The Shaughnessy Cohen Prize Series, with Ron Graham
This year marks the twelfth iteration of the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing, presented by the Writers’ Trust of Canada. The prize rewards the year's finest book tackling a political subject of interest to Canadian readers.
This year, Open Book speaks to each of the five finalists as the April 25 announcement approaches. Be sure to visit our site and catch all of the interviews!
Today we feature Ron Graham, who is nominated for The Last Act: Pierre Trudeau, the Gang of Eight, and the Fight for Canada (Allen Lane Canada), in which he examines the legacy of Trudeau's fateful meeting with the ten premiers on November 4, 1981.
Ron talks with Open Book about his time spent as a Shaugnessy Cohen juror, his recommendation from amongst the past winners and his new and different project.
Tell us about the book for which you were shortlisted.
The Last Act is a narrative account of the historic First Ministers’ Conference of November 1981, which led to the patriation of the Constitution with an entrenched Charter of Rights and Freedoms in April 1982.
The book relives the dramatic 24 hours leading up to the final deal, describes the eleven men around the table, and examines the background to Quebec’s refusal to sign.
In your opinion, what qualities or characteristics signify that a book can be considered political writing?
I happened to be on the jury that awarded the first Shaughnessy Cohen Prize. After much deliberation, we chose to establish a very broad definition to political writing. It would reach beyond the machinations of party politics, parliamentary government and current events to include history, philosophy and important social issues.
The prize is presented at an evening event in Ottawa called Politics and the Pen. What are you most looking forward to about P&P? Have you attended before?
I have attended several times. It’s a wonderful opportunity for readers, writers, politicians and government officials to mingle in a convivial atmosphere, as well as a great chance to catch up with old friends.
If you were to recommend one past finalist or winner of the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize to readers, which title would you choose?
Fights of Our Lives, by John Duffy (2002 winner)
What can you tell us about your next project?
The contract isn’t signed yet, but I’m expecting to write a book that is international in scope, in the realm of the arts, and has nothing to do (for a change) with Canadian politics.