Versailles: whose economic theory is taking the summit?

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, whose government is under increasing attack for its handling of the Canadian economy, may have more at stake at this weekend's economic summit in Versailles than any of the other six heads of industrial nations.

The conference offers a breathing space for Mr. Trudeau, allowing him to put off a while longer, a series of urgent and thorny economic policy choices confronting his administration.

On June 1, the day before Mr. Trudeau flew off to France, the Canadian dollar tumbled to an all-time low on exchange markets. After many months in the 82-cent range, the currency fell to 80.06 cents in relation to the American dollar, eclipsing the previous record low set during the depression in 1931.

This development, coupled with record-high unemployment, persistant double-digit inflation, rising bankruptcies, and high interest rates, has released a tide of resentment against the current administration.

Joe Clark, former prime minister and leader of the Conservative Party, has repeatedly been challenging Mr. Trudeau to call an early election and ''let the people of cc14p6Canada judge this government's economic policies.''

Recently, the Liberal government has been embarrassed by a series of political gaffes and controversies. And setbacks to major energy and economic policies have damaged the credibility of some of Mr. Trudeau's most powerful and skilled aides.

Finance Minister Allan MacEachen has been forced into the humiliating position of issuing numerous amendments to the policy measures and economic forecasts contained in his most recent budget message.

This week Mr. MacEachen has been ridiculed by his political opponents and editorial cartoonists for claiming the Canadian currency is ''rather strong'' despite its slide on exchange markets.

Commenting on Mr. MacEachen's policies, the Globe and Mail, the influential Toronto daily, wrote, ''Canadians have a government of people who do not know or won't say what they are doing. It is a dangerous condition to be in.''

And for the first time, the government quietly admitted in the briefing papers given Versailles-bound reporters that the country would show negative economic growth in 1982 for the first time since 1954.

Mr. Trudeau has promised to lobby President Reagan for lower interest rates, which would allow Canada to follow suit. But if Mr. Reagan cannot be persuaded, Mr. Trudeau will be forced to conduct a major reassessment of his economic policies when he returns to this increasingly disillusioned country.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.