Thomas Axworthy | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Thomas Axworthy

His career as a political strategist and policy advisor began in 1975 when he joined the PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE under principal secretary Jim COUTTS.
Thomas Sidney Axworthy
Thomas Axworthy, political strategist, writer and educator (courtesy Historica Foundation).

Axworthy, Thomas Sidney

 Thomas Sidney Axworthy, political strategist, writer, teacher (b at Winnipeg 23 May 1947). He received a BA (Hons) from the University of Winnipeg and an MA and PhD from Queen's U (1979). The younger brother of Lloyd AXWORTHY, he joined the LIBERAL PARTY in the early 1960s and in 1967 he worked as a research assistant for the Task Force on the Structure of the Canadian Economy, led by Walter GORDON, which explored, among related issues that of the effect of foreign ownership of Canadian industry. For Axworthy it was a formative experience that helped shape his future thinking about Canada's economic, industrial and social policies.

His career as a political strategist and policy advisor began in 1975 when he joined the PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE under principal secretary Jim COUTTS. From 1981 until Prime Minister Pierre TRUDEAU's retirement in 1984 he served as principal secretary and chief speechwriter, and was a major strategist of the NATIONAL ENERGY PROGRAM and the patriation of the CONSTITUTION.

In 1984 he was invited to join the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and was appointed adjunct lecturer in 1991. In 2004 he returned to Canada to teach in as an adjunct lecturer at the School of Policy Studies and Chairman of the Centre for the Study of Democracy at Queen's University. Between 1986 -1999 he was also associated with the Charles R. Bronfman (CRB) Foundation in Montréal, first as its vice-president and from 1989 onwards as Executive Director. Under his guidance the Foundation launched the high-profile and popular audiovisual series "Heritage Minutes" (now known as "Historica Minutes") for release on television and in movie theatres, as well as related educational projects. In 1999 he helped create and raise funds for the multi-million dollar Historica Foundation for which he served as Executive Director and which is aimed at improving the teaching and learning of Canadian history. In 2002 in recognition of his outstanding achievement and service in the field of history and heritage, Axworthy was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. In 2005 Axworthy retired as Historica's executive director to pursue writing and research.

As an analyst of policies and politics Tom Axworthy appears regularly on radio and television. He is also a prolific writer, publishing frequent articles in academic journals as well as newspapers and magazines. As editor and co-author he has published a number of books, including, with Pierre Trudeau, Towards a Just Society: The Trudeau Years (1990). In his work at Harvard and Historica and as a political commentator he focused on the two major concerns that have distinguished his career: the importance of learning, and the evolution of liberal ideas that could provide Canada with "an alternative vision" of economic development for the new century.