Feb. 27, 2021

Secret State Department Document About Pierre Trudeau is likely true — Demarais was sent to lobdy me

You may have noticed a CBC story by Elizabeth Thomson highlighting a recent release of previously secret documents by the U.S. State Department. They detail comments made by former U.S. Ambassador Thomas Enders to his bosses in Washington on the situation in Canada just after the Quebec election where the separatists gained control in 1976. 

Enders recounts a conversation he had with the late Paul Desmarais, a powerful business magnate in Quebec and in Canada and friend of Trudeau. Enders indicates to his superiors in that memo that Desmarais told him Trudeau wanted the Desmarais business interests to be curtailed in Quebec in an effort to show the new Quebec Government that with this separatist victory business would not be business as usual. 

Of course, CBC goes to the most likely person to disagree with this story, Trudeau Sr.’s good buddy Marc LaLonde who held many Cabinet Posts in Trudeau administrations. LaLonde dismisses the information saying it was a misunderstanding by Enders. A rather lame excuse, I submit. Enders would not send such information to his bosses in Washington if he was not sure of the content. Ambassadors have to be sure of their information. 

The article also goes to another source for reaction, Graham Fraser, a senior fellow at the University of Ottawa. Fraser thinks that there was a lot going on at the time and that was just one of many ideas floating around. Of course, Fraser or LaLonde were not privy to the Enders/ Demarais meeting. They are just speculating and naturally defend Trudeau. 

The article also talks to present business people who are a part the Demarais business empire, insisting that none of the Demarais’ businesses moved from Quebec at the time. 

That’s hardly the point – Trudeau Sr was obviously actively seeking ways to delegitimize a duly elected Government in Quebec. 

Well, Trudeau was using Desmarais in many ways because he was sent secretly to pressure me in the early 1980s. 

Desmarais called me saying he was on his way to Paris but that he intended to ‘drop’ down in St. John’s (Newfoundland) shortly (a few hours) and wished to see me. He arrived late at night. I sent a car and driver to Torbay airport to pick him up. 

He informed me that the Prime Minister was very concerned about my positions on a number of matters, the offshore, and the fishery, in particular. The PM wanted me to know that these positions were damaging and that he wanted me to refrain from these positions. That the PM was very serious. 

I felt affronted and told Demarais that my positions were well thought out and contained in public documents that the PM had seen and with which his ministers were fully conversant. That I had no intention of changing my positions in any significant way but, of course, was willing to further discuss and negotiate. Newfoundland wanted its new-found offshore oil treated as if it was on land and that the Province wanted more say over the fishery. I asked that this be communicated to the PM.

The meeting ended, Desmarais Flew on to Paris for meetings, he said, with the French President. 

I recite this now as a result of the Enders story, so that it’s on the record, and to indicate that Trudeau Sr used Demarais in many ways, my encounter being another example. 

Of course, the Province never did get a deal on the offshore with the Trudeau Government but did succeed with the subsequent Mulroney Government, enshrining the principle of treating the resource as if it was on land. Unfortunately, changes to Fishery management remain outstanding these many decades later.