Today is a very important day in the life of career of one of the most important political advisors in modern Canadian political history. It was, on this date in 1981, that Tom Axworthy was appointed by then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau as the 15th Prime Minister’s principal secretary. Axworthy replaced another legendary figure from PMO backrooms, the late Jim Coutts.
From 1981 to Pierre Trudeau’s retirement from politics in 1984, Axworthy — who had been involved in the Liberal Party since his youth (and had served as an assistant to Cabinet Minister Walter Gordon during the Pearson years) — played crucial roles, particularly during the repatriation of the constitution in 1981-82. He was also Mr. Trudeau’s chief speechwriter.
After politics, Axworthy taught at Harvard and also pioneered the History Minutes and Heritage Fair programs when he led the Charles R. Bronfman Foundation as executive director and vice president. He was also the first-ever executive director of the Historica Foundation and led the crucial efforts to place the Canadian Encyclopedia on-line, where it has become one of the most important tools available in advancing knowledge of Canadian history.
It was my good fortune to work under Tom when he chaired the Centre from the Study of Democracy at Queen’s University. A remarkable man and mentor, it is a very great personal pleasure to mark this anniversary for Tom on Art’s History.
Birthday alerts: Sending out birthday greetings to MP Garnett Genuis.
Arthur Milnes is an accomplished public historian and award-winning journalist. He was research assistant on The Rt. Hon. Brian Mulroney’s best-selling Memoirs and also served as a speechwriter to then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper and as a Fellow of the Queen’s Centre for the Study of Democracy under the leadership of Tom Axworthy. A resident of Kingston, Ontario, Milnes serves as the in-house historian at the 175 year-old Frontenac Club Hotel.