Peter C. Newman | The Canadian Encyclopedia

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Peter C. Newman

Peter Charles Newman (born Peta Karel Neuman), CC, journalist, author, newspaper and magazine editor (born 10 May 1929 in Vienna, Austria; died 7 September 2023 in Belleville, ON). Peter C. Newman was one of Canada’s most prominent journalists, biographers and non-fiction authors. After starting out with the Financial Post, he became editor-in-chief of both the Toronto Star and Maclean’s. His 35 books, which have collectively sold more than two million copies, helped make political reporting and business journalism more personalized and evocative. His no-holds-barred, insiders-tell-all accounts of Canada’s business and political elites earned him a reputation as Canada’s “most cussed and discussed” journalist. A recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees, Newman was elected to the Canadian News Hall of Fame in 1992. He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1978 and a Companion in 1990.

Newman, Peter C.

Early Life and Education

Originally named Peta Karel Neuman by his secularized Jewish parents, Peter C. Newman grew up in the Czech town of Breclav, where his father ran a large sugar beet refinery. As Newman wrote in 2018, “I lived the charmed life of a little rich boy in Moravia, Czechoslovakia — until age nine, that is, when the world as I knew it vanished.” Fleeing the Nazis, his family came to Canada as refugees in 1940.

Newman initially attended Hillfield School in Hamilton, Ontario, a prep school for the Royal Military College of Canada. But, envisaging a business career for his son, Newman's father, Oscar, enrolled him as a “war guest” boarder at Upper Canada College in 1944. There he met future members of the Canadian establishment whose lives he would later document.

After graduating, Newman joined the Canadian Navy Reserves. He was a reservist for decades and eventually reached the rank of captain. For many years, he was rarely seen in public without his signature black sailor cap.


Career Highlights

Once he mastered English, Newman began writing, first for the University of Toronto newspaper, then for the Financial Post in 1951. By 1953, he was Montreal editor of the Post. He held the position for three years before returning to Toronto to be assistant editor, then Ottawa columnist, at Maclean's magazine. In 1959, he published Flame of Power: Intimate Profiles of Canada's Greatest Businessmen. It profiles 11 of the first generation of Canada's business magnates. In 1963, Newman published his masterly and popular political chronicle of John Diefenbaker, Renegade in Power: The Diefenbaker Years (1963). According to the Writers’ Trust of Canada, the book “revolutionized Canadian political reporting with its controversial ‘insiders-tell-all’ approach.” Five years later, Newman published a similar but less successful study of Lester Pearson, The Distemper of Our Times (1968).

In 1969, Newman became editor-in-chief at the Toronto Star. During this period, he published some of his best journalism in Home Country: People, Places and Power Politics (1973). He then published popular studies on the lives of those who wielded financial power in the Canadian business establishment. These included his two-volume The Canadian Establishment (1975, 1981), The Bronfman Dynasty (1978; see also Bronfman Family), and The Establishment Man: A Portrait of Power (1982). A third book called Titans: How the New Canadian Establishment Seized Power was added to this series in 1998.

Newman was also editor of Maclean's from 1971 to 1982. He transformed the magazine from a monthly to a weekly news magazine — the first of its kind in Canada — with a Canadian slant on international and national events. In 1982, he resigned to work on a three-volume history of the Hudson's Bay Company.


Personal Life

Peter C. Newman was married four times. His first marriage produced a daughter from whom he was estranged. He was then married to fellow Maclean’s journalist Christina McCall for 17 years and to Camilla Turner, a former managing editor of Flare magazine, for 12 years. He was married to his fourth wife, Alvy (Bjorklund) Newman, from 1996 until his death in 2023. “I wasn't as irresponsible as it seems because I never cheated on any of my wives,” he told Maclean’s in 2004. “It seems to me more honest if a relationship isn't working to remarry rather than go out and freelance.” Of his second wife, McCall, he once wrote that “we divorced over religious differences: I thought I was God, and she didn’t.”

Newman’s archives have been held at the McMaster University Library since 1976.

In 2022, he suffered a stroke. Soon after, he developed Parkinson’s disease. He died from complications related to the stroke at the age of 94.

Honours

Peter C. Newman received the Canadian Journalism Foundation's Lifetime Achievement Award and the Toronto Star's Excellence in Journalism award in 1998. He received a National Newspaper Award and in 1992 he was elected to the Canadian News Hall of Fame. In 2004, his autobiography Here Be Dragons: Telling Tales of People, Passion and Politics, won the Drainie-Taylor Biography Prize from the Writers’ Trust of Canada.

Newman was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1978 for “his notable contribution in the field of journalism.” He was promoted to Companion in 1990. He also received the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002 and the Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.

(See also Peter Newman Interview.)


Honorary Degrees


Publications

  • Flame of Power: Intimate Profiles of Canada's Greatest Businessmen (1959)
  • Renegade in Power: The Diefenbaker Years (1963)
  • The Distemper of Our Times: Canadian Politics in Transition (1968)
  • A Nation Divided: Canada and the Coming of Pierre Trudeau (1969)
  • Their Turn to Curtsy: Your Turn to Bow (1972)
  • Home Country: People, Places, and Power Politics (1973)
  • The Canadian Establishment: Volume One: The Old Order (1975)
  • Bronfman Dynasty: The Rothschilds of the New World (1978; published in the US in 1979 under the title, King of the Castle: The Making of a Dynasty)
  • The Canadian Establishment: Volume Two: The Acquisitors (1981)
  • The Establishment Man: Conrad Black, A Portrait of Power (1982)
  • True North, Not Strong and Free: Defending the Peaceable Kingdom in the Nuclear Age (1983)
  • Debrett's Illustrated Guide to the Canadian Establishment (editor) (1983)
  • Drawn and Quartered: The Trudeau Years (1984)
  • A History of the Hudson's Bay Company: Volume One: Company of Adventurers (1985)
  • A History of the Hudson's Bay Company: Volume Two: Caesars of the Wilderness (1987)
  • Empire of the Bay: An Illustrated History of the Hudson Bay Company (1989)
  • A History of the Hudson's Bay Company: Volume Three: Merchant Princes (1991)
  • Canada: The Great Lone Land (1989)
  • Canada 1892: Portrait of a Promised Land (1991)
  • Promise of the Pipeline (1993)
  • Nortel, Northern Telecom: Past, Present, Future (1995)
  • The Canadian Revolution: From Deference to Defiance (1995)
  • Defining Moments: Dispatches from an Unfinished Revolution (1996)
  • Vancouver: The Art of Living Well (1996)
  • The Canadian Establishment: Volume Three: The Titans (1998)
  • Sometimes a Great Nation: Will Canada Belong to the 21st Century? (1998)
  • Canada: The Land that Shapes Us (1998)
  • Continental Reach (2002)
  • Here Be Dragons: Telling Tales of People, Passion and Power (memoir) (2004)
  • The Secret Mulroney Tapes: Unguarded Confessions of a Prime Minister (2005)
  • Izzy: The Passionate Life and Turbulent Times of Izzy Asper, Canada's Media Mogul (2008)
  • Heroes: Canadian Champions, Dark Horses, and Icons (2010)
  • Mavericks: Canadian Rebels, Renegades, and Anti-Heroes (2010)
  • When the Gods Changed: The Death of Liberal Canada (2011; originally titled Michael Ignatieff: The Man in Full)
  • Hostages to Fortune: The United Empire Loyalists and The Making of Canada (2016)

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