Peter Charles Newman CC CD (May 10, 1929 – September 7, 2023) was an illustrious figure in the Canadian media landscape. His journey, from being a Jewish refugee fleeing Nazi occupation to becoming one of Canada’s most celebrated journalists, is a testament to his resilience, talent, and dedication.
Life and Career
Born in Vienna, Austria, Newman and his family, consisting of his parents Wanda Maria and Oscar Karel Neumann, fled Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. The family found refuge in Canada in 1940. In their homeland, Oscar Karel Neumann was a self-made wealthy factory owner.
In his new home, Newman pursued his education at Upper Canada College, aligning himself with Seaton’s House. He later attended the University of Toronto. His journalism career began with the Financial Post. But he wasn’t just any reporter; Newman would go on to be the editor of the Toronto Star and later became the long-time editor of Maclean’s. Under his guidance, Maclean’s transitioned from a general interest magazine to a prominent weekly news magazine.
In 1978, Newman’s contributions were recognized as he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. His position was elevated to Companion in 1990.
He was renowned for his deep insights into Canadian business. His 1975 book, The Canadian Establishment, received widespread acclaim. The 1960s saw the publication of two pivotal works from Newman: Renegade in Power: The Diefenbaker Years (1963) and The Distemper of Our Times (1968).
In a controversial move in 2005, Newman revealed The Secret Mulroney Tapes: Unguarded Confessions of a Prime Minister. This biography of the former Canadian prime minister, Brian Mulroney, whom Newman considered a close friend, contained shocking revelations. This release led to both Mulroney and Conrad Black filing lawsuits against him.
Newman’s personal life was as dynamic as his professional one. He was married four times, including once to writer Christina McCall. He spent his latter years with his fourth wife, Alvy (Bjorklund) Newman, in Belleville, Ontario.
His commitment to his nation was evident when he joined the Royal Canadian Navy reserve in 1947. Over the years, he climbed to the rank of Captain. Later in life, he affiliated himself with educational institutions. In December 2009, he was appointed Visiting Professor of Distinction at Ryerson University in Toronto. Three years later, he joined the faculty of the Royal Military College of Canada as its first journalist-in-residence.
In 1973, he openly shared his ideological shift towards a passionate Canadian nationalism, moving away from the ‘small-l’ liberalism prevalent in the 1950s.
Newman’s life journey concluded on September 7, 2023, due to complications from Parkinson’s disease. He was 94.
Newman’s literary contributions are vast. Some of his notable works include:
- The Canadian Establishment series
- Renegade in Power: The Diefenbaker Years (1963)
- The Distemper of Our Times (1968)
- The Secret Mulroney Tapes: Unguarded Confessions of a Prime Minister (2005)
- Here Be Dragons: Telling Tales of People, Passion and Power (Autobiography, 2004)
This is just a glimpse of Newman’s extensive bibliography, which spans topics of business, politics, history, and personal reflections. Through his words, the legacy of Peter C. Newman will continue to enlighten and inspire generations.