Keep True

A Life in Politics

Howard Pawley (Author)

Howard Pawley, former Premier of Manitoba (1981–88), led the province during one of the most turbulent periods in its history. Elected at the outset of a serious national recession, his government successfully implemented social democratic policies that ran counter to the neo-conservative trends that dominated the period, including job creation, labour reform, and human rights legislation. But his government’s greatest challenge was over French-language rights, an explosive two-year debate that left the province badly divided and embroiled in the complicated maneuvering between the national government and Quebec separatists. The political and public fallout from the French-language issue echoed through Manitoba’s subsequent negotiations with the federal government over a bid for a lucrative CF-18 fighter jet contract, through the implementation of the Free Trade Agreement, and again during the stormy Meech Lake Accord debates.

In Keep True, Pawley takes us into the inner workings of his government during this controversial period. He gives us a vivid play-by-play of the events, acknowledging what went right and what went wrong, while putting it all into a contemporary context. Along the way, he offers insight on campaign management, choosing a cabinet, appointing public servants, and leading by consensus, while describing how the principles of Canadian agrarian socialism shaped his political vision.


  • NOMINATED, Popular History category, Margaret McWilliams Awards (2011)


“This political memoir tells us more about the realities of political life, and tells its story more honestly, than most that I have read.”

– Paul G. Thomas, Senior Scholar, Political Studies, University of Manitoba

“Howard Pawley’s story is an instructive one for us to hear. He established the NDP as a significant political force in Manitoba at a time when neo-conservative governments held power across Canada. And, despite fierce opposition, he demonstrated how political power could be used effectively and with principle.”

– Paul Moist, National President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees and Governor of the Labour College of Canada

“It takes much to stay resilient in a rapidly changing time. Facing a national crisis in Canada, the Quebec separatists, human rights, military, facing scandal, and much more, Keep True offers insight into the drive of Canadian politics, very highly recommended reading.”

The Midwest Book Review

“Howard Pawley, the premier of Manitoba from 1981 to 1988, has written an interesting and important book documenting his life as a politician of the left during an era which saw the rise of the New Right and neoconservatism in Canada. Along with the insights we get into Pawley’s character, we learn much about the New Democratic Party (NDP) as Manitoba’s dominant political party.”

Errol Black, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives - Manitoba

About the Author

Following a successful law career, Howard Pawley served for nineteen years as a member of the Manitoba Legislature, and is currently an associate professor emeritus at the University of Windsor.

Other contributors: Foreword by Paul Moist, national president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees

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