Pierre Trudeau meets Pollution Probe

Globe and Mail, 5 March 1970.

Globe and Mail, 5 March 1970.

When Toronto’s Pollution Probe emerged in 1969 it had a knack for gaining support from the general public. It also had a unique ability to make friends with those in positions of power. On the one hand, this meant it was able to forge ties with members of the Toronto business community. On the other, it was able to gain favour with key political figures. While Pollution Probe was able to establish a meaningful relationship with Premier Bill Davis of Ontario, it had less success with the Prime Minister of Canada.

In August 2008 I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Ralph Brinkhurst, who was one of Pollution Probe’s early faculty supporters at the University of Toronto. When the subject turned to Pierre Trudeau , Dr. Brinkhurst had the following to say:

We didn't get along with Trudeau …. He got away with being sort of arrogant and smart-assed at times. One perfect example: he looked at the same young man [Tony Barrett] we'd been talking about, and he was wearing one of Pollution Probe's 'Do It' buttons …. And there was this Trudeau, looked very archedly at this young man, and sort of cocked an eyebrow and said, 'Oh, what does that mean?' with obvious innuendo. And the guy instantly reported 'It means think clean, sir.' [laughs] We were dealing with some smart kids …. It really took him aback.

I later came across this picture in the 5 March 1970 edition of the Globe and Mail. In it Trudeau is being handed one of Pollution Probe’s ‘Do It’ buttons by James Karfilis, a city lawyer who did some early work with the group. Whether this occurred on the same night as the aforementioned anecdote is unclear.