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Milne, David.

Toronto, James Lorimer. c1986. 275pp. paper, ISBN 0-88862-978-8 (cloth) $24.95, 0-88862-977-X (paper) $16.95. CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Neil Payne

Volume 15 Number 3
1987 May

Tug of War is an account of the struggle between the national government and the provinces in the period 1980-1984. It begins with the re-election of the Trudeau government. The Quebec referendum was only a few months away. Alberta, supported by the powerful international oil companies, was openly challenging federal powers, and there had been a decade of steady erosion of political power from the national government to the provinces.

The Trudeau government was convinced that too much power had been lost to the provinces for the central government to be effective. They saw their chance to re-establish what they saw as a proper balance, after winning the Quebec referendum vote. With the unlikely support of two Conservative premiers (Davis of Ontario and Hatfield of New Brunswick) the Liberal government imposed a new Constitution and a Charter of Rights that would guarantee language rights and limit the powers of the provinces. The National Energy Plan was added to bring the international oil companies under control, Canadianize the industry, and provide Ottawa with the revenue to support future programs.

Then the world-wide recession and the unexpected drop in oil prices created serious economic problems and dried up government revenue. The result was a rapidly rising debt and an alienated electorate that turned to Brian Mulroney and the Conservative opposition in the next election.

This brought to Ottawa a national government composed primarily of a coalition of anti-centralist and anti-nationalist groups. Mulroney. having been elected on a platform that promised cooperation with the provinces, a healthy climate for business and foreign investment, control of the debt, and less big government, moved quickly to pacify the oil companies, Alberta, and Newfoundland by signing energy agreements that would transfer huge expected revenues from Ottawa to the oil companies and provinces. (The Western Accord alone would reduce expected federal revenue 1985-1990 by $11.9 billion). They also scrapped the National Energy Plan and the Foreign Investment Review Agency and entered into negotiations for a free trade agreement with the United States.

The major theme of this book is the clear contrast between the two governments; one the most centrist, the other the least centrist that Canada had seen in decades. This huge difference in approach and policy has resulted in massive changes in Canada's legal, political, economic, and social conditions in a very short period.

Milne's book is a well-written, well-documented, and scholarly work. It is interesting reading and is well indexed, but the complexity of the topic makes it necessary that the reader have a fairly mature understanding of Canadian political and economic life.

Milne is a professor of political studies at the University of Prince Edward Island. He has published other works on Canadian affairs including The New Canadian Constitution (Lorimer, 1982). His clarity of argument and careful development of the events provides the reader with in-depth coverage of a period that may prove pivotal in Canada's development.

This is an important book that not only describes the 1980-84 period, but also makes today's events understandable by explaining the forces at work shaping both the recent past and the present. It is a must for all libraries that support serious consideration of Canada's public life. It should be included in all university, college, and large public library collections. It will also be valuable for senior high school Canadian studies.

Neil Payne, Kingston C.I., Kingston, Ont.
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