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by Jack Mcleod

PLEASE, I don't need more books about politics that are small and mean, like Clare Hoy on Mulroney or Greg Weston on Turner. What I do want is more honest and perceptive books by political participants and insiders, like Eddie Goodman's candid autobiography. There are not enough of these: apart from several ghost?written volumes, only a few valuable contributions by C. G. "Chubby" Power and Dalton Camp and Paul Martin spring instantly to mind.

"Fast Eddie" Goodman is a political back?room boy and an outstanding one, a pol's pol, a gentleman among rogues. His enemies (and they are few) will concede that he has an enviable reputation not only for shrewdness but as a civilized and big?hearted master?player of the great game. A strategist/advisor to Dief and Stanfield, to Ontario premiers from Frost to Robarts to Davis, Eddie is a veteran of 13 federal and 12 provincial campaigns. He has probably forgotten more about politics than most professors or pollsters will ever know. When lie was a boy his father told him that Tories were "more decent", and for almost 50 years he has kept that faith with zest and humour.

A thoughtful Red Tory and a nationalist, a leading member of the Committee for an Independent Canada, he won the affection and loyalty of people like Walter Gordon and Flora MacDonald and Peter C. Newman who were birds of a different feather but respected his smarts and integrity.

And his toughness. "Get Eddie to fix it" was often the word among Tory shooters, as well as in the arts community when important institutions such as the National Ballet or the Royal Ontario Museum needed help. Large parts of the book are devoted to these areas of quiet but effective public service.

Goodman is not blessed with great writing skills, and his editors ought to have served him better. Still, there is a directness and an engaging quality to his story, from law school to army service in World War II to his emergence in the 1950s as a party organizer and campaign manager of exceptional intelligence and sure instincts. His law practice took him into interesting areas including large?scale real estate developments, television licence applications,, and the launching of the tabloid Toronto Sun; many of these stories are revealing.

Goodman's best chapters, however, deal with party politics pure and raw. Here he writes with emotion and insight. Entertainingly, with more anecdotal glimpses than analysis, he recounts his experiences at provincial and national headquarters and portrays Diefenbaker as a prickly egomaniac, Stanfield as a complex and compelling figure ("The Greatest Prime Minister Canada Never Had"). Eddie always fought hard against the unsophisticated right wing of his own party and for moderation. He offers a frank account of the operation of Ontario's Big Blue Machine, and argues convincingly that Trudeau's accomplishment of the 1982 Constitution Act depended more on the support and mediation skills of William Davis than is generally recognized.

Although the middle chapters of Goodman's autobiography have pith and vigour, the final chapter is disappointing. Here most particularly his editors might have pushed and stretched him to something more than brief comments on free trade, national unity and the performance of Brian Mulroney. Any sympathetic reader will just know that Eddie could have said much more about nationalism and the tight economic embrace of the United States, the shortcomings of the reactionary wing of his party, campaign techniques, the party system, and the gut feelings if not the ideology of the Red Tory. The last chapter is weak and limp. Damn.

Maybe, to be fair, it is a good book that leaves us wanting more. Maybe we should merely be grateful that a good man has written a good book, one that political buffs will enjoy and quote for many a moon. But then again, maybe we should reread Charles Taylor's Radical Tories and ponder where Goodman might fit if he had given us not only lively recollection but also rumination.


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