Canadian. I could never remember his name. Outside of Canada, there was no reason to know it.

We Canadians are not the proud, flag-waving types; ours is not a celebrity culture like our American cousins to the south. To some extent, Pierre Trudeau changed that. Now, Justin is set to continue what his father started.

So forgive me for waving the flag for a moment: Long live Trudeaumania!

What are your memories of the Trudeau years? Any thoughts on Canada’s new PM?


  1. Dana · October 22, 2015

    What an exciting time for Canada! Your new PM seems like he is going to do great things, I hope the US will head in a similar direction!

    • MELewis · October 22, 2015

      I sincerely hope so too, Dana! Our two great countries are so close and yet so far in many ways…maybe a new era for both?

  2. Colin Bisset · October 22, 2015

    Just hooray…!

    • MELewis · October 22, 2015

      How nice it is to hear that echoing around the world. Cheers, Colin!

  3. Osyth · October 22, 2015

    Oh gosh how I remember Pierre – my mother had a mighty crush along with all her friends – there used to be a hushed pause whenever he appeared on the TV and she would take herself off to a quiet corner to read news of him. I remember much more about Canada then than I have notion of now. I was thrilled to see that Justin now has his chance. I look forward to seeing a zinging Canada rather than the grey and dull portrayal (in leadership terms) of recent years. All hail Trudeauism (and can we have one here please?)

    • MELewis · October 22, 2015

      Yes, we’ve been far too quiet for too long…hopefully that’s about to change. Glad it brought back maternal memories!

      • Osyth · October 22, 2015

        I shall pull her leg about it when I speak to her at the weekend 😉

  4. cheergerm · October 22, 2015

    Whilst I cannot comment on the new Canadian Prime Minister, I can state how close I feel culturally to Canadians who have an understated, less flag waving, less nationalistic vibe that is similar to us Australians and New Zealanders. Also, at a time of political unrest and embarrassing indecision here, I also get that you feel an excitement at a new leader who may bring about positive change.

    • MELewis · October 22, 2015

      I think change is always good – unless for the sake of change. And after more than one term of any political leader, we all feel like enough is enough! I like that we feel this affinity between Canucks, Aussies and NZ’ers. Guess we have that post-colonial, outsider mindset in common, eh?

  5. coteetcampagne · October 22, 2015

    I am similar age to you and remember Trudeaumania very well.

    I also recollect thinking that Margaret was an interesting choice of wife . Having gone “off the rails” myself I am in no position to comment on that! but I heard the name on the news last night and thought about his father, wondering if this was his son they were talking about. I hope he continues the legacy

    • MELewis · October 22, 2015

      Glad to know I’m not alone in this advanced demographic 😉 As for ‘off the rails’, it was an easy turn of phrase but perhaps not the best choice – Margaret has since publicized her bipolar condition, which explains a lot. We have a long way to go with understanding and support people with mental illnesses of all kinds.

      • coteetcampagne · October 22, 2015

        You aren’t alone. actually I am EVEN OLDER being born in ’55!

  6. Suzanne et Pierre · October 22, 2015

    It was certainly an interesting night on Monday and we were glued to our TV crossing fingers that we would see the back of Harper but certainly didn’t expect a majority government for Trudeau. However, I am really concerned that the expectations are too high for what Justin Trudeau will be able to accomplish despite his unbound energy. I will cross fingers once again that he is well supported and able to make the changes he has been elected on…

    I actually totally despise what Harper has done to Canada and how he has undone some of our very progressive fabric. I particularly despise his meanness/nastiness and his ability to divide the country on issues that weren’t really issues. He was very good at playing on people’s fear of the unknown and he certainly didn’t show the best side of Canadians. (Suzanne)

    • MELewis · October 22, 2015

      I think that politics is such that, no matter what he does, there will be a falling in-and-out-of love with Justin Trudeau. Peu importe, as they say, a change is better than a rest – and like you, I believe that many Canadians are so disillusioned by the Harper years, and what he has done to divide Canada, that even if Trudeau fails to meet expectations it will still be an improvement. Thanks for your comments, Suzanne!

  7. George Lewis · October 22, 2015

    Hate to burst your rosy colored recollection of Pierre Trudeau’s years but Trudeaumania was simply a jealous and naive response to the American love affair with Kennedy .The only similarity was the inability of both politicians to keep their peckers in their pants .
    The election of Justin Trudeau or Margaret ,as I choose to call him ,as our Liberal PM elect is a national disaster of unprecedented proportions .
    Justin may have his daddy’s name but unfortunately he has also inherited his mommy’s drug addled brain as evidenced by your reference to her Rolling Stones and Stydio 54 exposure.
    Trudeau Jr was elected through a vague and nebulous appeal for change with little or no substance.Unfortunitly a young ,naive electorate with a significant foreign element wearied by high unemployment and the world wide recession bought his bullshit.
    Some of his loony left promises:
    10 billion in deficit spending to supposedly create jobs which will only drive Canada into a deep recession as Governments cannot create real real jobs only civil service bearucratic overhead.
    Legalization of marijuana immediately ,surely Canada’s most serious problem.
    Allowing 25000 Syrian and other Muslim refugees into our country along with numerous ISIS
    Terrorists due to a lack of security checks
    Increasing income tax rates for the top 1% to over 52% in most provinces even though such ludicrous rates have been proven to be incentive killing and will collect very little extra tax because the really rich already have tax avoidance schemes and arithmeticly 1% is a small number.
    He has many other dumbass schemes which I will save for a later response. Now I would like to give you a brief summary of our glorious leaders credentials .He has distinguished himself with brief careers as a snowboard instructor a drama queen er pardon teacher.In other words he is a dilettante living off of his inheritance with absolutely no relivant experience for the new job
    God save us for we have elected a dangerous fool

  8. MELewis · October 22, 2015

    Bravo, Dad, that is quite the diatribe! Not that I would have expected any less… 😉 Only time will tell whether such policies prove to be as disastrous as you fear. Europe has survived worse, but I know what you will say about that. Canada needs a leader and Justin, even if more heart than head, is in the right place and time. I only hope he will have inherited some of his Dad’s better traits – as I have yours! 🙂

    • George Lewis · October 22, 2015

      Peggy wants to know what better traits ?

      • MELewis · October 23, 2015

        Obviously, good taste in spouses! 😉

  9. ChristinaWithCaramel · October 22, 2015

    I think your Dad and my Dad share very similar views on Trudeau! I for one, am optimistic. I do think it was time for Harper to go, and I think a lot of Canadians are breathing a collective sigh of relief. This election engaged a lot of Canadians, especially the youth, to be more politically involved, which is always a positive thing. I feel as if his energy and earnestness will serve Canada well, time will tell. It always seems to be an ongoing conveyor belt – vote the Cons in, get sick of them, vote the Liberals in, get sick of them, vote the Cons in and so on! Loved his “Sunny Ways” reference 🙂

    • MELewis · October 23, 2015

      We have the same ‘alternance’ in France: one government comes in and makes changes; the next one comes along and undoes it all. *Sigh* I agree with you about the engagement this election has brought – people feel the need for change and optimism, and it’s great to see them waking up and taking an interest. As for our dads, it sounds like they should get together and blog!

  10. Food,Photography & France · October 23, 2015

    My lasting memory of Trudeaumania, as a non Canadian, was a black of white picture of Margaret Trudeau sitting on the steps, inside some club, whilst writing a postcard or something of the like…what was clear in the picture was that she had left her knickers at home:)

    • MELewis · October 23, 2015

      What, a Canadian scooped Sharon Stone? Quel scandale! I am shocking! 😉

  11. David · October 26, 2015

    My favourite memory of Pierre was the time that a journalist asked him to comment on the release of his ex-wife Maggie’s second book. He replied, “she’s the only person I know, who has written more books than she’s read”.

    • MELewis · October 27, 2015

      Ha, ha! Did not realize he had such a fine sense of humour.:)

  12. Don Carleton · November 3, 2015

    I very much enjoy your blog and keen analysis of expat life in France, but have to take extreme issue with your characterization of Harper as “boring, polite?!” As far as I could see, there was nothing “polite” or “boring” about Harper’s mission to trash the whole notion of Canada as an admirable social democracy. One might wish that Trudeau fils had a bit stronger resume, but I am hoping that he will channel his father’s spirit and expunge all memories of the cretinous Harper years!

    • MELewis · November 3, 2015

      Perhaps I misled with my use of the words ‘polite’ and ‘boring’. I only meant to describe the dull, white-bread, impression of the man’s persona in the media. Have no argument with you about his negative effect on Canada as its image as an exemplary social democracy. Even with little experience of government and politics, I believe that Justin will do a better job and is a much more fitting leader for our nation. Thanks for your comments!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s