Unconventional Candour


George Smitherman tells all about his successes and failures as a politician — in Ontario's legislature and in Toronto's city hall — and shares the joys and sorrows of his personal life.

From modest beginnings, George Smitherman rose to become one of the most powerful politicians in Ontario and then plummeted, defeated by one of the most notorious: Rob Ford. This memoir takes readers on the roller-coaster ride of his career and his personal life as a gay man struggling with the constraints of society and family.

Smitherman offers candid insights into the hardball politics of city hall and the provincial legislature, as well as the Liberal government under Dalton McGuinty, including accomplishments like prescription drug reforms and the green energy plan, and the so-called eHealth, Ornge, and gas plant scandals. He reveals how he lost the mayoral race but managed to rebound from that defeat, as well from the suicide of his husband.



George Smitherman does what he has always done throughout his career: he tells it like it is … a must-read for political junkies.

Terry Fallis, two-time winner of the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour

A remarkable book for a politician to write. Its searing honesty sets it apart.

J. S. Watt, Executive Chairman, Navigator

This is the profoundly personal story of George Smitherman - the man and the politician. In his book, Unconventional Candour, he gives the reader a fascinating insight to his background and outlines the extraordinary influence of his family and friends in his developing a strong sense of community. He was instilled with a belief in the right to equality, the need to fight for justice, and a passion for progress while maintaining his independence.

His savvy political instincts, from an early age, led him on a path to become fiercely loyal to the Liberal Party. With blunt honesty and intimate insights, Smitherman narrates the story of the dynamic political landscape of the 80’s and 90’s. He articulates, ‘I delighted in highlighting unsung heroes, and pride myself in my instinct to lift people and communities up.’ This is the strength of leadership we came to know.

Five years ago, George’s husband Christopher died from suicide. George’s story is one of lived experience. It is told through the lens of a bereaved spouse, as only someone who has survived their partner can truly understand. If love could have saved him, Christopher would be alive today. George has come far on his journey to create a blessing from the darkness of watching a partner suffer, and experiencing tragic loss and infinite grief. The love of family and friends helped him through his grief. Most of all, the love from his adoring children helped to heal him, ‘from that day until now, my crew of two hugs-and-cuddles have filled the void and saved the day.’ Faced with adversity, trauma and tragedy, George’s resilience alchemized his grief into a force to be reckoned with. He turned tragedy into transformation and loss into legacy. Unconventional Candour will be a transformative read.

David Cooper, co-author of Bridge Over the River Why

George has been on a remarkable journey. Whether in the political arena or with regards to interpersonal struggles and triumphs, he always speaks honestly and emotionally and offers many life lessons along the way. It’s a story that would be a mirror to city life, family life or inner life. It’s also a tale that would have a strong impact on your own struggles and ultimately your resilience. Told with humor and yes, candor.

Alex Shendelman, Manager, Traumatic Loss Survivor Support Program

About the Author