Just Watch Me by John English - Book review
Just Watch Me
The Life of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Volume Two: 1968-2000
By: John English
Published: September 7, 2010
Format: Trade Paperback, 832 pages
Publisher: Vintage Canada
"Trudeau's rise to national political power was fundamentally a response, first by the Liberal Party and then by many Canadians, to Quebec's new challenge to Canadian confederation" writes award winning author and professor of History at Waterloo University John English in his brilliant and engaging portrait Just Watch Me: The Life of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Volume Two: 1968-2000. The author describes in superb fashion, the career of Pierre Trudeau from his first election as Prime Minister of Canada in 1968, through his achievements and setbacks as leader of the Liberal Party, and ending with his death in 2000.
John English presents a vivid portrait of one of Canada's greatest and most controversial Prime Ministers and political figures. From the moment that a dynamic young Pierre Trudeau burst onto the national scene, winning the Liberal Party leadership in 1968, expectations were lofty for the Quebec born Member of Parliament. Even as the initial excitement of Trudeaumania, and his election as Prime Minister, was still in full bloom, there were already doubters as the abilities and goals of Trudeau. From the very beginning of his tenure in 24 Sussex Drive, regional issues from the West and most notably from Quebec, became powerful issues for his government. When the radical separatist FLQ kidnapped British trade commissioner James Cross, and murdered Quebec cabinet minister Pierre Laporte, it became clear that Quebec issues would define Pierre Trudeau's legacy, and he would parallel those of that province.
John English (photo left) creates a snapshot of the career of Pierre Trudeau, when the Prime Minister and Parliament declared the martial law War Measures Act in October 1971. Trudeau was asked how far he would go to resolve the crisis. The Prime Minister responded with his signature candor, "Just Watch Me". All Canadians did exactly that, for Trudeau's entire time as Prime Minister of Canada. Daring to face down the threat of Rene Levesque's Parti Quebecois, and their referendum of "sovereignty association", Trudeau rallied and led the forces for a Canada that included Quebec. When Peter Lougheed, Premier of oil rich Alberta, asserted Western Canadian petro-strength and the desire for more provincial powers, Trudeau responded with the same vision, "Who speaks for Canada?". Negotiating new federalist agreements with the provinces, that gave voice to all regions, took its toll. Combined with a weak economy, Pierre Trudeau was defeated in the 1979 election by Joe Clark and the Progressive Conservatives. It wasn't the end, however.
After a short time as Leader of the Opposition, and some soul searching as to his future, Pierre Trudeau was re-elected Prime Minister. It would prove to be eventful. During the early 1980s, Pierre Trudeau created agreement among the ten Premiers on the basis of a new Constitution for Canada, repatriated from Great Britain. While not the one he envisioned, it did carry a Charter of Rights and Freedoms for all Canadians. Later, Trudeau would lead the forces opposing the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords that he believed undermined Canadian federalism. He also spent considerable time contributing to a more peaceful and equitable international community.
The book is not only about politics. John English shares the story of the Pierre Trudeau's marriage to Margaret Sinclair, and of their three sons. The often stormy Trudeau marriage forms a metaphor for the relationship Trudeau shared with the entire country. Trudeau shared many intimate relationships with women, and their stories are told with candor throughout the book as well. The author presents a fascinating portrait of Pierre Trudeau as visionary idealist, controversial Prime Minister, and as husband and father. Trudeau achieved greatness, and experienced tragedy, in both his personal and public lives. These stories are told with honesty and with compassion, for a man both of his times, and often very much ahead of them as well.
I highly recommend the landmark biography Just Watch Me: The Life of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Volume Two: 1968-2000 by John English, to anyone who seeks a realistic and balanced picture of Pierre Trudeau, both as a man and as a great Prime Minister. Whether a person agrees with Pierre Trudeau's policies or actions, this book is the definitive account of his actions, and his often complex motivations.
Read the tremendous book Just Watch Me: The Life of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Volume Two: 1968-2000 by John English, and discover the importance and vision of Pierre Elliott Trudeau. It is very likely Canada will never forget him or his legacy, and his monumental achievements and accomplishments on behalf of all Canadians.
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