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Full Circle: Death and Resurrection in Canadian Conservative Politics [Hardcover]

Bob Plamondon
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 18 2006
Full Circle: Death and Resurrection in Canadian Conservative Politics tells the dramatic story of how the conservative movement fell apart and was restored to glory, looking not much different from two decades previously when Preston Manning and the Reform Party thought they knew better. It chronicles the failures and triumphs of the three leading actors—Preston Manning, Peter MacKay, and Stephen Harper. It recounts the humiliating defeat of the PC party, the rise of the reform, and a decade-long sojourn in the political wilderness. It lays out, step by step, the strokes and counterstrokes, the promises made and broken, the betrayals and defections within a movement riven by faction. Based on meticulous background research and interviews with thirty key players—including Peter MacKay, Preston Manning, David Orchard, Stockwell Day, Don Mazankowski, Jim Prentice, David Angus, Gerry St. Germain, Majory LeBreton, Nöel Kinsella, Elmer MacKay, John Laschinger, Bill Pristanski, John Weissenberger, Geoff Norquay, Rick Morgan, Paul Lepsoe, Tom Jarmyn, and Yaroslav Baran— Full Circle takes the reader behind the scenes in a high-octane exposé of political machination, intrigue, and the ultimate battle for survival and supremacy. Sweeping in its breadth and scope, captivating in its detail, Full Circle is the definitive account of this unprecedented period in Canadian political history. Even those involved in conservative politics will be surprised, and sometimes shocked, by its starling revelations and debunking of popular myths. The death and resurrection of Canada’s conservative political movement over the past two decades is a story that has never been told from beginning to end, until now. Full Circle is breathlessly paced history at its best. “The astonishing story of the crash of conservatism and its rebirth is the subject of Bob Plamondon’s Full Circle. The author comes at it with a unique perspective. Party insiders sometimes do such books. Academics sometimes do them and often it is journalists who take up the challenge. Plamondon provides the advantage of bringing all three perspectives to the table. He has taught at several universities, he was a party insider, having run once for the Tories and worked for the party in elections and leadership conventions… Plamondon’s voyage through the last two decades brings new twists and astute analysis to the narrative.” — From the Foreword by Lawrence Martin “A masterful… enthralling work. This should be read by every Canadian. Or, at least, every Canadian who votes.”— The Calgary Sun “[ Full Circle] provides the first full account of events that led to the 2003 merger of the Progressive Conservative and Alliance parties and the new party`s rise to power in January of this year. Plamondon, a policy consultant and former Tory candidate in Ottawa, reveals a host of previously unreported details."— Ottawa Citizen “ Full Circle offers the first account of what happened that night at the Chateau Laurier [between Belinda Stronach and Peter Mackay], but it may not be the last… Full Circle, which goes on sale today, also goes behind the scenes at the 2003 Tory leadership convention — which made Mr. MacKay leader of the PCs — and behind the scenes in the talks that eventually led to the merger of the Tories and the Canadian Alliance. Mr. Plamondon describes the poisonous relationship between Kings-Hants MP Scott Brison and Mr. MacKay at the 2003 convention, when they were bitter rivals for the Tory crown. When Mr. Brison threw his support to Albertan Jim Prentice — over the advice of John Hamm and Joe Clark — Mr. MacKay was ”not surprised.” — Halifax Chronicle Herald “A meticulous, blow-by-blow account of the road to merger that captures both the tension and the tedium of back-room politics.”— The Globe and Mail “Plam

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4.0 out of 5 stars
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By Ty
Bob Plamondon's writing in "Full Circle" is ambitious, and his research is well fleshed out: His list of interviewees for the work is pretty much the Canadian right of centre who's who. Plamondon seems likable, and his writing style flows well as it gets going. It was almost amazing to get a clearer look at the 2003 Progressive Conservative convention, one of the strangest events in Canada's political history. Other areas are covered in depth, with some surprising revelations (For example, an interesting choice for interim leader of the new party that was agreed upon by MacKay and Harper). Coverage of the two recent elections is well done as well.

However, while recommendable, flaws are many. Plamondon is quick to proscribe motives and casts Preston Manning as the villain of the early part of the book, while almost uncritical of the Mulroney government. In fact, besides certain ambiguous assertions, perceived corruption in the PC government is not mentioned as a factor at all behind Reform's rise, when that was one of the major talking points of the era. Mulroney's accomplishments are considered golden, while Manning's amazing journey to create a political movement from near-scratch is given little praise. Peter MacKay seems to get the same fawning praise as Mulroney. While such black and white views work in some places, they don't work in a book like this this one, that is supposed to capture the personalities of the movement.

Also, Plamondon sometimes contradicts himself heavily. In one example, he constantly goes on about "vote splitting" between the Reform/Alliance and PC parties. I wouldn't agree that it was the only reason, or that it gave the Liberals a free ride, but it's a defendable route of analysis.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Manning won't be happy Feb. 22 2007
Bob Plamondon provides an account of the turmoil in Canada's federal conservative parties over the last 20 years that is thorough, opinionated and, for the most part, fair. Preston Manning may not agree that Plamondon is fair; the former Reform Party leader gets a rough ride for dividing the conservative vote and ensuring the Liberals won three consecutive majorities "without breaking a sweat." Joe Clark gets a decidedly mixed review as well.

But Brian Mulroney will love this book. Plamondon is as ecstatic about Mulroney's wisdom, insight and good governance as Mulroney is himself.

While Plamondon's partisanship shows through repeatedly throughout Full Circle, he tells a story that is interesting and full as well as adding some details to the public record of key moments in the lives of the Alliance and PC parties. Well worth reading.

A couple of criticisms. One is that Plamondon does not really seem to have grasped the depth of the Western alienation of the 1970s and '80s that made the emergence of the Reform Party virtually inevitable. Second, the book could have used much tighter editing. For example. Plamondon never seems to have figured out when the word "conservative" -- the most important noun in his book -- should be capitalized and when it should be lower case.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a slog - but worth it for the details May 22 2007
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Plamondon's book is based on more than 50 interviews with key players at the time.

Yet,you get the sense he is too close by far to his sources. Consequently, the book can get boring. It reads in some places like simple description, with little or no interpretation and spice.

That is not to say there are not some surprising turns. Plamondon's is strong in his criticism of Preston Manning and his selfish decision to tear apart the Canadian Conservative movement by founding the Reform Party in the late '80s.

Ultimately, Manning is portrayed in a very unfavorable light. He is the lead player in the tragedy of the Canadian Conservative movement's great divide. Manning's great organizational and leadership skills ultimately result in a perverse but very predictable outcome: Two inadequate Conservative parties, and Liberal Party of Canada domination of the Canadian Government from 1993 through to 2006. Plamondon lays the responsibility for this clearly on Manning's doorstep.

The "Full Circle" that Plamondon talks about is the division of the Conservative movement between the Reform and Progressive Conservatives in the late '80s, and the eventual reconciliation between these two camps just prior to the 2004 election leading to electoral victory in 2006. This is a very academic work, but if you can get through the slow parts, there is a lot here that will prove illuminating as the Conservatives prepare for the anticipated election in 2007.
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1 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific Read!!!!!!!1 Oct. 23 2006
At last a book has been written that accurately reflects what happened to the conservative movement between the Mulroney years and their recent move back to power in Ottawa.
It is clear, to this reader, that the success is a direct result of the unselfish acts of Mr. Harper and Mr. MacKay, who put their own agendas aside, determined how best to rebuild the national party and focused on the issues most affecting Canadians.
Mr. Plamondon removed the sheep's clothing from Mr. Manning and showed the wolf underneath.
He demonstrated that Ms. Stronach is not capable of following her own instincts and while she gets the MP pay check, it should actually go to her father.
Full Circle is an important piece of work. Any Canadian interested in federal politics, the rise and fall of the Conservative Party and who the players were in this resurrection, should read this book.
Now we need Mr. Plamondon to begin work on the Life and Death of the Liberal Party. Perhaps his research will uncover the billion dollars missing from the HR portfolio, the billion dollars missing from the gun registry and the 250 million dollars missing from the Ad Scam.
A super piece of work and I do look forward to his next book.
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