Maritime Conservative in National Politics
by Margaret Conrad
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|Politics and Politicos
by Jack MacLeod
This is one of the best political biographies of recent years. George Nowlan, a respected Conservative MP for Digby Annapolis-Icings between 1948 and 1965, president of the Progressive Conservative Party from 1950 to 1954, and minister of national revenue and of finance in the Diefenbaker government, is still a household word in the Maritimes, whose champion he was. Margaret Conrad's book will help Nowlan to be better known by Canadians in the rest of Canada, as he deserves to be.
With economy and deft prose, Conrad takes Nowlan through his first 50 years and his entry to the House of Commons in 87 pages, and wisely devotes most of the book to his accomplishments in Ottawa. It is disappointing that she can add little to the story of how the Sacred rump and many Conservatives in the cabinet wanted Nowlan to replace Diefenbaker as prime minister in 1953, a flip that might have changed the course of party politics dramatically. However, Conrad is admirable in her treatment of Nowlan's jousts with the auditor general, the governor of the Bank of Canada, the CBC, and the Chief himself. She paints a fresh and graphic portrait of the Diefenbaker era as seen through the eyes of one of its major insiders.
George Nowlan was a his, bright, bibulous, and enthusiastic man, appreciated by his colleagues and by the tough audience in the press galley. As Robert Stanfield says in a graceful foreword, Conrad deals "evenhandedly with his faults and his merits. His merits permit that." The result is not merely a judicious and crisp biography, but a work of excellent scholarship. This book should be a strong runner for the Governor General's Award for non-fiction.