One-Eyed Kings: Promise and Illusion in Canadian Politics


441 pages
Contains Index
ISBN 0-00-217642-4






Reviewed by Eric P. Mintz

Eric P. Mintz is an associate professor of political science and
environmental studies at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, Memorial
University of Newfoundland.


Ron Graham’s analysis of Canadian politics in the 1980s combines profiles of Trudeau, Clark, Turncr, and PC campaign organizer Norm Atkins with an examination of Mulroney’s first year as prime minister. Unlike many journalistic treatments of politics that focus on personalities, anecdotes, and inside gossip, Graham is primarily concerned with the basic patterns of Canadian political life. In particular, he argues that all Canadian governments face similar constraints, notably a left-of-centre political culture favourable to interventionist government.

As might be expected from his articles in Saturday Night,Graham provides his readers with well-written and intelligent commentary on contemporary Canadian politics. However, the author has difficulty handling the contradictions of political life. Mulroney is depicted both as an opportunistic pragmatist with no ideas and, like John Turner, as a “1960s Liberal” wishing to decentralize power and to restore the traditional political pattern of elite accommodation. Although Mulroney’s instincts and ambitions are deemed to encourage him to move to the “left” to maintain his electoral popularity, Mulroney is depicted as “riding the tiger” of the “right” even though Graham views Mulroney as personally powerful. And, despite the assertion that all Canadian governments behave in a basically similar way, the Trudeau and Mulroney governments are depicted as having moved in quite different directions in the 1980s.

Unresolved contradictions are also apparent in Graham’s personal perspective. Despite efforts to be nonpartisan, he is clearly sympathetic to the strongly centralist positions articulated by Trudeau in 1980 and portrays Trudeau as “infinitely” wiser than Mulroney.

More basically, Graham’s central argument that Canadian public opinion tends to the left of centre is largely unexamined. Although Canadians may be less influenced by laissez-faire liberalism than Americans, most Canadians still seem to be ambivalent toward centralized, interventionist government and the welfare state.


Graham, Ron, “One-Eyed Kings: Promise and Illusion in Canadian Politics,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 20, 2024,