Full disclosure: I received this ebook for free in exchange for a review.
A little background for my non-Canadian readers: Canada’s government is headed by an elected Prime Minister who can be from one of several political parties. Canada has elections every four years, but doesn’t have term limits, so a politician can run as often as they wish and serve for as long as they are elected. Trudeau was elected to office several times; in 1968 when he served multiple consecutive terms until 1979, and again in 1980 when he served until his retirement in 1984. In 79 the Liberals lost a vote of confidence and Trudeau took a brief retirement after deciding not to be the leader of the Official Opposition. Apparently he couldn’t stay away though, because when the Conservative party lost power in the early 1980s he stepped back in as leader of the Liberal party and was re-elected as Prime Minister…almost immediately, it sounds like. (I picture him strutting onto the Parliamentary floor on his first day back to the tune of Flo Rida’s “My House”. Despite that song not existing for several more decades.) He was involved in the Constitutional amendments in the 80s, and fought hard to have all the provinces sign and ratify it. There’s a lot I didn’t know about Trudeau that Johanson’s biography taught me. For instance, he expanded and revamped Canada’s national park system with several new parks and a focus on preservation rather than recreation or cautious resource development. He canoed, hiked, skied, and hitchhiked constantly. Much to the chagrin of his security detail, who often had to follow him on his river excursions. As Johanson said, it took a special kind of patience to be on Trudeau’s security detail. You could wind up underwater.
One of the things I did know about Trudeau was how charismatic he was. Extremely. Evidently it was something everyone he ever met commented on. Johanson drills this heavily into every chapter. It winds up being just this side of excessive. However, I never met him. Perhaps I would only nod in agreement if I had.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. It’s a quick, easy read that still covers the salient details of the life of Canada’s 15th Prime Minister, Joseph Philippe Pierre Yves Elliot Trudeau. To use his full name. I’ve a quibble here and there over some editing issues; missing words and the like. Spots where the timeline seemed muddled. Upon reading a chapter sub-heading of “Losing Maple One” (Trudeau’s code name) I assumed it was talking about Trudeau’s death. To my surprise it was another of his infamous canoe trips; his agents’ vehicles became mired in mud after seeing he and his friends off. They arrived at the rendezvous late, Trudeau nowhere to be seen. Pouring rain. Imagine their relief when the phone rings (vehicle phone, pre-cell days) and it is Trudeau! Security had gone to the wrong bridge. Trudeau, two of his sons, and a few friends had taken refuge in a cottage and called from there. It was the kind of comical story you see in slapstick routine. Not what you’d expect from a country’s leader. But hey, we’re all human. Even the charismatic, magnetic, multi-term, multi-year, many-named leader of a friendly first world nation.