Biographies of Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, and one of the most controversial, Pierre Trudeau, are vying for the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing.

Nominees for the $25,000 award were released by the Writers’ Trust of Canada on Wednesday.

Among them are Richard Gwyn’s Nation Maker: Sir John A. Macdonald: His Life, Our Times, the second volume of Gwyn’s re-examination of the life of Canada’s first prime minister.  The book was previously nominated for the Hilary Weston Prize, the Charles Taylor Prize and the Governor General’s Literary Award.

The other biography is Trudeau Transformed: The Shaping of a Statesman, 1944-1965, the second volume of a ground-breaking biography of the former prime minister by Max and Monique Nemni. Originally published in French, it has been translated by George Tombs. The Nemnis also wrote Young Trudeau, about his early years.

Also nominated for the prize:

  • Ron Graham for The Last Act: Pierre Trudeau, the Gang of Eight, and the Fight for Canada, published by Allen Lane Canada.
  • 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.

Jacques Poitras, a CBC journalist, has been nominated for Imaginary Line. (Writers' Trust of Canada)

Poitras is a Fredericton-based journalist for CBC, who writes about life along the New Brunswick-Maine border in his latest book, Imaginary Line. 

Graham’s The Last Act examines the 1981 deal that led to the repatriation of the Constitution and the Charter of Rights.

Nikiforuk's  look at the pine bark beetle covers the beetle's fascinating social life and the strange collection of entomologists, foresters and artists who are trying to draw attention to the damage it is causing to Western Canadian forests.

The winner of the prize will be named in Ottawa on April 25, 2012, at the Politics and the Pen Gala.

This year's jury is journalist David Akin, historian Charlotte Gray and political scientist Janice Gross Stein.