An Inside Look at External Affairs during the Trudeau Years: The Memoirs of Mark MacGuigan

Article excerpt


Edited by P. Whitney Lackenbauer

Calgary AB: University of Calgary Press, 2002, 230pp, $34.95 paper, ISBN 1-55238-076-9

Mark MacGuigan is the third of Pierre Trudeau's ministers of external affairs to be represented by a book. First Mitchell Sharp, then Don Jamieson, and now Mark MacGuigan have had their versions of events placed before the public, Sharp directly, Jamieson through an edited diary, and MacGuigan through a posthumous memoir, extensively edited by P. Whitney Lackenbauer, a scholar at the University of Calgary. A fourth, Allan MacEachen, is reported to be finishing his own memoir, which will presumably include his two terms as external affairs minister in the 1970s and 1980s.

MacGuigan held office for two and a half years, from February 1980 to September 1982. His was an unexpected appointment. He had languished on the backbenches for twelve years, a surprising length of time for someone of his background as a law professor and dean. But Trudeau evidently did not forget, and, after first fending off Jean Chretien, unexpectedly gave MacGuigan the senior external affairs portfolio. Disappointed, Chretien did not speak to MacGuigan for some time (p 6), and it took a certain amount of obsequious flattery on the new minister's part for relations to return to something like normal.

Trudeau expected MacGuigan to keep Canadian foreign policy balanced, by keeping an eye on the American file while preserving Canada's commitment to detente. At the time of his appointment, when the pacific Jimmy Carter was the American president, this might not have seemed too tall an order; indeed, as MacGuigan points out, the main problem was on the Canadian side, with Trudeau, who suspected even Carter of going too far and of failing to consider the interests of the other superpower of the day, the Soviet Union (pp 121-2). …


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