Ottawa — A realtor in western Canada has drawn national attention by inventing a sardonic way for Canadians to vent their frustrations with Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's long stay in office.
John Trueman, a real estate agent in Edmonton, the capital of Alberta, recently launched a campaign to raise $5 million, payable to Mr. Trudeau in exchange for his resignation.
News of the joke swept quickly through a country where deep economic recession has brought widespread charges that Trudeau has mishandled Canada's business affairs.
With the exception of a brief stint out of office in 1979, Trudeau has been prime minister since 1968, and many people are saying both publicly and privately that he should quit.
Real estate agent Trueman has been asking 500,000 Canadians to contribute $10 apiece in checks payable to Trudeau. The fund is called TERF, which stands for Trudeau Early Retirement Fund. Contributions are piling up on his desk all the time, Trueman says.
Urged by reporters to comment on the fund, Trudeau at first scoffed at the idea: ''I mean really, Barnum did say there is a sucker born every minute, but who of you would send $10 of your hard-earned money to a fund like that?''
Later, the prime minister went along with the joke, saying he wanted to know ''if there is a serious deal here.'' He said reporters should ask Trueman if he's ''taking any commission, or any expense account or, if there's half a million people, will I get every bit of the 10 bucks that they all put in?''
Trudeau has promised to step down before the next national election. But, with his Liberal Party holding a comfortable majority of seats in Parliament, that may not happen for another two years or so.
Trueman's tongue-in-cheek crusade and another spate of petitions for Trudeau to quit seem like summer escape valves. But they also mask a deep and growing disaffection with Liberal leadership, particularly in the far west, where Trudeau was unable to carry even one Liberal candidate into office with him in the 1980 election.
Particularly in conservative rural areas, Trudeau's interventionist policies are seen in the harshest possible light. Trueman, for instance, commenting on the TERF campaign, said, ''If he takes the money, we will rid the country of socialism.''
Wayne Mullins, also of Edmonton, took the trouble recently to write to an Ottawa columnist, asking, ''When Pierre retires will he move permanently to Moscow?''
While many Canadians would consider such comments extremist ranting, there is little doubt Canada's deteriorating economy has badly hurt the Liberals' standing.
A recently released Gallup poll found that Trudeau was the least popular of the three major national political leaders. Of 1,048 adults surveyed in June, only 28 percent said they approved of the job Trudeau is doing as prime minister , compared to 38 percent in July 1981. Joe Clark, former prime minister and opposition leader, won 40 percent, up from 32 percent in July 1981.