A Lifelong Quest to Understand a Political Legend

A Lifelong Quest to Understand a Political Legend

Posted on October 21 by Steve Paikin
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1. Tell us about your biography of Bill Davis: What was your inspiration? Were there overarching themes you felt compelled to explore?

Bill Davis was the premier of Ontario from the time I was 10 until age 24. As a result, his most formative years politically were my most formative years simply growing up in Ontario. I also had the pleasure of covering the latter years of his government as a reporter.

That, along with a memorable quote Mr. Davis once gave me after an interview, has made him an object of some fascination for me.

Here’s the scene: it’s 1986, and Mr. Davis has been out of politics for a year. I’m working for CBC-TV at the time and want to interview him about life after politics. We do the interview and frankly, it’s not stupendous. Mr. Davis can be very tight-lipped when he wants to be. After the interview is over, I said to him, “this new job of yours…corporate lawyer, sitting on boards of directors, seeing more of your grandchildren than you did of your own kids, a much more peaceful existence, making a lot more money…this must be the best job you’ve ever had, no?”

Without missing a beat, Mr. Davis responded, “Steven, this job on its most fascinating day can’t touch being premier of Ontario on its dullest.”

That single quote forced me to re-evaluate what I thought about politics. And frankly, that one quote begat my writing five books about politics, as I’ve tried to better understand what the lure of that life is all about. And few have done it as well as William Grenville Davis, Ontario’s 18th premier.


2. How did you research your book?

The research for this book was much like the research I have done for all of my books about politics. I rely on my first-hand experiences with the subject and his time; I spent far too many Saturdays in the Archives of Ontario at York University going through Mr. Davis’ personal papers, and newspaper clippings and audio recordings of his speeches of the time; and best of all, I talked to people…lots of people. Naturally, I did many sit-down interviews with Mr. Davis himself. But I also spoke to dozens and dozens of people who knew him — friends, family, political and corporate colleagues, adversaries — the whole gamut.

What emerges, I hope, is a compelling story of one of this country’s truly legendary political figures.


3. What are you reading right now?

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s autobiography. It seems I can’t get away from politics. 

Steve Paikin

Posted by Kendra on December 6, 2014

Steve Paikin

Steve Paikin is anchor of The Agenda with Steve Paikin, TVO’s flagship current affairs program since 2006. He has written four previous books on politics, including Paikin and the Premiers. Paikin has spent more than 30 years in journalism, 20 of them at Ontario’s provincial broadcaster. He lives in Toronto.