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Trudeau announces his retirementSkip to next paragraph
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Pierre Elliott Trudeau has bowed out as he came - cool and mysterious, sending a simple letter to the president of his party. Wednesday's resignation takes effect as soon as ''a new leader is chosen and sworn in.'' The Liberals will decide his successor as party leader, and hence prime minister, at a leadership convention probably in May or June. A federal election is likely this year.
No matter who the winner is, Canadian politics are certain to change, reports contributor Fred Langan. Mr. Trudeau was in many ways a man of the center left. His replacement as prime minister will likely be a man of the center right - including if the Progressive Conservatives win the election.
Front-runner in the race to become the new Liberal leader is John Turner. The Toronto lawyer was minister of finance in the mid-70s, but resigned over disagreements with Trudeau.
Other prospective candidates are Jean Chretien, the present minister of energy, and Donald MacDonald, another former finance minister who is now leading a Royal Commission into the Canadian economy.
Apart from a nine-month Conservative government in 1979-80 Pierre Trudeau has been in power since he was elected leader of the Liberal Party in April 1968, taking over from Lester B. Pearson. His political longevity is unmatched in the Western world. When he first became prime minister Lyndon Johnson was President of the United States, Charles de Gaulle leader of France, and Harold Wilson on his first stint as British prime minister.
His major achievements in office will be that he offered the country a bilingual vision, that French Canadians could be made to feel at home anywhere in Canada, not just in Quebec; he fostered Canadian economic nationalism; he brought the Canadian Constitution home from London and entrenched the Canadian Bill of Rights.
His biggest failure will probably be seen as his inability to deal with the economy. The Toronto stock exchange jumped more than 10 points with news of his resignation.