Mac Runciman

A Life in the Grain Trade

Paul D. Earl (Author), Gerald Friesen (Introduction)


One of the most turbulent periods in the history of prairie agriculture is chronicled in a new book about the life and times of Alexander "Mac" Runciman, the Saskatchewan farmer who led the United Grain Growers as president from 1961 to 1981. Mac Runciman earned the respect and admiration on both sides of the great agriculture debates of the 1960s and 1970s from individual farmers to Pierre Trudeau, who offered Runciman a cabinet post in 1980 (Mac turned him down). Mac Runciman: A Life in the Grain Trade tells the story of how Runciman rose through the ranks of the UGG to play a central role in the fierce debates over the modernization of grain handling, subsidized freight rates, and the role of The Canadian Wheat Board. Runciman's reminiscences give new insights into the events and personalities of that critical period in Canadian agricultural history, a time in which the rural community began to question highly centralized and regulated marketing and transportation systems. The events and decisions of those years continue to reverberate in today's controversies over grain marketing and grain transportation.


"Protesting all the way that he was just a farmer doing what was best for farming, Mac Runciman contributed a great deal during an extraordinary moment in western Canada. He emerged from the crucible with reputation enhanced and his feet planted on the ground as firmly as they had been when he was a Saskatchewan farmer. This is an important memoir concerning a pivotal era in prairie agriculture."

Gerald Friesen, author of The Canadian Prairies: A History

About the Authors

Paul D. Earl joined the Asper School of Business in 2003, after a long career in the western Canadian grain industry. Earl holds a BASc in Civil Engineering, and MASc in transportation and economics from the University of Toronto, and an interdisciplinary PhD (history, agricultural economics and religion) from the University of Manitoba. He is the author of Mac Runciman: A Life in the Grain Trade.

Gerald Friesen taught Canadian history at the University of Manitoba from 1970–2011. He has written several books, including The Canadian Prairies: A History and Citizens and Nation, and is co-author of Immigrants in Prairie Cities. Former president of the Canadian Historical Association, he was an advisor on CBC-Radio Canada’s television series Canada: A People’s History. He lives in Winnipeg.