Volume 92, Issue 43

Thursday November 19, 1998

billionaire boys' club


Spotlight on ex-prime minister

Andrew Cohen and J. L. Granatstein, eds.
Random House
$34.95/408 pgs.

Editors Andrew Cohen and J.L. Granatstein have compiled Trudeau's Shadow, a collection of 23 essays on former prime minister Pierre Trudeau examining his legacy on contemporary Canada.

A motley crew, the contributing essayists have various backgrounds in journalism, philosophy, history and politics. Notable contributors include historians Michael Bliss and Granatstein, as well as former Trudeau cabinet minister Donald S. Macdonald and former Ontario premier Bob Rae. Despite such a cross section of Trudeau analysts and the complexity of certain issues, each essay proves remarkably easy to read and comprehend.

Within Trudeau's Shadow, the editors deal with all the traditional Trudeau themes, ranging from the controversial to the obscure. The editors included appropriately selected essays on debatable issues such as the October crisis of 1970, reckless federal spending and the creation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Understandably, to interest more of the Canadian populace, Trudeau's Shadow also contains non-academic themes such as Trudeau's charisma and sex appeal. Regrettably, essays like writer/actor Linda Griffiths' The Lover: Dancing with Trudeau fail to provide any interesting insights on the Trudeau persona.

In addition, there exists the inevitable problem of repetition. Within the publications, virtually every essay echoes each other's sentiments regarding Trudeau's great leadership during the October crisis. Although this may well be an accurate observation, by the time the sixth or seventh essay mentions the crisis, the reader's eyes begin to glaze over when they must once again endure Trudeau's famous "Just watch me" interview transcript.

Luckily, however, the better essays are weighted toward the end of the book. Essays on western alienation, high federal spending and a flawed tax system during the Trudeau years prove an interesting read, especially to the Trudeau critic.

On the other hand, the editors also provide terrific essays on Trudeau's "positive" legacies of Canadian identity and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In one of the most thought-provoking essays, Laval political science professor Max Nemi argues that although the Quebec government never endorsed the charter, it actually protects (vis-a-vis article 23) Quebec's minority language rights throughout Canada.

Although menaced with a few weak and trivial essays, Trudeau's Shadow has something for everyone interested in the former prime minister's life and career. Much credit is due to the editors for putting together such a diverse compilation of essays.

The book's best attribute is the expert arrangement of Trudeau's critics and admirers. Its strategic arrangement compels the readers to decide for themselves just how large Trudeau's shadow looms. Because either way you interpret it, positively or negatively, the shadow undeniably exists.


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Copyright The Gazette 1998