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From the archives

The Other Side of “Irish Eyes”

Brian Mulroney abroad and at home

The Ramble

Memories from the PMO

Vintage Years

Two political memoirs

John Baglow

John Baglow reads and writes in Ottawa.

Articles by
John Baglow

A Portrait of Grief

Charles Foran turns to memoir July | August 2023
Charles Foran, who has published a dozen titles, writes in his latest, “I can’t seem to finish this book.” One can sympathize. What promises at first to be a classic father-son narrative — perhaps along the lines of John Mortimer’s A Voyage round My Father or Robert Anderson’s I Never Sang for My Father — proves to be nothing of the…

Gaslighting

Chronicles of a greasy campaign March 2023
Fighting the causes of increasingly catastrophic weather should never have become controversial. The investigative reporter Geoff Dembicki has written an engaging, enraging, and meticulously documented chronicle of how it did. This has been no ordinary corporate deception. Dembicki’s story reveals nothing less than the betrayal of our planetary future by the fossil fuel industry. One point must be made at the…

The Present Begets the Past

From Montreal to Buenos Aires November 2022
With this fragmentary account of one of the countless victims of Argentina’s Dirty War, Marc Raboy gives readers two stories, one nested inside the other. The first is about a young woman, with the same last name as the author, who died at the hands of a bloodthirsty dictatorship in 1976; the other is about the author…

Knock on Wood

Solutions don’t always grow in trees July | August 2022
In the Brazilian Amazon, 1.3 million hectares of rainforest disappeared between August 2020 and July 2021, up 22 percent from the year before. Because of climate change, at least in part, deserts are growing. Meanwhile, 41.3 percent of the world’s terrestrial surface is more or less arid drylands. Why not plant a whole lot of elms and pines and poplars in all that empty…

Acts of Union

Power to the teachers January | February 2022
The labour historian and former elementary teacher Andy Hanson’s well-researched account of the rise of union consciousness in the ranks of Ontario’s primary school teachers, Class Action, is a compelling and readable, if flawed, narrative. Through a progressive lens, this one-time labour activist traces a history of increasing militancy, over several decades, and many victories — with more than a few bumps in the road along the…

A Radical Journey

E. T. Kingsley’s activism October 2021
Born in upstate New York in 1856, Eugene Thornton Kingsley was a driving force in British Columbia’s left politics for the first two decades of the twentieth century. And, though he is the subject of Able to Lead, he remains elusive. The result is not so much a biography or a full-fledged history but rather a series of faded snapshots accompanied…

Thou Art Anxious

Decisions, decisions July | August 2021
In this age of information overload, with every word and byte amplified to an unprecedented extreme by social media and cable news, we have come to rely heavily upon advice of all kinds, hoping it can help us navigate the treacherous shoals and eddies of daily life. We’re now at a point where we need advice on the advice we’re…

Lapsed Duty

A hist­ory of neglect May 2021
One death is a tragedy; thousands remain a statistic. We have been by turns numbed and horrified by the scale of the novel coronavirus’s carnage in long-term-care facilities, but the shambles of this past year, suggests the veteran health journalist André Picard, isn’t really the story at all, just the lead. The full truth is that…

Whatever the Cost May Be

Preparing for the fight of our life March 2021
At this point, one should not have to set the scene for a review of Seth Klein’s A Good War, yet the notion of a “climate emergency” still has an empty rhetorical flavour for far too many. The reality: Massive wildfires in Australia, the Amazon, and North America. Increasingly powerful hurricanes, so numerous that meteorologists run out of…

Under the Guise of Research

Science and subjugation July | August 2020
Since at least the 1605 publication of Francis Bacon’s The Advancement of Learning, scientific curiosity has been regarded as a positive emotion. But there are obvious downsides. While “curiosity-driven research” or “pure science” may sound abstract and detached from the so-called real world, it tends to find application down the road. It’s what led to the atomic…

Collision Course

Reckoning with an existential threat April 2020
Unprecedented bushfires and heat waves in Australia. Increasingly intense hurricanes and cyclones. Melting glaciers and permafrost. Warming and acidifying oceans. Locust swarms devouring east Africa. And in the face of it all, global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. Even if the aspirational Paris Agreement were fully implemented today, we’d still be headed toward a 3.2-degree Celsius rise in global…

The Great Escape

Can we break out of our social media addiction? November 2019
On the topic of social media, Richard Seymour, the Marxist blogger and author of Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics, knows whereof he writes. Like so many others, he has been chewed up in its electronic maw — in his case, for a couple of comments he incautiously made on Facebook in…

State of the Unions

The birth and promise of Unifor May 2019
It’s hardly news that the economic climate has grown increasingly harsh for working Canadians. In recent years, they have faced stagnating wages and a steady attrition of secure, well-­paying jobs with decent retirement benefits. There has been a stunning growth in precarious employment: short-term, often part-time positions with little security and few if any benefits. In…

The Still Unknown Country

A natural-born explorer tackles the Again River May 2016
When it comes to the country we live in, all of us carry maps in our heads: the frigid North, major cities, our disparate regions, our coastlines. Adam Shoalts, a prodigiously talented young man (he is 30 this year), points to their utter inadequacy. The sheer scale of unexplored territory in Canada—indeed, land that has likely never been encountered by humans—is revealed in Alone against the North: An Expedition into the

Big Man on the Hill

The "happy warrior" whose legislative legacy shaped modern Canada March 2015
Donald Stovel Macdonald was probably one of Canada’s most capable federal politicians since Confederation, and his memoirs are a welcome addition to the collection of accounts that make up our nation’s history. But, as is always the case with this genre, we need to read across the grain, and stay fully alert to the memoirist’s temptation to be…

A Life Worth Remembering

Doctor, archeologist, band chief and much, much more October 2012
Peter Edmund Jones, the first status Indian in Canada to obtain a medical degree, inhabited a fractious borderland both metaphorical and physical. Allan Sherwin’s Bridging Two Peoples: Chief Peter E. Jones, 1843–1909 describes a man of relative privilege with enormous motivation, energy and intelligence, one who engaged in prodigious struggles on behalf of aboriginal people in Upper…

A Digital Trojan Horse

How a maverick MP blogged his way out of the Conservative caucus. July–August 2009
I like the quixotic former Conservative member of Parliament Garth Turner, his quirky adherence to principle and his exuberant maverickism. I used to check out his blog fairly regularly, and I looked forward to reading his exposé of the Conservative caucus—the “sheeple” of the title of his new book. But I will admit that I expected more of Sheeple: Caucus Confidential in Stephen Harper’s Ottawa than it…