Red Tory Blues: A Political
Memoir, by Heath Macquarrie, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992, 378
"The Progressive Conservative
Party of Canada will not regain public approval by a neo--conservative posture.
Rather it must recall that government should do most for those who most need
help. Because 1 worry about our current sense of values, I've called these
candid Memoirs Red Tory Blues."
In introducing his memoir of more
than three decades on Parliament Hill, Senator (and former MP) Heath Macquarrie
laments the ideological direction his party has followed in recent years. Those
few PCs who emphasise the Progressive half of their party label will nod their
heads in sad agreement as Macquarrie chronicles the dismantling of those
institutions and attitudes which previous generations of Conservatives
considered vital to the maintenance of an independent nation requiring state
support to resist the gravitational force of continentalism.
Red Tory Blues is part critique of
the author's party, part prescription for ministering to his party's perceived
ills. Mainly, however, it is an account of a life in politics, with
sharply--drawn portraits of Macquarrie's peers and mentors, and engrossing
accounts of the political events and issues which have shaped late
twentieth--century Canada. Although he never held a cabinet post, Macquarrie
never lacked a prominent public profile, both nationally and in his beloved
Prince Edward Island. On the national scene, he supported a variety of causes,
not all of them guaranteed to win his party's or the public's support --
especially his outspoken advocacy of the Palestinian cause. In Ottawa, he was a
tireless booster of his Island province, and his accounts of Island politics in
all their personal, patronage--driven exuberance are worth the price of the volume.
The other main interest of the book
lies in Macquarrie's depiction of the major political figures during his time
on the Hill. His portrait of John Diefenbaker is etched in vitriol: his acquaintance
with the Chief is not recollected with affection. If there is any hero in the
book, it is Robert Stanfield, described by the author as "the best Prime
Minister we almost had." Stanfield's struggles with his party in the face
of his predecessor's obstructionism are particularly well--chronicled.
Of his own roles as MP and Senator,
Macquarrie is frequently unsparing: he voted reluctantly with his party to
support the imposition of the War Measures Act in 1970, and regretted it. He
considers that crisis "the only occasion on which 1 still consider 1 was
fundamentally wrong.... Although it has done me no good, 1 have spent a long
time in repenting my own apostasy."
In 1979, Macquarrie was appointed
to the Senate, which he found a more compatible and effective institution,
except for the period in late 1990 when it "descended to shocking depths
of nastiness" over the GST debate. On the issue of Senate reform,
incidentally, the author is no advocate of a Triple--E Senate, recognising that
the institution has been effective precisely because it has not exercised its
extensive constitutional power. As a second chamber of confidence with an
electoral mandate, a Triple--E Senate would not have to wait long before
clashing head--on with the Commons. Where, then, would its effectiveness lie?
The book is not without its faults:
it is a typical example of the incompetent level of proof--reading to be
expected of modern publishers even the University of Toronto Press. Desserts is
printed as deserts, R J. Manion's surname becomes Mansion, Iona Campagnolo once
more becomes the slightly more alliterative Iona Campagnola, and George Hees at
one point receives an uncapitalized surname. These are small errors, to be
sure, but they are cumulatively irritating, and Macquarrie in his other
incarnation as Professor Macquarrie would surely not allow them to pass
unpunished in an undergraduate essay.
On balance, though, this is a
worthy addition to anyone's bookshelf of political memoirs
George Kerr, Department of History, University of Western