Friday, 25 September 2015
McLaughlin wrote a fascinating insider's tale of how the federal Progressive Conservative Party of Canada firstly decided on Kim Campbell as the replacement for outgoing, highly controversial Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, making Campbell Canada's first female Prime Minister, and secondly, how the CPC and Campbell's soon-to-follow election campaign resulted in the utter and complete decimation of the party in the polls.
As most Canadians know, the rhetorical question used as the sub-title for McLaughlin's book was soon answered. Within a decade the Progressive Conservative Party had been essentially colonized and folded into it's former challenger, the Reform/Alliance party, and renamed as the Conservative Party of Canada. By the mid-2000s, the CPC would govern Canada for at least a decade. How things change.
As an insider to the events he narrates, McLaughlin includes fascinating snippets of the day-to-day strangeness out of which the Campbell leadership and election campaigns were built upon. Some of his stories smack of honesty that many of his peers might not have wanted aired publicly, particularly when the PCPC might still have harboured hope to survive into the late 1990s.
Along with providing insights into Campbell's personality, the book also provides useful insights into how federal politics operates in Canada (and how it a federal party can operate poorly). For those interested in Canadian politics, Poisoned Chalice also provides a useful set of crib notes on the emerging lights in Canada's then-'conservative' political community, from Hugh Segal to Jean Charest… figures who would in the 2000s be critical points of reference for Canada's political observers.