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.