The award-winning novelist who helped former finance minister Bill Morneau craft his memoir says the results are going to be tough on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Where To from Here: A Path to Canadian Prosperity is set to be published in January by ECW Press, based in Toronto.
“I am a little hesitant to give too much away, but it’s going to cause people to reassess, in ways they may not be doing now, Justin Trudeau’s role as prime minister,” John Lawrence Reynolds said in an interview.
“The biggest surprise, obviously will be the background of the reasons [Mr. Morneau] left. A substantial surprise will be his highly qualified and substantive opinion of Justin Trudeau’s weaknesses as Prime Minister.”
The core of the book, he said, is that Mr. Morneau could not agree with the principles he was dealing with in Mr. Trudeau’s government. “That was at the core of his reasons for leaving. That’s expressed pretty directly in the book. So I’ll just leave it there.”
Mr. Reynolds, an 82-year-old from Burlington, Ont., declined to elaborate. The winner of three Arthur Ellis awards for mystery fiction has worked on the memoirs of political leaders including former Newfoundland and Labrador premier Brian Tobin, Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew and even Justin Trudeau. He worked on Mr. Trudeau’s 2014 book, Common Ground. In total, he has written or provided editorial services for 25 books, including the Morneau project.
The Morneau book is still a few months away, but Mr. Reynolds has a new work out now about another finance minister: a memoir of Michael Wilson, who served in Brian Mulroney’s cabinet, and was Canada’s ambassador to the United States. Mr. Reynolds finished Something within Me: A Personal and Political Memoir after Mr. Wilson died in 2019 at age 81. In the book’s introduction, Mr. Mulroney writes that, ”If a Prime Minister of Canada is lucky – and I mean really lucky – he will wind up with a Michael Wilson in his cabinet, ideally as minister of finance.” He credits Mr. Wilson for helping facilitate such policies as the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, the North American Free Trade Agreement and the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax as a visible consumption tax.
The book also deals with Mr. Wilson’s advocacy for mental-health awareness spurred by the 1995 suicide of his son Cameron, who had mental-health issues.
Mr. Morneau was a stalwart political ally to Mr. Trudeau for five years until he resigned from cabinet in 2020 amid the WE Charity scandal. In 2021, the federal ethics commissioner concluded Mr. Morneau had breached the Conflict of Interest Act when he failed to recuse himself from cabinet deliberations on a summer student grants contract despite ties to his family.
In announcing his exit, Mr. Morneau said he had never planned to run for re-election and a new finance minister was needed to oversee the long-term economic recovery from the pandemic. The announcement followed reports of tension and policy disagreements with Mr. Trudeau.
Now it appears Mr. Morneau will have more to say. An ECW description of the book says that, “In his own persuasive voice, Bill Morneau paints a positive picture, tracing his widely lauded entry into the political arena, the arc of his career in politics, major accomplishments and missed opportunities, his surprising exit, and a host of revealing episodes between the events.”
Mr. Reynolds says he is pleased with the book, which was based on hours of recorded interviews with Mr. Morneau.
Sharan Kaur, a spokesperson for Mr. Morneau, said the book is not yet finalized and is still in the editing stage. “At a high level, it will be an overview of Bill’s time as Finance Minister and some of the inner workings of Ottawa. The book will focus on how to foster Canadian economic growth and prosperity,” Ms. Kaur said in a statement on Wednesday.
Mr. Reynolds said his work with politicians is to extract their life stories to be told in book form.
He said he employs what he has learned from writing a dozen mystery novels. “Find the arc of the story, identify the key personalities, bring them alive on the page. That’s my job, whether working with politicians or working with virtually everybody else.” Mr. Reynolds has also worked on books about business leaders such as Robert Milton, the former chairman, president and chief executive officer of the parent company of Air Canada.
Mr. Reynolds said he had long sessions with Mr. Wilson, discussing his life. “In the midst of our third or fourth long session in his office in Toronto, he revealed that he was facing treatment for liver cancer,” said Mr. Reynolds.
“The rest of our discussions were held by telephone, and they were painful in many ways because, by this time, I had grown to like the guy enormously – me, a lifetime Liberal, and him a dedicated conservative.”
He said the book might have been different had Mr. Wilson’s health been good throughout the process. “But I still think, between us, we captured enough of who the man was and what he had achieved.”