At a time when too many of the world’s political leaders are consolidating power by playing on divisions and stoking fear, Unlikely Insider, a memoir by former federal cabinet minister and senator Jack Austin, comes as a welcome reminder of the value of public service as a force for economic progress, social justice, and nation-building. With both historical perspective and an eye to the future, Austin reflects on events and people whose impacts are still felt, and on the enduring challenges of Canadian life. Moving away from colonial domination of Indigenous Peoples, navigating our pivotal relationship with the United States and engagement with China, the nature and purpose of the Senate: these remain timely concerns, to which Austin has made significant contributions. Sharing insights into policy as well as into the personalities of colleagues and friends, Unlikely Insider paints vignettes of figures from Premier Zhou Enlai to Queen Elizabeth and recounts the author’s travels with Pierre Trudeau after the prime minister’s retirement. As a British Columbian, Austin worked to ensure that his province’s perspectives and interests mattered in Ottawa; as someone who came from a disadvantaged background, he is sensitive to the need to make the country a place of fairness and opportunity for all. Unlikely Insider reminds Canadians that inclusion – regional, social, and demographic – makes our nation both stronger and more just.
About the Author
Jack Austin, a former cabinet member and senator, has been involved in politics and public policy at the highest levels for more than fifty years. He lives in Vancouver. Edie Austin is editorial page editor of the Montreal Gazette.
“A great Canadian whose contribution is significant – Jack Austin’s influence in building our country’s emergence as a Pacific nation serves us well. His story brings the evolution of Canada as a nation over the last half century vividly to life.” Don Campbell, former deputy foreign minister
“Jack Austin has played a unique role in Canada’s public life. His deep friendship with Pierre Trudeau, his unparalleled contacts in China, his leadership in representing British Columbia and western Canada in Ottawa, and his personal exuberance, warmth, and wide-ranging friendships make his a voice we need to hear!” Bob Rae, Canadian ambassador to the United Nations
“For most of Canada’s history, our nation was shaped from the centre; without contesting existing strengths, Jack Austin worked assiduously to open Canadians’ eyes to our west. With singular effectiveness he applied a political lens from British Columbia to Canada’s sense of our future, and we are all beneficiaries.” Rt Honourable Joe Clark, former prime minister of Canada
“Given Jack Austin’s intellectual bent and acute insights, Unlikely Insider provides a detailed analysis of many of the most challenging policy issues of the day, several of which, as he himself notes, are ongoing concerns. It also offers a primer in the sociology of Canadian politics and political life, demonstrating conclusively – whether intentional or not – the complex and significant interrelationship between the various political, business, and academic elites, a reality first outlined decades ago by John Porter in ‘The Vertical Mosaic.’” Brooke Jeffrey, author of Road to Redemption: The Liberal Party of Canada, 2006–2019