MACLEAN’S REVIEWS

Political drama you'll never see on the old boob tube

PHILIP SYKES February 1 1969
MACLEAN’S REVIEWS

Political drama you'll never see on the old boob tube

PHILIP SYKES February 1 1969

Political drama you'll never see on the old boob tube

BOOKS

WHO WAS the federal civil servant who launched a campaign to put Pierre Elliott Trudeau in the prime minister's office before Trudeau himself was sure he should run for the job? The politician who was introduced at Florida golf resorts as "Canada's next prime minister" in the days immediately before Trudeau decided to run? The MP who turned the fed eral Liberal party of Quebec into a launching pad for Trudeau's leader ship campaign? (Answers: Marc Lalonde; Jean Mar chand; Jean-Pierre Goyer.) If you scored an unhesitating three out of three, stop reading now; you are a political sophisticate who needs neither the proposition I advance nor the books I commend. If you wavered even fractionally, consider this: all

the events in my quiz happened inside the last 15 months; and all were part of the most-talked-about and most-tel evised leadership contest we ever had. So the real question I raise is how much information is communicated in those hours of dramatic TV politics. And the proposition I advance is that the journalist of the printed word has become an indispensable complement to political events staged for the TV camera, which interests and involves but also creates an appetite for the flavor and substance, of the event that it cannot satisfy. Remember, for 10 months we had an electronic circus of politics - Dief~ enbaker fell and Stanfield emerged, Pearson retired, Trudeau won the Liberal leadership and then an elec toral majority - all in front of the cameras. Yet, when you read the new insights and connections about the events of the period that stud the quarter million words of Peter C. Newman's The Distemper of Our Times (Reviews, November), you re alize how little you were told in all that sputtering TV excitement. Perhaps that is why Newman's work ran through three printings to talling 60,000 copies in its first six weeks; and why its publication was followed by a rush of smaller topical books. Though too hasty to satisfy some of their subjects (Dalton Camp sampled them and sniffed: "Thank God for the historians. The best is yet to come") few of us will wait for history. Martin Sullivan, who is a staff writer for Time in Montreal, wit nessed the emergence of Trudeau from the vantage point of Quebec politics, which gives his Mandate `68 a special emphasis, suggested by one of his chapter headings: A Few Pow erful Men. These are the men who or ganized Trudeau's swift accession: Marchand, Gerard Pelletier, Lalonde (the Dalton Camp of Trudeau's con vention) and Goyer. Without them Trudeau would not be PM, the Liber als would be an unimaginably weaker party and barely credible as a govern ment. They are men we should know. S u 11 i v a n traces their association through the 20 years from Duplessis to the New Federalism. There are untelevisable human touches: Bearded student Trudeau in jeans and sandals addressing the As bestos strikers so militantly that Marchand, the union boss, feared violence. Poised campaigner Trudeau, two decades later, explaining Criminal Code amendments to an elegant Que bec reception when a questioner de mands: "What about masturbation?"

As Suffivan tells it: "Trudeau shrugged. `Well,' he said, `I suppose everyone has his problems.' The crowd roared with laughter. The bomb had been defused." Don Peacock, former parliamenta ry reporter and special assistant to Prime M i n i s t e r Pearson, wrote speeches for Trudeau during the lead ership campaign. Sullivan suggests this could be a nerve-jangling experi ence (the boss was highly exacting). In any event it left Peacock with a fondness for speech-quoting that oc casionally slows his otherwise lively account of the unreported action be hind the Trudeau lines. You should read him. Sullivan, too. Switch off that set and read them both. Mandate `68 by Martin Sullivan (Doubleday; $7.95) Journey to Power by Don Peacock (Ryerson; hardcover, $6.50; paper back, $2.95). PHILIP SYKES