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Stephen Harper and the Future of Canada [Hardcover]

William Johnson
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 28 2005
There has never been a book about Stephen Harper, yet on June 28 he came close to being our prime minister. If Paul Martin miscalculates, Stephen Harper could be our next prime minister in months, not years.

Who is this man? Everyone knows that he became leader of the Alliance Party and, against all odds, gathered in the old Conservative Party to create a force designed to win power, coming very close in 2004.

Yet what are his core beliefs? To what extent does he agree with his party's social conservatives, who scared away voters in the last election? Where will he take us if he gets power?

William Johnson has researched the Harper family background and the historical context that shaped his political career. He paints a fascinating picture of a man who, like Pierre Trudeau, trained mentally for political power like an athlete training for the Olympics, yet is not a natural politician and never really wanted the political leader’s life. By studying Harper’s approach to the main issues in Canadian politics, he shows that Harper is a sophisticated political operative, far more complex and intellectual than the right-wing Republican image that has been created for him.

This is a serious, objective political biography, short on gossip but long on clear discussion of Harper’s political views – and how he got them. Johnson’s message? Don’t underestimate this man.

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William Johnson's Stephen Harper and the Future of Canada sets out to dispel the myths and explain the facts about the leader of the official opposition. By his own admission, Harper is not comfortable with the typical role of political leader as baby-kissing, photo-op-seeking figurehead, and Johnson suggests that the reason for his unflattering portrayals in the media is his reluctance to do what's expected of such a figure. "An unusual trait for a politician," Johnson writes, "is his conviction that correct policies are more important than tactics for winning support and achieving power." If nothing else, Johnson maintains, Harper should be admired for standing by his convictions, unaffected by public opinion polls and influence from his own advisers, even when a degree of compromise might have increased his popularity.

The author chronicles with detail Harper's political beginnings, his stint--and his ensuing disenchantment--with the Mulroney Progressive Conservatives, the events that led to him becoming a key architect of the Reform party, and his rescue of the Canadian Alliance, which led to the merger with the Progressive Conservatives to create the new Conservative Party that he led into federal elections against Paul Martin's Liberals. With a different leader at the top but Harper behind the scenes, Canadians might very well have elected a Conservative government in 2004: one cannot help but feel from Johnson's account that Harper would be better appreciated as a back-room policy director, a role he may not relish, but may be essential if he is to continue in politics. --Eric Wilson

Review

“The most important Canadian political book of the year.”
Calgary Herald

“The book does a formidable job of exploring Stephen Harper’s mind. It is a first-rate intellectual history. . . . A well-constructed study that shines light on a fogbound public figure at a time when it is most important to know him.”
Globe and Mail

“This is an important book for political junkies and others who are trying to understand recent Canadian political history.”
Halifax Chronicle-Herald

“Thoughtful, thorough and often surprising. . . . the book rests its premises on solid ground.”
London Free Press


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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended April 6 2006
Format:Hardcover
I will summarize what's in this book so you can decide for yourself whether or not it's worth reading, because it isn't a book for everyone.
It covers very little about Harper's personal life. It makes little or no mention of his wife and kids and only describes his upbringing briefly so you can get an idea of his background. So, if you're looking for a warm and fuzzy book to get to know "Steve" and the ins and outs of his daily life, this is not a book for you.
This is for someone who has an interest in the political history of the last 20 years centered around Harper. It attempts to detail what got Mr. Harper into politics, and how his political ideology was formed. It then describes where he stands on the issues in politics from the Mulroney years through to the Martin years. If you're not familiar with the Reform party, you will learn a lot about it and the other leaders of it, such as Manning and Day.
The author attempts to make Harper's thoughts clear on the major issues on the political scene over the last 20 years with many direct quotes from Harper's speeches and documents. If your political history is weak you may learn a bit about the Meech lake/Charlottetown accords, the separatist movement during these years, Mulroney, Chretien, Manning, and so on.
I found the author very fair and objective for the most part. A lot of the minor details that people contest in this book are irrelevant anyway. To gain something from this book you don't need to accept the author's views on Harper and the events; you can weed through the quotes and information, do your own research from there, and figure it out yourself.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
One thing I find odd about the story of Prime Minster Harper is how while his name is known to all Canadians, and they often have an emotional response to how they feel about him, the responses are often rooted in one historical moment or another, but rarely on the complete flow of his public and private life. Johnson's timely book helps bring much needed perspective to that flow, asking questions like: in what areas has Harper been consistent, what style he has brought to all the jobs he has held, what is his relationship with religious and social conservatives. Johnson helps us to develop a deeper understanding of Harper's motives and their underlying principles that can help Canadians decide for themselves what kind of era we are entering. I highly recommend this book to all Canadians across the political spectrum. People who think they know enough about him, pro or con, will be surprised.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By D. Howe
Format:Paperback
I've read William Johnson's book twice and this is a must-read for all Canadians.

'Nuff said!
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Book has added bonus... Dec 26 2005
Format:Hardcover
...of providing great perspective on Canada's development to date, and, via Harper's trajectory, the foundations for strengthening and bettering it. There is perhaps no other Canadian politician - Trudeau being the exception, but in the other direction- of our or any recent generation with a such a developed philosophical and economic vision for taking Canada to the next level. Entirely apart from its treatment of Harper - readers will be impressed - this book is necessary reading for, in the cliched expression of too many others - "anyone who cares about Canada" - where we have come from, where we are, and where we are going.
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