The Other Political Heavyweight in Justin's Past

Posted by Howard on Jun 1, 2013

In a recent interview, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau invoked the memory of a towering political figure in his family background who has served as his most important mentor as he goes about the task of restoring what was once called Canada's Natural Ruling Party. And that figure is not his father, former Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau. Rather it is his grandfather, James "Jimmy," Sinclair (b 26 May 1908, Banff, Scotland; d 7 Feb 1984, W Vancouver). Just how much formative influence Justin's maternal grandfather could have had on the the putative PM is questionable since he died in 1984 when Justin was only 13, but the younger Trudeau could not choose a better mentor to follow. Sinclair was born in Scotland but his parents brought him to VANCOUVER as a toddler. After graduating in engineering from UBC he won a Rhodes scholarship to study at Oxford Univ in England. He returned to BC in 1931 and taught school, became an organizer for the provincial LIBERAL PARTY and worked as an assistant to a government minister in VICTORIA. When WWII began he joined the RCAF and saw action in North Africa. Meanwhile he was elected to Parliament for the Liberals in 1940, for the Coast–Capilano riding. He proved to be an independent-minded MP and ran afoul of Prime Minister Mackenzie King, but once Louis St Laurent became Liberal leader and prime minister in 1948, his career picked up speed. After a stint as assistant to the finance minister, Sinclair joined the cabinet in Oct 1952 as fisheries minister, a position he held until the Liberals were defeated in 1957. In 1955 he became the first Canadian minister to visit the Soviet Union. After losing his seat in the Conservative landslide of 1958 he pursued business interests until his retirement. It was his daughter, Margaret, who married Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in 1971 and thus begat the current leader of grandfather Sinclair's old political party. (See Margaret KEMPER). Sinclair is remembered as a consummate backroom politician and the best Fisheries Minister Canada ever had as well as one of the most popular federal politicians in BC history. By invoking his memory, Justin Trudeau reminds observers he has political smarts coming down to him from more than one direction.