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Mitchell Sharp in the Seven Days Hot Seat

Mitchell Sharp was a long-serving Liberal politician who led several careers. He had been a civil servant, businessman, member of Parliament and trusted advisor.

The signs of his party loyalty were clear as early as 1957. Sharp quit public service with the arrival of a new Conservative government. He was embroiled in a dispute over Prime Minister John Diefenbaker's policy.

After a five-year flirtation with business in the private sector, he came back to Parliament Hill, this time working under Liberal Lester B. Pearson. Sharp would go on to become one of the party's most loyal politicians, securing Pierre Elliott Trudeau's ascent and mentoring Jean Chrétien.

In this CBC Television clip from This Hour Has Seven Days, Sharp is put in the Seven Days Hot Seat for his party's views on the flag debate.

When asked whether parliamentary closure will be invoked over the flag we revisit Sharp's opposition to Conservative policy. If closure happens, he says, "It would be because Diefenbaker is quite unreasonable."

• Mitchell Sharp was born in Winnipeg on May 11, 1911.
• He died of prostate cancer in an Ottawa hospital on March 20, 2004. Sharp was diagnosed with the disease when he fell and broke his collarbone on Feb. 22, 2004.
• Sharp first entered the civil service in 1942, working for the Finance Department. He impressed C.D. Howe, the prime minister's right-hand man, and was soon transferred to the Trade and Commerce Department.

• Howe hired Sharp as his deputy minister. He helped develop economic policy and write speeches.
• In 1949, Sharp assisted in negotiations to bring Newfoundland into Confederation.
• When John Diefenbaker's Conservatives took over the PMO in 1957, Sharp quit the civil service and entered the private sector. He took a job as head of a shareholding company called Brazilian Traction.

• According to journalist Larry Zolf, Sharp quit because he had been angered by Diefenbaker's misuse of a secret paper on unemployment.
• Not entirely giving up interest in political life, Sharp came back to Ottawa in 1963 as Member of Parliament for Eglinton.
• Once establishing himself as trade and commerce minister and then finance minister, Sharp entered the Liberal leadership race against Trudeau.

• After realizing his anti-nationalist stance wouldn't stand up against Trudeau's popular federalism, he quit the race. Sharp bolstered Trudeau's place in the running when he publicly announced support of Trudeau before the first ballot.
• In 1966, Sharp was the first finance minister to wear a new pair of shoes before announcing the budget. The tradition was picked up by subsequent finance ministers.

• In 1972, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra asked Sharp to play piano for a fundraiser. He had a love of classical music.
• In 1978, Sharp quit politics again and worked for 10 years as the commissioner of the Northern Pipeline Agency.

• Chrétien made Sharp his mentor and, in 1993, his personal advisor on how to make government more trustworthy. Sharp's salary was $1 a year.
• A 1993 Maclean's article called Sharp "the Liberal government's unofficial ethics advisor." Sharp told the magazine he had "a hunger for change in the way that Ottawa does business." He thought the Liberals won the election that year because Canadians knew the party understood honest government.

• In 1983, Sharp was appointed Officer of the Order of Canada, and promoted to Companion in 1999.
Medium: Television
Program: This Hour has Seven Days
Broadcast Date: Nov. 1, 1964
Guest(s): Mitchell Sharp
Host: Laurier LaPierre, Warner Troyer
Duration: 10:35

Last updated: October 21, 2013

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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