CBC Digital Archives

Telescope: Mel Hurtig

Smart and timely, Telescope promised to zoom in on famous and fascinating Canadians living all over the world. The brainchild of Fletcher Markle, this half-hour documentary series premiered in 1963 and ran for 10 seasons. Beginning in 1966, Telescope became the first Canadian-produced colour program on the CBC Television network.

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Undaunted by advice that said he'd never make a living selling books, Mel Hurtig built a small empire in Edmonton. He expanded from bookselling to book publishing and in just three years he has already made regional publishing a going concern. In this 1970 profile, Telescope's cameras tail the staunch Canadian nationalist in his store and on the road, as he talks to people about the future of Canada, promotes his new titles and soaks up the beauty of the Rocky Mountains.
• Mel Hurtig was born in Edmonton in 1932. He opened his first bookstore there in 1956, and by 1972 had three highly successful stores in the city. Hurtig was among the first to offer patrons a place to socialize and sip coffee or play chess in the store. He also held readings and theatrical performances on site.
 
• Hurtig Publishing put out several significant titles, including the highly acclaimed Canadian Encyclopaedia and the Junior Canadian Encyclopaedia. He sold the company to McClelland and Stewart in 1991.
 
• In 1972, Hurtig ran for federal Parliament as a Liberal but lost to long-time Progressive Conservative incumbent Marcel Lambert. He left the party the following year, joining with several other prominent Canadian nationalists, including Walter Gordon and Claude Ryan, to found the Committee for an Independent Canada. Concerned about the high levels of foreign ownership of Canadian assets and its influence on Canadian life, Hurtig followed up the work of the CIC in 1985 by founding the influential Council of Canadians.
 
• Hurtig was appointed to the Order of Canada in 1980. He holds honorary degrees from several Canadian universities, numerous publishing awards and in 1988 won the Lester B. Pearson Man of the Year Peace Award.
 
• In 1991, Hurtig published his own first book, The Betrayal of Canada about the Free Trade Agreement; the book became a national bestseller. He has since written several other successful titles dealing with questions of economic nationalism and social policy in Canada.
 
• In 1992, Hurtig was a driving force behind the creation of new political party, the National Party. Elected as leader, his efforts to be included in the leaders' debates failed and he resigned as leader after the 1993 election. The party disbanded in 1994.
 
•From Confederation to 1970, the voting age in Canada was 21. As mentioned in this clip, it was lowered to 18 the same year this episode went to air.

Medium: Television
Program: Telescope
Broadcast Date: Oct. 6, 1970
Guest(s): Hurtig Eileen, Mel Hurtig, Henry Kreisel, Ralph MacMillan
Host: Ken Cavanagh
Duration: 22:54

Last updated: May 28, 2013

Page consulted on October 10, 2014

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