That onetime master of Canadian charisma, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, had a trick up his modishly-cuffed sleeve. It was his stunning wife Margaret, 25, and she has surprised the country by joining her husband in the election campaign that will decide the fate of his Liberal party later this month.
Canadian political wives have often shunned campaign hoopla, and the Trudeaus especially have insisted on privacy in their three years of marriage. Trudeau once said the thought of his wife campaigning was “repugnant.”
For the shy Margaret, it is exhausting and difficult. Her own distaste for politics goes back to her childhood, when she stumped with her father—former Liberal fisheries minister James Sinclair. But her genuine interest in political thought, together with a determination to help her husband’s sagging political popularity, led to the decision to hit the Queen’s highways.
Margaret’s appearances were at first infrequent—starting with an eastern Canada rail tour in late May at which she gave her first short speech from the back platform. But as the campaign gathered steam so did she. In Vancouver she delighted an audience by gushily introducing her husband as “very loving…. He has taught me a lot, not just loving each other—that’s pretty nice—but a love for humanity.” Trudeau sat blushing, staring at his toes. But a moment later, he was astute enough to capitalize on the moment with a kiss for his wife.
Campaigning has posed an added complication for Margaret: until two weeks ago she was breast-feeding their youngest son Sacha, six months old, who of course had to travel everywhere with her. Later Sacha stayed with his brother Justin, 2½, at the home of their maternal grandparents in Vancouver. When someone asked Margaret if she missed the kids she said, “Don’t ask, I’ll start to cry.”
Trudeau’s friends say Margaret’s presence has softened his sometimes abrasive, even arrogant style of campaigning, while his opponents condemn his use of her as a “Madison Avenue election tool.” Yet her crowds have been sizable and her receptions warm. During Margaret’s swing through Edmonton, Alberta, hardly Trudeau country, one grizzled old-timer summed up his reaction: “Well, I don’t hold with his politics, but he sure has damn good taste in women.”