May 12, 1972. CBC Television was the recipient of the 1971 Michener Award for the acclaimed documentary series – The Tenth Decade. This was only the second time the best of Canada’s meritorious public service journalism was honoured since the inception of the Michener award program in 1970.
The trophy was presented to Cameron Graham, representing CBC Television, during a ceremony at Rideau Hall held under the auspices of Governor General Roland Michener after whom the award was named.
The Tenth Decade was a series of eight one-hour film documentaries made under the supervision of executive producer Cameron Graham. The programs were broadcast on the CBC-TV network from October 27 to December 22, 1971.The documentaries charted the political decade up to the Centennial year, and the Parliamentary conflict between John Diefenbaker and Lester Pearson as leaders of the two major parties.
London Free Press, the Ottawa Citizen, and the Windsor Star for articles produced jointly on the Niagara Escarpment and on the problems being encountered on its preservation despite the policy of the Ontario Government;
The Ottawa Citizen for the published results of their investigation into the Parcost scheme under which the Ontario Government encourages doctors to prescribe, and pharmacies to supply generic, as opposed to brand name drugs.
The Story Behind ‘The Tenth Decade’
The series offered a valuable perspective on the period from 1957 to 1967 from the vantage point of the two protagonists including archival footage from both political camps and interviews with the two adversaries. Maclean’s magazine (December 1971) said the show contained extraordinary revelations about what kind of country Canada really has been – gauche, provincial, pretentious, absurd, and incredibly colonial banana republic.
The first segment, ‘Prologue To Power’, introduced both Diefenbaker and Pearson and traced their backgrounds, ending with the June 1957 election that brought Diefenbaker’s Conservatives to power and ended the twenty-two years of Liberal domination in the House of Commons.
The second episode, ‘From Victory To Triumph’, took the Tories from the narrow margin of their first minority government to the landslide of March 1958, and outlined the Pearson’s succession to the leadership of the Liberal Party after the resignation of Louis St. Laurent.
Part three, ‘The Power And The Glory’, traced the four years of that government and the return of the Conservatives to a minority status in the Commons in 1962.
The fourth part, ‘Treason And Transition’ outlined the ten months of that fragile minority, marked by Diefenbaker’s anti-nuclear arms stance and the issue of the Bomarc missile, and the 1963 election that returned the Liberals to the government and made Pearson the Prime Minister.
As the title of the fifth program suggested, ‘Search For A Mandate’ concerned the Liberals’ efforts to build their political fortunes from a minority, but the period from one election to the next in 1965, also to a minority, were marked by budget conflicts, the war in Vietnam, and domestic scandal. The second Liberal government, documented in part six, ‘No Joy In Heaven’, was plagued with scandals like the Munsinger affair, and had to try to face the growing unrest in Quebec. ‘Celebration And Success’, the title of the seventh chapter, referred principally to the hoopla over the Centennial in l967, and not necessarily to the deposition of John Diefenbaker as head of the Progressive Conservative Party that same year.
Finally, as described in the last program, ‘The End Of An Era’, Pearson resigned, too, to be succeeded by Pierre Trudeau, and a new political regime began with the 1968 defeat of the Conservatives under Robert Stanfield and the formation of a majority Liberal government.
Writers for The Tenth Decade included Ed Reid, Christopher Young, and Brian Nolan, and the commentary was spoken by actor Jon Granik. Series outline and research – Peter Newman and Christopher Young. The film editors were Jim Williams, Lloyd Matthews, and Peggy Chandler with music composed by Larry Crosley.
Cameron Graham had previously produced individual documentaries on Diefenbaker’s decline in power (Hail And Farewell, 1967), and on the accession to power of Pierre Trudeau in the Liberal Party and as Prime Minister (The Style Is The Man Himself, 1968). The Tenth Decade was his first extended production of this type. It was heralded as a major effort in the development of television as a tool for writing Canadian political history.
Judges for the 1971 Michener Award:
Davidson Dunton, chair of the judging committee; Yves Gagnon, Director of the School of Communications at Laval university; Norman Mcleod, retired correspondent for UPI; and Sam Ross, retired radio journalist from Vancouver.
The Michener Award, founded in 1970 by the late Right Honourable Roland Michener, then Governor General, goes to a news organization. The judges’ decisions are heavily influenced by the degree of public benefit generated by the print and broadcast projects submitted for consideration.