Richard Gwyn has won the $25,000 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Nation Maker: Sir John A. Macdonald: His Life, Our Times, published by Random House Canada.

The political journalist was named winner of the award for political writing at the Politics and the Pen gala in Ottawa on Wednesday. The prize is named after the late Shaughnessy Cohen, who was an outspoken Windsor, Ont., MP.


Richard Gwyn has won the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing. (CBC)

The book is the second volume of Gwyn's biography of Canada's first prime minister and follows his life after Confederation.

Gwyn said he set out to re-examine Macdonald because he is the "most interesting, multilayered, complex and contradictory" of Canada's prime ministers.

"Breathing life into John A. Macdonald is no problem. He was himself full of life — he was a life force. Nothing ever discouraged him," he told CBC News last year, when the book was named as a finalist for the Hilary Weston Prize for non-fiction.

The book was also a contender for the Governor General's Literary Award and the Charles Taylor Prize. Just last week it won the J.W. Dafoe Book Prize for the best book about Canada.

The first volume of Gwyn's Macdonald bio, titled John A: The Man Who Made Us, was named one of the best Canadian books of the past 25 years by the Writers’ Trust of Canada in 2011.

Gwyn is one of Canada’s best-known political columnists and contributes to both television and radio.

The other four finalists for the award each win $2,500. They are:

  • Ron Graham for The Last Act: Pierre Trudeau, the Gang of Eight, and the Fight for Canada, published by Allen Lane Canada.
  • Max and Monique Nemni, with translator George Tombs, for Trudeau Transformed: The Shaping of a Statesman, 1944-1965, published by McClelland & Stewart.
  • Andrew Nikiforuk for Empire of the Beetle: How Human Folly and a Tiny Bug Are Killing North America’s Great Forests, published by Greystone Books/David Suzuki Foundation.
  • Jacques Poitras for Imaginary Line: Life on an Unfinished Border, published by Goose Lane Editions.