The difference was in knowing Thumper.

If you thought of Thumper back in his political days, they were not always warm and fuzzy thoughts. Thumper was better known at that time as Donald S. Macdonald, M.P. for Toronto Rosedale. He always had an itch back then to be the replacement for Pierre Trudeau and those of us on the left of the Liberal Party said, “Over our dead bodies.”

Don had reached his level of incompetence back then as Prime Minister Trudeau’s Minister of Finance. He was hardly a mover and shaker in the role but was a sop to the Toronto elite who never trusted Trudeau. And here Trudeau thought Thumper would be a safe choice to chair the Royal Commission on the Economic Union and Development Prospects for Canada. The commission report, Macdonald signed in late 1985 was a denial of everything that Mr. Trudeau stood for.

There was a definite wind shift during the commission’s study in 1984 when Mr. Trudeau announced that he was leaving office for good this time. This writer had prepared an elaborate brief to the commission but Thumper refused to even listen and it was delivered to lesser commission members. We knew he was under pressure on recommending free trade with the United States and we gave him some helpful arguments against it. He ignored them.

The evidence is there for all to see today that Canada had no way of getting a fair deal with the United States. We will always be the junior partner in American eyes. We needed to build our free trade efforts in Europe and the Orient until we had the volumes of trade to force a fair deal with the Americans. When we let the Americans set the stage, we were guaranteed to be the losers.

Academics today recognize that the Macdonald Commission was responsible in part for the neo-liberalism that replaced Keynesianism in Canada in the late 80s and 90s. In a country that had previously used government to address societal needs, the governments of Mulroney, Chrétien, Martin and Harper used the neo-liberal stance of limited concern for the individual in society, non-interference in business and smaller government.

Canadian writers rarely get into discussions of neo-liberalism because it quickly becomes an academic argument and is of little interest to the average voter. And it is confusing because it has nothing to do with liberalism. Neo-liberalism is the antithesis of how liberalism developed in Canada. It will be far more fun in 2015 discussing the ebb and flow of electoral attitudes leading up to the promised October election. We will leave the labelling of trends to the political science grumps.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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