Meeting Prime Ministers

Meeting Prime Ministers

Posted on June 21 by J.D.M. Stewart in Non-fiction, Recent Releases
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The author of Being Prime Minister takes us behind the scenes to tell us about meeting some of the leaders who inspired the book.

 

 

A lot of readers always like to know how a book came to me. In the case of Being Prime Minister, it could be said that it has been a work 35 years in the making. Despite the fact that Mordecai Richler once said that  “A Canadian kid who wants to grow up to be Prime Minister isn’t thinking big, he is setting a limit to his ambitions rather early,”  I was one of those who dreamed of a career in politics — maybe even landing at 24 Sussex Drive one day.

 

While that political dream eventually gave way to other career interests, my passion for Canadian history, politics, and the experiences of our prime ministers never wavered. I have been literally reading, studying, and teaching about them for 35 years of my life. That is the long view of what led to Being Prime Minister.

 

More immediately, I knew that writing a book would involve some long visits to the archives. One historian told me that searching for the types of anecdotes I was looking for would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. But I got lucky stumbling across some very useful material in each of my visits.

 

I knew that interviewing former prime ministers would be an essential part of my research. That turned out to be fairly easy in most cases. All of our former PMs either easily, or eventually, agreed to interview with me (this became easier once they knew I had a publisher behind me), except for one. I often ask people to guess who turned me down and most respondents correctly say, “Stephen Harper.”  Mr. Harper is a private man, and he declined my three requests. It was disappointing, as I know he would have added some highly interesting material for the book, but I had no choice but to accept his response. At least one can observe that he was being true to type.

 

All the PMs I interviewed (Joe Clark, John Turner, Brian Mulroney, Kim Campbell, Jean Chrétien, and Paul Martin) were gracious and insightful about what it is like to be prime minister. They gave me lots of time and great stories and were proud to serve, whether it was for a few months or several years. It is one of the wonderful things about this country that a beginning author can reach out to its former leaders and have them agree to interviews. This accessibility is reflective of the kind of country we have and types of people who have led it.

 

As a fun activity, I decided to ask each of them which two prime ministers, no longer living, would they most like to have dinner with. You can read their responses in Being Prime Minister.