TORONTO.- Veteran Canadian journalist and author Peter C. Newman, who was holding up a mirror to Canada. He was 94 years old.
His wife, Alfie Newman, said by phone that Newman died in a hospital in Belleville, Ontario, on Thursday morning from complications related to a stroke he suffered last year, which caused him to develop Parkinson’s disease.
In a career spanning decades, Newman served as editor-in-chief of the Toronto Star and Maclean’s magazine, covering Canadian politics and business.
“It’s a huge loss. It’s like a library burns down if you lose someone with that knowledge,” Alfie Newman said. “It revolutionized journalism, business, politics and history.”
Newman, often recognized by his distinctive navy hat, has also written two dozen books and earned the unofficial title of “Canada’s most opinionated and controversial commentator,” HarperCollins, one of his publishers, said in his author’s note.
Political columnist Paul Wells, who for years was a senior editor at Maclean’s, said Newman transformed the magazine into what it was in its heyday: “a weekly breaking news magazine with a global reach.”
But more than that, Wells said, Newman created a model for Canadian political writers.
“Canadian Enterprise Books has convinced everyone – their colleagues and the book-buying public – that Canadian stories can be just as important, as interesting and fascinating as stories from anywhere else,” he said. “And he sold truckloads of those books. Oh my God.”
This three-book series (the first published in 1975 and the last in 1998) chronicles Canada’s recent history through the stories of powerful, unelected players.
Newman also told his story in his 2004 autobiography, Here Are the Dragons: Telling Tales of People, Passion, and Power.
He was born in Vienna in 1929 and came to Canada in 1940 as a Jewish refugee. In his autobiography, Newman describes how the Nazis shot him while he waited on the beach in Biarritz, France for the ship that would take him to freedom.
“Nothing compares to being a refugee; “They steal your context as you stumble in search of self-definition,” he wrote. “When I finally arrived in Canada, all I wanted was to have a voice. To be heard. That longing never left me.
That’s why he became a writer, he said.
The Canadian Writers Foundation said Newman’s 1963 book “Rebel in Power: The Diefenbaker Years” about former Prime Minister John Diefenbaker had “revolutionized Canadian political journalism with its controversial ‘experts-tell-it-all’ approach.”
Newman was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada in 1978 and promoted to the rank of Companion in 1990, recognized as a “historian of our past and interpreter of our present.”
Newman has won some of Canada’s most prestigious literary awards, along with seven honorary doctorates, according to his HarperCollins profile.