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French Kiss: Stephen Harper's Blind Date with Quebec [Hardcover]

Chantal Hebert
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Feb. 27 2007
Chantal Hébert’s first book is both a post-mortem of the Canadian federation that died on January 23, 2006, the night of the last federal election, as well as a brilliant examination of our changing political future, one that involves living with Quebec rather than just wooing it.

On that night, award-winning political writer and broadcaster Chantal Hébert stood in a Calgary convention hall with 2,000 Alberta Conservatives, who were raucously cheering the election of ten Tory MPs from Quebec. The Conservatives would not have gotten their man in office without Quebec, and now the future success of the Harper government hinges on turning this one-night stand into a long-term relationship.

More than ten years ago, the Quebec-Alberta coalition cobbled together by Brian Mulroney dissolved, leading to the births of the Bloc Québecois and the Reform Party. As a result, Alberta and Quebec took their marbles out of federal play, and Ontario got to run Canada.

Have we now come full circle? By the time this book is published, the Liberal Party of Canada may have morphed into the Liberal Party of Ontario (or Toronto). And the Canadian Left will have chosen a camp in preparation for a decisive federal election battle.

Provocative and always worth listening to, Chantal Hébert is at her savvy and insightful best in French Kiss. No Canadian can be truly informed on the subject of Canadian politics without the benefit of her non-partisan commentary.

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“[Hébert is] an unusually talented political observer. . . . Many political books enlighten and entertain by exploring how personalities shape politics and public policy. That’s too modest a challenge for Hébert. . . . her sharpest focus is on ideas that become trends and then patterns. . . . Hébert’s work is salted with answers as well as layers of insights.”
Toronto Star

“Known as a straight shooter. . . [Hébert writes with] sprinkles of clever turns of phrase.”
Calgary Herald

“I hope there is another book. It should start with The strengths of this one solid information, historical perspective, careful analysis, clear thinking.”
The Gazette (Montreal)

“Canadians will be greatly aided by the new book by Chantal Hébert . . . who may be the country’s most consistently insightful analyst of federal politics, especially as it plays in Quebec. Anyone in Canada who cares about politics will find French Kiss a rewarding read.”

“Hébert makes several astute observations. . . . Gratifying.”
The Vancouver Sun

About the Author

Chantal Hébert is a national political affairs columnist for the Toronto Star and a weekly guest columnist in Le Devoir. She is regular guest on the “At Issue” political panel on CBC Television’s The National. A graduate of York University’s Glendon College, Hébert is a senior fellow of Massey College, University of Toronto, and the 2006 recipient of the Hyman Soloman Award for Excellence in Public Policy Journalism. She lives in Montreal.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
This is a disappointing work by one of Canada's sharpest political pundits. It is not well organized. It rambles. It has little new information or research. And its title is somewhat misleading - it's for the most part just another tome on Quebec's place in Canada. Still...

Hébert has a considerable and loyal following who are hooked on her regular analysis in the Toronto Star, where she is the parliamentary affairs columnist. There, she is a very bright light in an increasingly dull and Pravda-like broadsheet.

Yet with this book, she has missed a great opportunity to fulfill the expectations of her loyal readers. This is not 250 pages of thoughtful and substantiated analysis. Instead, we get a book that comes across as a series of her columns just grouped together, with a sexed-up title that bears only passing relation to the content of the book.

Still, Chantal Hébert on a bad day is far more entertaining than other political authors like Hugh Segal or Graham Fraser on a great day. Even her ramblings are worth reading. Consequently I am recommending this book, with the caveat that she can do much better. In particular, Hebert's take on Québec federal politics is both nuanced and memorable.

She sets out to fill in the now standard narrative of how Stephen Harper, after being elected Leader of the new Canadian Conservative Party in 2004, took the road less traveled and deliberately began working to woo Francophone Quebec into the federal Conservative fold in a plan that would take more than two years to come to fruition.

Her approach is bemused but respectful. Respectful in that Harper is given real credit for seizing an opportunity by reaching out to Francophone Quebec in 2004.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartily suggest that you buy this book... March 2 2007
Chantal Hebert Page 208: "Quebec is not the geographical equivalent of the other side of a cereal box, a French-language translation of the rest of Canada. Understanding what makes it tick requires more than learning the rudiments of its primary language."

I'm a unilingual person, have lived my entire life on the prairies. I've always been very interested in Canadian politics and history, and when I saw that Chantal Hebert had a book (her first) coming out, I pre ordered it months ago. I do want to understand what makes Quebec tick.

This book is much more than Stephen's Harper's recent (and unexpected) breakthrough in Quebec. Ever wonder why the NDP has only won one seat ever in QC? What got the Liberals in trouble in QC in the first place? Those answers, other answers, plus more new and timely questions and answers are in this book.

Chantal Hebert is a must read columnists in this home, her appearances and commentary on CBC's "At Issue" panel always perk my ears, and teaches me something everytime.

There are 267 highly interesting pages covering a decade plus of politicians, political parties, and events, and anyone who cares to understand Canada and Quebec better, should certainly pick up a copy of this book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Novel March 16 2007
This is a well written work for a great Canadian columist. Great book for anyone trying to figure out the close connection between Harper and Quebec. It goes back 5 years, setting the stage for the many events that occured between Ottawa & Quebec's relations that eventually led to the conservative breakthrough. Great overall work for recent Canadian political history, and looking at it from its present day situation.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A great read! Oct. 4 2009
If you ever watch the "At Issue" panel on CBC, you'll almost hear Chantal's voice as you read French Kiss. She writes in the same engaging way that she speaks. It's a wonderful book. Stimulating, insightful, on the mark and full of Chantal's perfect metaphors - a must read for anyone even remotely interested in Canadian politics.
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Book has nothing to do with the Title Feb. 4 2008
Even though I am not a fan of Ms. Hebert's columns, I do appreciate her opinions on political affairs in Canada. I picked up her book "French Kiss" with the hope of getting some insight into Stephen Harper's government.
However I am very disappointed in her book. The contents of the book have very little to do with Stephen Harper's approach to Quebec. The title I think was a shrill attempt to get people's attention. Most of the book ponders why the NDP hasn't done better in Quebec, and basically is just synopsis the Quebec separatist movement over the past 30 years and what the government has done in response.

I would suggest if you have read her columns, and are up on current events, pass this book over, as there are better books out there about Stephen Harper's government.
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