Not Without Cause: David Peterson's Fall from Grace

Description

408 pages
Contains Photos, Index
$27.95
ISBN 0-00-215842-6
DDC 971.3'04

Year

1991

Contributor

Reviewed by Paul G. Thomas

Paul G. Thomas is a political science professor at the University of
Manitoba.

Review

This is an insiders’ account of the rise and fall of Ontario’s
Peterson Liberals. Its authors are a lawyer and a journalist, both of
whom worked for ministers in the Peterson government. The book briefly
discusses the minority-government period (1985-1987), during which the
Liberals were supported in office by an accord with the new Democrats,
who held the balance of power. However, the volume’s main focus is on
how the Liberals squandered the huge legislative majority they garnered
in the 1987 election, then lost the 1990 election despite having a
comfortable lead in the polls. Peterson eventually gave up the party
leadership and left active politics.

Like other political books, this one claims to offer unprecedented
access to the key players and events during the Peterson years. And, in
fact, some interesting material is presented, usually when the authors
are quoting written reports produced for the government. However, the
reader has less confidence when participants are being quoted directly.
One wonders how the authors can recall conversations in such precise
detail. One marvels, as well, at how eloquent their political friends
are; they all speak in complete sentences, often complete with colorful
metaphors.

Not surprisingly, the book reveals more about the internal debates,
strategies, and mistakes of the Liberals than those of their opponents,
although presumably the New Democrats (the eventual winners) and the
Progressive Conservatives had something to do with the government’s
eventual humiliating defeat. The key question is why the Liberals went
to the polls early, only three years into their term, and the main
explanation seems to be that the early polls looked promising.
Peterson’s defence of the ill-fated Meech Lake Accord is described
sympathetically, although it became an electoral liability. Other
economic and social policies played a bigger role in his defeat,
however.

Overall, the analysis in this book is rather limited and shallow. No
obvious use is made of available histories of the party system, previous
voting studies, or works on the machinery of government in Ontario. The
authors concentrate on personalities and on party processes to present a
colorful and readable account of the brief Liberal fling in power.

Citation

Gagnon, Georgette., “Not Without Cause: David Peterson's Fall from Grace,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed February 21, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/11185.