Jim Coutts, who was Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s Principal Secretary for six years, died last week at the age of 75.
The University of Lethbridge, to which Jim Coutts was attached, has published a fine appreciation of his life.
Jim Coutts did everything right. He worked at the very highest levels of Canadian government and business. He went to Harvard, got an MBA, and a law degree, served both Prime Ministers Pearson and Trudeau, created the Canada Consulting Group, which was a group of very high flyers in the consulting world, and did big things in his time. He helped Maurice Strong arrange the Stockholm Environmental Conference in 1972, which moved the environment to the centre of governmental concerns.
Why then do I look upon him with such distaste and suspicion? The obvious answer is that I think they took Canada down the path of excessive state spending from which we did not fully recover until Chretien’s belt tightening in the early 2000s, and judicialization of politics from which we may never recover (see the Charter of Rights and Freedoms).
It is easy to be compassionate with other people’s money. It is easy to be generous when other people are paying, and it is easy to consider yourself enlightened when you live in the closed, privileged world of Canada’s upper (Liberal) class. Any person whose first love was the Liberal Party of Canada needs his soul examined. I am sure that is what is going on right now.