Linda McQuaig

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Linda McQuaig
Born 1951
Occupation author, journalist, columnist, non-fiction author
Website
www.lindamcquaig.ca

Linda Joy McQuaig is a Canadian journalist, columnist, non-fiction author and social critic. Often described as feisty,[1][2] provocative,[3] and uncompromising,[4] she is best known for her series of best-selling books that challenge what she describes as Canada's departure from the principles of universal social programs, towards an American-style means-based system. The National Post newspaper has described McQuaig as "Canada's Michael Moore."[5]

Early years and personal life[edit]

McQuaig was born in 1951 to a comfortable middle-class Toronto family that she has described as opinionated and interested in politics. Her father Jack, who she has called "politically conservative but with a strong sense of social justice", is founder of the McQuaig Institute of Executive Development and has written a half-dozen books on leadership and personal development. McQuaig's mother Audrey was also trained as a psychologist, but gave up her career to raise McQuaig, her sister Wendy and brothers Peter, Don and John.[4][6][7]

From the ages of seven to nine, McQuaig wrote and published the one-page DeVere Weekly, a newspaper named after the street in Toronto on which her family lived. From 1963 to 1970 McQuaig attended Branksome Hall, a Toronto private girls school where she became president of the debating society, and from which she graduated with the Governor General's medal for academic achievement. Later she attended the University of Toronto, where she worked for the student newspaper The Varsity and served as co-editor in chief with Thomas Walkom.[4]

In the 1970s McQuaig and four friends co-owned a house they called The Pit in Toronto's east end, where they hosted frequent house parties and dinners for friends in academia, media and the arts. In 1976 she lived for a year in Paris, where she learned French and wrote a never-published novel, set in Paris, about a relationship between a female journalist and an Arab man. In the mid-eighties McQuaig created The Make-Out Game, a feminist boardgame she has described as "a satire on the different ways men and women approach sex." In the early nineties she married criminal defense lawyer Fred Fedorsen, with whom she has a daughter, Amy. The marriage ended in divorce in 1994.[4]

Career[edit]

McQuaig first worked as a journalist while a student at University of Toronto, initially writing and then co-editing, The Varsity, a year in each role. In 1974 she was hired as a full-time reporter by the Globe and Mail newspaper. In 1977 she became a story producer for CBC Radio's As It Happens. In 1979 she went to Tehran to freelance for the CBC, Globe and Mail and Maclean's magazine, covering the Iranian revolution that overthrew the Shah. In 1981 she joined Maclean's as a senior writer, and in 1982 took a leave of absence to cover the 1982 war in Lebanon from Lebanon, Israel and the West Bank.

In 1983 McQuaig wrote a two-part piece for Maclean's with its then-assistant business editor Ian Austen investigating whether Canadian financier Conrad Black had tried to inappropriately influence the Attorney General of Ontario to stop an investigation into his attempted takeover of Ohio-based Hanna Mining Co..[8] Years later, Black described McQuaig in his Toronto Sun column as a "weedy and not very bright leftist reporter" who writes "sophomoric, soporiferous left-wing books",[4] and told host Peter Gzowski on CBC Radio that McQuaig deserved to be "horsewhipped".[9] Later McQuaig was hired as a columnist for Black's National Post newspaper.

In 1984, McQuaig returned to the Globe as a political reporter, where she first came to national prominence in 1989 for uncovering the Patti Starr affair, in which former Ontario Place CEO Patti Starr was found to have illegally used charitable funds to make political donations, and for which McQuaig was awarded the National Newspaper Award.

McQuaig left the Globe in 1990 when it wouldn't grant her sufficient leave to work on her second book, and in 1991 was awarded an Atkinson Fellowship in Public Policy to study the social welfare systems in Europe and North America. This resulted in the Atkinson Foundation publishing, in 1992, a 51-page special report by McQuaig called Canada's Social Programs: Under Attack.[4][10][11]

Since 1992 McQuaig has supported herself through a combination of freelance and column writing, paid speaking, and the royalties from her eight books. She has written regularly for the Toronto Star, Eye magazine, the National Post and CBC Radio.[4]

Toronto Centre by-election[edit]

On 6 August 2013, McQuaig announced that she is seeking the nomination of the New Democratic Party to run in the pending Toronto Centre by-election.[12] On 15 September she won the nomination on the first ballot.[13] The election to replace Bob Rae was won by Chrystia Freeland.

Themes[edit]

She is currently best known for her series of books challenging Canada's departure from the principles of universal social programs toward an American model of strict means-based programs. She came to prominence with her best-selling 1993 book The Wealthy Banker's Wife, which challenged the argument that universal social programs such as the child welfare benefit (which had recently been discontinued) could be less expensive if funds were not paid to well-off people (such as the wife in the title). McQuaig noted that in Western Europe, such programs were common and even the Queen of the Netherlands received the benefit when she had young children.

This theme was explored further in her 1995 book Shooting the Hippo, which argued that, contrary to what was being propagated by the Liberal government (and the outgoing Conservatives) and the Bank of Canada, the country's large deficit was not caused by the so-called "enormous costs of social programs." The book details in full the government's plan to slash all social spending and to drastically increase interest rates in order to eliminate the national debt and to curb inflation. McQuaig countered these claims by arguing that two-thirds of Canada's debt had actually been created by these same high interest rates; the high rate of interest on Canada's initial loan, and that social spending had little, if anything, to do with increasing the debt burden. Shooting the Hippo also explains how high interest rates benefit the wealthy (by increasing the value of large assets) but impoverish the lower-income bracket by making all types of loans (student, car, mortgages etc.) far more difficult to pay off, in effect decreasing inflation (hence keeping the value of assets intact) but increasing unemployment and creating recessions simultaneously. As small businesses deal with paying off the high interest rates on their business loans, they found it hard to cover the overhead, in effect having to lay off employees they could no longer afford to pay.

In her 1998 book, The Cult of Impotence, McQuaig challenged assumptions about the effect of globalization on industrial economies and the argument that market forces could not be controlled by government intervention. She argued that attempts to rein in inflation because of the largely theoretical benefits to economic growth from zero inflation were actually causing high unemployment and that a move towards moderate inflation and high employment would naturally raise government revenues and reduce government welfare spending.

In All You Can Eat, McQuaig challenged the system of regressive taxation that led to the unequaled accumulation of wealth by the top 1% of the Canadian population since the early 1980s. Her proposition was that by cutting taxes and government benefits, the wealthy had benefited primarily at the cost of the less advantaged, including the middle class, whose real wages and wealth had barely grown during that period of time.

Her 2004 book It's The Crude, Dude: War, Big Oil and the Fight for the Planet was an investigation of United States foreign policy from the assumption that it acts in order to secure its supply of petroleum products, particularly in light of the recent actions of the United States in Iraq.

In Holding the Bully's Coat: Canada and the US Empire (2007), McQuaig argued that Canada should reject the role of adjunct to the United States and find its own way in the world.

In a 29 July 2008, article in the Toronto Star, McQuaig wrote that "Obama is resolutely in sync with the existing script prepared by Washington power brokers, not even veering far from the Bush White House."[14]

Books[edit]

  • 1991 – The Quick and the Dead: Brian Mulroney, Big Business and the Seduction of Canada – Toronto: Penguin Books; ISBN 0-670-83305-3
  • 1993 – The Wealthy Banker's Wife: The Assault on Equality in Canada – Toronto: Penguin Books – ISBN 0-14-023065-3
  • 1995 – Shooting the Hippo: Death by Deficit and Other Canadian Myths – Toronto: Penguin Books; ISBN 978-0-670-84767-9
  • 1998 – The Cult of Impotence: Selling the Myth of Powerlessness in the Global Economy – Toronto: Penguin Books; ISBN 0-670-87278-4
  • 2001 – All You Can Eat: Greed, Lust and the New Capitalism – Toronto: Penguin Books; ISBN 978-0-14-026222-3
  • 2007 – Holding the Bully's Coat: Canada and the U.S. Empire – Toronto: Doubleday Canada; ISBN 978-0-385-66012-9
  • 2010 – The Trouble with Billionaires – Toronto: Viking Canada
  • 2012 – Billionaires' Ball: Gluttony and Hubris in an Age of Epic Inequality (co-authored with Neil Brooks) – Boston: Beacon Press; ISBN 978-0-8070-0339-8

In popular culture[edit]

In the CBC TV comedy The Newsroom, she played herself as a guest to discuss her book Shooting the Hippo. This led to this exchange:

  • Ken Finley (News Director, played by Ken Finkelman): "(Shooting the Hippo I loved that book)...what does it mean?"
  • McQuaig: "I actually explained that in the opening line of the book."

Followed by another:

  • Jim Walcott (Anchor, played by Peter Kelegan): "I really liked the title of your book "Shooting the Hippo", but don't you think you would've sold more copies if you had a picture of a dead hippo on the cover?"

References[edit]

  1. ^ "It's the Crude, Dude". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved 13 October 2012. 
  2. ^ Bishop, Matthew (14 September 2010). "The Trouble with the Trouble With Billionaires". Philanthropcapitalism. Retrieved 13 October 2012. 
  3. ^ Axworthy, Lloyd (28 April 2007). "Why we must stand up to the bully, and how". Globe and Mail. Retrieved 13 October 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Murray, Sheila (Summer 1996). "Dissent and Sensibility". Ryerson Review of Journalism. Retrieved 13 October 2012. 
  5. ^ Lendman, Stephen (2 August 2007). "Linda McQuaig's "It's the Crude, Dude" – Book Review by Stephen Lendman". Atlantic Free Press. Retrieved 13 October 2012. 
  6. ^ McQuaig, Linda (2007). Holding the bully's coat: Canada and the U.S. empire. [Toronto]: Doubleday Canada. pp. Acknowledgements. ISBN 038566012X. 
  7. ^ "Helene Barnes (nee McQuaig) – 07/04/2006". Genealogy Buff. 19 March 2009. Retrieved 13 October 2012. 
  8. ^ Tombs, George (2007). Robber baron: Lord Black of Crossharbour. Toronto: ECW Press. p. 166. ISBN 1550228064. 
  9. ^ Linda McQuaig (14 July 2007). "Post was wolf in sheep's clothing". Toronto Star. Retrieved 18 February 2010. 
  10. ^ "Past Fellows". Atkinson Foundation. Retrieved 13 October 2012. 
  11. ^ McQuaig, Linda (1992). Canada's Social Programs: Under Attack. Toronto: Atkinson Charitable Foundation. p. 51. 
  12. ^ "Toronto Star columnist Linda McQuaig seeks NDP nomination for Toronto riding". Globe and Mail. 6 August 2013. Retrieved 6 August 2013. 
  13. ^ The Canadian Press (15 September 2013). "Linda McQuaig wins NDP nomination for coming byelection in Toronto Centre". Montreal Gazette. Retrieved 15 September 2013. 
  14. ^ McQuaig, Linda (29 July 2008). "Behind Obama's rhetoric". The Star (Toronto). Retrieved 2010-05-07. 

External links[edit]