Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing Finalist
The Last Act: Pierre Trudeau, the Gang of Eight, and the Fight for Canada
Published by Allen Lane Canada
For all of the seemingly endless federal-provincial conferences on the matter, for all of the essays and papers the subject generated for thirty years beginning in the 1950s, the repatriation of Canada¹s constitution, Ron Graham masterfully tells us, was essentially a matter of a two-day duel between two men, Pierre Elliott Trudeau and René Lévesque, fought in Ottawa in November, 1981. Graham challenges the myth that has long nourished Quebec separatism that English Canada “ganged up” on Lévesque during the “Night of the Long Knives”. Instead, Graham draws on new interviews and new research to frame this important and enduring moment in Canada¹s history as a very personal struggle between two remarkable individuals.
About the Book
In November 1981, Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau met behind closed doors with provincial premiers in the most important Canadian political conference since the Fathers of Confederation got together. It was the culmination of more than five decades of political wrangling, one last attempt to renew the constitution with the consent of the provinces. Faced with the threat of Quebec independence, the ambitions of Western Canada, and the provinces’ demands for more power, Trudeau was embattled yet fiercely determined. Graham uses newly uncovered documents and candid recollections from key participants to recount the fractious debates and secret negotiations of that fateful drama.
About the Author
Ron Graham is the author of five books, including One-Eyed Kings, which was named one of the Best Canadian Political Books of the Last 25 Years by the Writers’ Trust of Canada and Samara. He also edited The Essential Trudeau and the two volumes of memoirs by Jean Chrétien. With his wife and three children, he divides his time between downtown Toronto and a cabin in Quebec.
Samara Canada sat down with Ron Graham for a Q&A about his experience writing The Last Act. Read the interview here.