Writing on the Battlefield

Writing on the Battlefield

Posted on March 10 by Kyle in Interview, Non-fiction
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Tell us about your book

The book is political memoir; it goes over almost three decades of my participation in Ontario politics covering my time in Peterson government. Also the period of time when the liberal party was an opposition, then returning to power, then ten years of working with Dalton McGiunty, and then the succession of moving the party to a new term with premier Kathleen Wynne. 


How did you come up with the idea for this work?

You won’t be surprised that politicians of all stripes think about writing a political memoir. A few former colleagues as I was leaving politics suggested to me that it might be appropriate to add to the written documentation of politics of Ontario. We have very few books about politics of Ontario now, so I started to get the work going, and then became very enthusiastic about documenting thirty years of Ontario political history.


How did you come up with the title?

I found that finding a title to a book is not an easy task, but in the first cut of the book I used the phrase “thirty years on the battlefield of Ontario politics.” The more that phrase worked its way into my head, the more I thought that’s the right title for the book. So we ended up calling it The Battlefield of Ontario Politics. I’m not sure everyday in politics is a battle, but the idea that in politics you are having battles with opposition parties with a variety of issues, and thought the battlefield of Ontario politics did the best job of summing up the story that I wanted to tell.


Tell us a little about the overarching theme of your work, and why you felt compelled to explore it.

The theme of the book is obviously politics, and what I have tried to achieve for the overarching theme is a behind the scenes look about how politics really operates, and how you get things done. During my time at Queens Park I began as an apprentice politician in Peterson’s cabinet, and it really was an apprenticeship where I learned the art of politics. Then when I returned in 1999 as president of the liberal party I set myself out a mission and that was to do everything that I could to help liberals and Dalton McGiunty become the premier, and we succeeded in that mission, that battle in 2003. The balance of the book really tells the story of how we got there and what we did during those ten years including probing some issues that were particularly important to me when I spent four years as minister of finance in Ontario.


What was the creative process like for you?

The creative process was difficult for me, writing this sort of work does not come naturally to me, but you could imagine as a politician most of my work is oral. Over the course of thirty years, I have done hundreds possibly thousands of speeches so it was difficult and requires a discipline that I didn’t have but I think I developed during the course of writing the book. The essence is to just sit down in a quiet place, undisturbed, and keeping your rear end in the chair and keep writing.


What was the hardest part of writing your book?

I think the hardest part of writing this book, it may be true for everybody who writes a memoir, is to decide what and what not to put in. You could imagine that we are talking about thirty years involved in a very high pressurized environment, and when you start to go back; there are stories upon stories that you could tell. So the real discipline for me was deciding what might be relevant for the readership of this kind of political memoir, and what really wasn’t. For example there were two or three chapters that we wrote for the initial manuscript that we ended up leaving out because it didn’t really add to the story. So the most difficult part was to decide what not include in the book.