Thursday, August 04, 2005

Book Club Time

I just finished off Pierre, the latest in the never-ending stream of books on Pierre Elliot Trudeau. Even if you’ve read every single piece of literature on Trudeau ever put out, it’s still worth the read because it explores the Northern Magnus from a different angle than anyone else. Instead of stories on the War Measures Act and the Constitution, it focuses instead on the personal. Editor Nancy Southam has collected a wide range of anecdotes from people who knew Pierre. Included are, of course, big name politicians: Jean Chretien, Peter Lougheed, Joe Clark, Jimmy Carter, and Marc Lalonde, to name a few. But there are also stories from Gordon Pinsent, Barbara Streisand, Margot Kidder, and Conrad Black. Because of this, the reader sees many different aspects on Trudeau’s life.

The vintage Trudeau one-liners can be seen in most stories. When asked by a heckler “where is the Just Society you promised”, Trudeau snarls “Ask Jesus Christ. He promised it first.” When asked to name his favourite author during the leadership race he replied “Machievelli”. Jimmy Carter added a delightful story of a time when he informed Trudeau that a Soviet satellite would fall to earth near Great Slave Lake: “he thanked me for calling him, said he would be sure to stay in Montreal, and would check to ensure that none of his Cabinet Members were fishing in the area. There was one whom he said he wouldn’t warn but he didn’t name him.”

But the best part of the book is that it really humanizes a larger than life figure. When talking about politicians, we seem to forget they’re human (well, except for Dick Cheney, who most certainly is part-cyborg). So when old girlfriends talk about their time with Pierre, and his friends talk about canoe trips with a 75 year old former Prime Minister, the reader sees a much more human side. I know I’m a Trudeau fan, but I think even NEP hating Albertans would enjoy these. Heck, I’d read a similar book on Brian Mulroney.

Since this blog isn’t “Calgary Book Club”, I’m going to add two little tid-bits from the book that may serve as advice for the two big men in Ottawa right now. First, for Stephen Harper. The stories of Trudeau and his boys were by far the most humanizing of the bunch. I’m convinced that even those who can’t stand the former PM would think more highly of him after reading about birthday parties on Parliament Hill and sandcastle building contests. I hate to say “use your kids as props” but…use your kids as props. It can be on your terms and infrequent; I’m not calling for a paparazzi invasion, but it wouldn’t hurt to show Canadians that you’re actually an average soccer dad. Quit trying to be a cowboy and just be yourself.

As for Mr. Martin, there’s a great anecdote about the ’72 campaign. Many Toronto area Liberals felt Trudeau didn’t respect Pearson enough. So Trudeau agreed to throw an impromptu birthday party for Mike in Maple Leaf Gardens during the ’72 campaign. The event was hugely successful and it brought the Pearson Liberals back onside with the current leader. I won’t write out the lesson to be learned from this because I think it’s abundantly obvious.

In summary, Pierre is definitely worth the read. I should offer this one warning: Given the leaders currently on the national stage, it might cause intense bouts of depression.


  • Fair comment about the book, but it's "Magus," as in "wise man," not "Magnus." We're not talking about a Swedish bodybuilder here....

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:35 p.m.  

  • Does it mention the similarities between Trudeau and Bush?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:11 a.m.  

  • "Does it mention the similarities between Trudeau and Bush?"

    I would love to hear what similarities exist between these two men.

    Thanks for the heads up on this book. Im now 151 out of 151 on the Toronto Public Library waiting list for it.

    By Blogger kelly, at 9:13 a.m.  

  • Interesting. Just a note on your suggestions, I think the sponsorship stuff makes it difficult to really make friends with Chretien's people. A more useful gesture would be to get people like Donolo, Mercer and Kinsella back on side.

    By Blogger Jason Cherniak, at 9:46 a.m.  

  • Boring, lets talk about something really important Calgary Grit, and that is how the Calgary Flames are going to absolutely annhilate the crappy Montreal Canadians this year in the one game they play them, cause we both know the Habs do not have a snowballs chance in you know what of making the Stanley Cup finals, where the Flames will assume their rightful place as Stanley Cup Champions

    By Blogger more anonymous than anonymous, at 1:30 p.m.  

  • Flames - 0, Habs - 0, Hockey - 0.
    Yawn!! Gonna read the book, though.

    By Blogger Cal, at 7:49 a.m.  

  • Trudeau and Bush:

    Unilateralist action against terrorism. (FLQ v. 911)

    Trudeau would be with Bush on this war against terrorism, as Blair is.

    They are both deep thinkers with a core set of values that drive them.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:16 a.m.  

  • Oh, and HABS 5 - Flames 0.

    HABS will win the cup this year.

    You heard it here first on CalgaryGrit.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:17 a.m.  

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