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Writers’ Trust Makes John A. Macdonald Biography Toast of Nation

OttawaApril 25, 2012 –The Writers’ Trust of Canada announced tonight at the Politics and the Pen Gala that Richard Gwyn has won the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing for Nation Maker: Sir John A. Macdonald: His Life, Our Times; Volume Two: 1867–1891, published by Random House Canada. 

The $25,000 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize is sponsored by Bell Media and supported by the Politics and the Pen Gala.

A jury composed of journalist David Akin, historian Charlotte Gray, and political scientist Janice Gross Stein selected the winner. Their citation reads:

In Nation Maker, Richard Gwyn gives us a politician who was far more shrewd and tough than either the debonair image he himself cultivated or the caricature imprinted on too much of our history. Gwyn shows how Macdonald built a nation out of a reluctant union of impoverished colonies, and shaped the Canada we know today. His explorations of the most important episodes in Macdonald’s prime ministership give new insights into the way Macdonald dealt with both national and Aboriginal crises. This is a fully rounded and compelling portrait of our first prime minister’s public and private life.

Richard Gwyn is one of Canada’s best-known political columnists. He continues to write on both international and national affairs for the Toronto Star and appears frequently as a commentator on both television and radio. The first volume of his biography of Macdonald, John A: The Man Who Made Us, was a finalist for this prize in 2007. In 2011 it was named one of the Best Canadian Political Books of the Last 25 Years by the Writers’ Trust of Canada and Samara. Nation Maker was a finalist for last year’s Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction.

View a video profile on the prize winner featuring a reading of the jury citation by former politician Preston Manning.



Four finalists for this year’s prize received $2,500 each:

(Click on cover for more info)

Ron Graham | The Last Act: Pierre Trudeau, the Gang of Eight, and the Fight for Canada
Published by Allen Lane Canada

Max and Monique Nemni (authors), George Tombs (translator) | Trudeau Transformed: The Shaping of a Statesman, 1944-1965
Published by McClelland & Stewart

Andrew Nikiforuk | Empire of the Beetle: How Human Folly and a Tiny Bug Are Killing North America’s Great Forests 
Published by Greystone Books/David Suzuki Foundation

Jacques Poitras | Imaginary Line: Life on an Unfinished Border
Published by Goose Lane Editions

About the Prize

Now in its twelfth year, the prize is awarded annually to a nonfiction book that captures a political subject of interest to Canadian readers and enhances our understanding of the issue. The winning work combines compelling new insights with depth of research and is of significant literary merit. Strong consideration is given to books that, in the opinion of the jury, have the potential to shape or influence Canadian political life.

About Shaughnessy Cohen
The Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing was established in honour of the outspoken and popular Member of Parliament from Windsor, Ontario, who died on December 9, 1998.

About Politics and the Pen
Politics and the Pen is the highlight of the capital’s spring social calendar and an important annual fundraising event benefiting the Writers’ Trust. Held at the Fairmont Ch√Ęteau Laurier, the event attracts 500 guests from the city’s political and literary circles. Microsoft Canada sponsors the Politics and the Pen dinner, and MTS Allstream Inc. sponsors the Politics and the Pen pre-dinner and post-dinner receptions. This year’s event raised a total of $300,000, and the annual gala has now raised more than $2 million to support the programs of the Writers’ Trust.

About the Writers’ Trust
The Writers’ Trust of Canada is a charitable organization that seeks to advance, nurture, and celebrate Canadian writers and writing through a portfolio of programs, including literary awards, financial grants, scholarships, and a writers’ retreat. Writers’ Trust programming is designed to champion excellence in Canadian writing, to improve the status of writers, and to create connections between writers and readers. Canada’s writers receive more financial support from the Writers’ Trust than from any other non-governmental organization or foundation in the country.



For further information:
Becky Toyne (416-871-0502,

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