My rating: 4 of 5 stars
First a reader alert: do not read this book, The Longer I'm Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Canada 2006 just before sleeping. I usually love reading myself to sleep with a good book but this one gave me nightmares. This may not apply to you if you tend to believe Daddy Knows Best and that someone with stony, empty eyes is a Strong Leader who should Take Charge while Canadian citizens pass out for three decades.
That said, Paul Wells is a terrific journalist and writer who has a great sense of humour (considering his beat for MacLean's magazine, federal politics, it's either that or leap off the Bell Tower) and the ability to synthesize a staggering amount of research while moving the narrative forward in a compulsively readable fashion. The reader isn't weighed down with every documented conversation or pelted with a dizzying array of names dropping from great heights.
It's best read in the clear light of day and will confirm what most political junkies already know, that the Prime Minister is overly-controlling about all aspects of governance and especially his contact with media, and that his aim is, above all, to hang on to majority government power (which he currently does with only 39% of the vote). This means curtailing the colourful outbursts of wing-nuts from the Reform Party in the merged ranks of Red Tories, fusty regular Tories and Reformers who line-danced their way into power by peddling right-wing umbrage on everything that was was immoral and/or involved paying too many taxes during the 20th century. I was counting on them reminding the four minute voters, the ones who managed to get to the polls with the latest political ad in their uncritical minds, that the quality of federal legislation was dependent on a lot of whack-job seat-warmers on the Conservative side of the house. But that's lazy, if hopeful, thinking on my part. What's even more sickening is the account of smear tactics used against NDP leader, Jack Layton, and the Robo-calling fiasco which directed dithering voters to the wrong polling station in hopes of nullifying their vote. There are an awful lot of unethical mean little trolls working for the Conservatives in this country at all levels. And that goes for the "Liberals" in British Columbia as well, an unholy assortment of opportunists from God-only knows what political beliefs spectrum.
The recent announcement of a bunch of gerrymandered ridings (at least, I assume they are ridings with much-studied borders and prior voting patterns with this micro-managing PM in charge)will undoubtedly bear even more Conservative fruit. The progressives on the left'ish side of the House seriously need to consider strategic voting or else we citizens will not recognize this country as our home within a decade or two. This PM and our country will continue to be international pariahs where once we were honorable world citizens and some us wish to be a great deal more honorable than we ever were before in the areas of aboriginal, environmental, chronic homelessness/poverty, immigration criteria, and women's issues in this country.
Now I'm going to read some murder mysteries just to recover from the trauma of reading this book...I comfort myself by knowing that when Stephen Harper dies, and he will someday, as we all will, there will never be a funeral for him like the one Jack Layton had. I'm sure the PM was taking notes while he attended, stoney-eyed as ever, but even the Master Micro-Manager will never be able to command an outpouring of genuine affection, admiration and love. Consider the way that he/his underlings botched the G-8 meeting in Toronto several years ago, the one with police brutality and a fake lighthouse and lake? The one where those of us watching television could not believe we were watching Canadians being corralled in our own civilized streets? There are certain issues of finesse far beyond the pedestrian power-hungry mind.
That he is highly disciplined, hard-working and true to his own beliefs is also undoubtedly true and this book is balanced in that the pros and cons of the PM's mind-set and approach are all handled in a transparently, even-handed way. I may not like what I read because I am a left-wing-leaning citizen but I feel I've read an entertaining, well-documented and honest appraisal.
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