"… an author who writes exceptionally fascinating stories on social and cultural change." — The Globe and Mail

Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

Books by Ray Argyle

“The book – the actual physical paper bound object full of words – is a treasure in this modern era.” — Nancy Cadogan, Artist.

A Writer’s Journey – A Memoir
More About this Book

VAN GOGH’S GHOST – ChasingVincent van Gogh in Paris and Provence

A Work in Progress – More About this Book

A Novel of Victorian Canada

Mosaic Press, 2017 More About this Book

Biography – Charles de Gaulle- President of France

Dundurn Press, 2014 More About this book 

Biography – Joey Smallwood – Premier of Newfoundland

Dundurn Press, 2012 More About this book  

Biography – Edward Mallandaine – Driving of the Last Spike

Dundurn Press, 2010 – More About this book

Biography – Scott Joplin, Ragtime Composer

Mcfarland & Co., 2009 – More About this book 

Speculative History – If Kennedy had Lived

Waterside Books, 2012 – More About this book

Non-Fiction – The Campaigns That Changed Canada – 2004 (2nd Edition 2011)

Hushion House, 2004 – More About this Book


The world wonders about Canada – why do we have it so good?

One need not search far in the global media for commentary on the remarkable success Canada is enjoying amid a world of economic turmoil, political crisis, and cultural confrontation.

The Washington Post, seeking to understand “What Canada is About,” sees our welcome of 25,000 Syrian refugees (30,000 by the end of 2016) as evidence of a country pulling together to meet a new challenge:

“Businesses, the Canadian Labor Congress, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, small towns and large cities are all contributing clothing, furniture and financial support to help settle Canada’s most recent influx of refugees.”

The London Telegraph, commenting on the unprecedented openness and people mingling ability of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, offered an answer to those who criticize his penchant for selfies in this quote from political observer Amanda Alvaro:

“I think the team that surrounds the Trudeau government has really understood strategically that if you have a willing leader who is prepared to walk in Pride and take photos with people and be accessible, then you would use that to your advantage to get people to participate in the political process.”

While the United Kingdom totters toward separation (losing Scotland) and isolation (abandoning the EU) and the United States faces a presidential choice between an artful manipulator and an unadulterated ignoramus, Canada rejoices that it is led by a young, vigorous, progressive Prime Minister.

Nor are Canadian journalists shy about recognizing the euphoria that seems to have settled on the “peaceable kingdom.”

Margaret Wente of the Globe and Mail, generally no friend to liberals and progressives, wrote last week that “Canada is that increasingly rare exception — a country in which public support for immigration is strong.”

She quoted Prime Minister Trudeau at his meeting with the “Three Amigos,” (he, Barack Obama and the president of Mexico):

“No matter where you are from, nor the faith you possess, nor the colour of your skin, nor whom you love, you belong here. This is your home.”

Not that all is perfect in  Canadaland. Not all immigrants are succeeding, and the country is about evenly split on whether Canada’s current policies are taking it in the “right” direction.

So bring on the books. There’s been a half dozen published on Justin Trudeau, not counting his campaign autobiography, Common Ground.

The newest, Justin Trudeau: Natural Heir, will be out in English from Dundurn on July 23.  Huguette Young, the well-known Quebecoise journalist, wrote this in French and it’s been translated by George Tombs.


Huguette’s book is good workmanlike  reportage that takes one through the well-known early life of the son of Pierre Elliot Trudeau, and comes to a sudden stop on election day, October 15, 2015.

Like most books written on the run, The Natural Heir does not contain a lot of analysis. We learn that when he gave his noted eulogy at his father’s funeral in 2000, “He seemed younger than his 28 years.”

We get a recounting of his educational progress through Collège Brébeuf, McGill University, and the University of B.C. When he decided to enter politics, he chose the tough east end Montreal riding of Papineau, then held by a Bloc MP, because if he could understand Papineau “it would be like understanding Canada as a whole.”

From there, the outcome seems inevitable. First came attempts by the Conservatives to denigrate him as a lightweight. They failed. In the debates, Young writes, “Justin Trudeau comes across as the embodiment of change. With the good looks, optimistic tone, dynamism and passion he seemed quite the reverse of Stephen Harper, who appeared wooden, serious, and controlling.”

“You can’t buy charisma,” Young tells us. “Justin Trudeau remained a blank slate.” “Trudeau played his cards well.”

For the general reader who doesn’t follow politics closely, this is an excellent primer on Canada’s new Prime Minister. Readers seeking a more analytical appraisal of Justin Trudeau’s attempt at feminist, progressive, and generally leftist policies will have to await another day.


A Trump presidency a good thing? It’s not impossible

Before fainting dead away, I implore my readers and Canadians to consider this: A Trump presidency could break the logjam of American failure at home and abroad, something that could be of considerable benefit to its neighbors and the world.
No, this is not satire. It is reality.
The rage that has enveloped the Republican presidential campaign – and to a lesser degree the Democratic – stems from the widespread conviction that a corrupted political establishment has failed to meet the challenges America has faced at home and abroad.
Its institutions have been irresponsible in catering to the powerful in managing the economy, its reckless foreign policies have paved the way for Islamic extremists to take over vast swaths of the Middle East, and in Washington – once the capital of the “free world” – partisan rancor has paralyzed its government.
The nervous breakdown running through the American body politic is reminiscent of upheavals that have swept governments out of office in other countries. And as in any revolutionary period, outrageous behavior that would be normally unthinkable becomes not only acceptable but popular.
Many in France despised that country’s Third Republic at the onset of the Second World War. It took Charles de Gaulle, a virtual outsider, to hold together the French Empire, restore France’s “grandeur” and then convince his countrymen to give up Algeria. A conservative, he nationalized banks and the auto industry and set France on the road to a welfare state.
Donald Trump’s often vulgar and frequently tough talk – threatening “more than water boarding” against terrorists and proclaiming his desire to “punch out” a protester – makes him look to some like a blustering egocentric oaf.
He has, however, cleverly amended direction when he has been called out on reckless positions. He will become more amenable to conventional niceties as he moves into full campaign mode, while always reserving the right to shock the public with brutal assaults on Hilary Clinton.
Should Trump become President, a distinct possibility now that he is the presumptive Republican nominee, history and the realities of realpolitik suggest a further mellowing of his distemper.
But some crucial differences – not all of them outrageous – will cling to hinder, or hamper, this most irascible of modern American candidates.
On the most incendiary issues facing U.S. voters, immigration reform and homeland security, Trump has railed against Mexicans and Muslims. Mexico will never agree to pay for the wall he would build, but Mr. Trump is right that the U.S. must find a way to control its borders. He will have the support of the public and Congress on whatever practical steps he can take to reduce illegal immigration.
Mr. Trump has made it clear that as president he would pursue the fight against ISIS, but would pull back from attempts to destabilize authoritarian regimes, as has been the case with Iraq, Libya and Syria where Hilary Clinton supported U.S. intervention. Such a tilt to isolationism, if it kept the U.S. from fomenting new regional wars, would be welcomed in Canada and Europe. A more nuanced approach could be expected toward Vladimir Putin who, Mr. Trump says, accorded him a “great honor” by praising him as an “absolute leader.” And his willingness to meet personally with North Korea’s Kim Il-sung, might actually lead to a toning down of the Hermit State’s wild sabre-rattling.
Mr. Trump’s distaste for free trade agreements, especially NAFTA, is shared by many Americans – and Canadians – who see it as the prime cause of profit-hungry corporations having transferred millions of jobs to Mexico.
In the White House, a President Trump would penalize such actions either with Congressional assent, or if he couldn’t get it, through executive orders. A promised 35 per cent duty on goods shipped back to the States by offshore plants of U.S. corporations would raise the cost of everything at Walmart, a prospect unlikely to please his most adoring followers. But it could stop the drain of jobs and encourage manufacturing ramp-ups in the United States. Canada would benefit by such a shift in the global manufacturing balance.
Donald Trump is well positioned to fulfill his claim that only he can put an end to the kind of corrupt financial practices that led to the 2008 economic crisis. His assertion is akin to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s argument for appointing Joseph P. Kennedy, who had profited handsomely from financial manipulation, as head of the tough new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in 1934.
A President Trump would replace Obamacare with something that sounds very much like the same thing. He once advocated Canadian style health care but now says he favors private insurance, adding “I want everyone to have coverage.”
On gun control, Trump asserts he supports the Second Amendment right to bear arms but he favors “the ban on assault weapons and a longer waiting period to purchase a gun.” Compared to the stance of the NRA, this is a radical approach, and could actually lead to more effective gun control.
The most positive result of a Trump victory in November, however, would be to soothe the rage that has burned across America. Angry voters will be mollified, at least for a time, with the election of a man committed to breaking cleanly with the past. By delivering small bits of red meat to his followers, they will be inclined to overlook his inability to achieve more sweeping change. In the end, when he is forced to retreat – as he will – on all but his most pragmatic policies, the time will be ripe for a return to reasonableness in American politics.