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When the Gods Changed: The Death of Liberal Canada [Hardcover]

Peter C. Newman
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Nov. 22 2011
Peter C. Newman, Canada's most "cussed and discussed" political journalist, on the death spiral of the Liberal Party.

The May 2, 2011 federal election turned Canadian governance upside down and inside out. In his newest and possibly most controversial book, bestselling author Peter C. Newman argues that the Harper majority will alter Canada so much that we may have to change the country's name. But the most lasting impact of the Tory win will be the demise of the Liberal Party, which ruled Canada for seven of the last ten decades and literally made the country what it is. Newman chronicles, in bloody detail, the de-construction of the Grits' once unassailable fortress and anatomizes the ways in which the arrogance embedded in the Liberal genetic code slowly poisoned the party's progressive impulses.

When the Gods Changed is the saga of a political self-immolation unequalled in Canadian history. It took Michael Ignatieff to light the match.

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A Globe and Mail Best Book

 “The finest journalist of his generation, without equal here as a writer, editor and reporter…. An important, timely and engaging book…. Few do substantive, long-form journalism like this anymore, and no one does it with Newman’s eye, ear and ego.”
The Globe and Mail

“Of all the literary lions who roamed the Canadian landscape, Newman is the fiercest.”
Toronto Star
“Newman has broken through the normal bounds of journalism to become an important diarist of our times.”
The Globe and Mail

“Canada made Newman and in some ways Newman made Canada.”
Winnipeg Free Press
“Peter C. Newman is an Icon. . . . The chronicler and conscience of a country often confused by its identity, he has been perhaps the most influential journalist Canada has ever known.”
January Magazine
“I’d never let you write my biography!”
—Margaret Atwood to Peter C. Newman
“Newman’s insights confirm his reputation as a guardian of the best leaks in Ottawa.”
The New York Times

About the Author

Peter C. Newman has been writing about Canadian politics for nearly half a century, including books on prime ministers John Diefenbaker, Lester B. Pearson, Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Brian Mulroney. His Renegade in Power (1963) revolutionized Canadian political reporting with its controversial "insiders-tell-all" approach. He did it again four decades later with The Secret Mulroney Tapes: Unguarded Confessions of a Prime Minister (2005), a number one bestseller that became one of the most controversial books ever published in Canada. The author of twenty-five books that have sold over 2.5 million copies, Newman has won a half dozen of the country's most illustrious literary awards, including the Drainie-Taylor Biography prize for his 2004 memoir, Here Be Dragons: Telling Tales of People, Passion and Power. A former editor-in-chief of the Toronto Star and Maclean's, Newman has been honoured with a National Newspaper Award, has been elected to the News Hall of Fame, and has earned the informal title of Canada's "most cussed and discussed" political commentator.

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Customer Reviews

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An astute analysis of Canada's WOES ! Jan. 3 2012
After months of listening to political drivel in the U.S. campaign to nominate a candidate to oppose the president, surely any other system of choosing a national leader is preferable.

Nope. Newman details how Canadians are equally clever in using very different politics to produce a landslide defeat based on the hubris of past success and the blinders of current arrogance. He knows how to infuriate politicians; he quotes them accurately and in enough context that they can't weasel out of gaffes, goofs and "Golly Gees!" with claims of misquotes. It gives him two great advantages; honesty allows him candid access to all who matter, including politicians, and in return he presents a complete "warts and all" picture.

Trust me, I've been there. Political campaigns are intense; success requires an astute candidate plus a dedicated staff willing to literally work around the clock. As Newman says, Michael Ignatieff began with these strengths until his campaign was taken over by good ol' boys wanting to cash in on easy glory.

This book is a post-mortem, like an analysis of why the Titanic sank. As with the Titanic, lessons learned mean big ships are still built and sail safely; the lessons of this book may well become a foundation garment to rebuild the Liberal Party. As an original supporter of John Diefenbaker and Dr. P. B. Rynard, I don't want Liberals to disappear; because the lasting success of Conservatives depends on the intelligence of a good opposition.

Without a good opposition to debate their politics, plans, policies and peccadillos, Conservatives will become a Canadian G.O.P. (Greedy Old Party).

Conservatives skillfully used American campaign techniques in 2011, a system imported by Liberals in the 1962 election.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too focused on Ignatieff Dec 24 2012
For a book that claims to be about something as broad and epochal as "The Death of Liberal Canada", it has a frustratingly narrow focus. Newman had the idea for this book before the 2011 election when he started following Ignatieff and conducting interviews for a book to be titled The Making of a Prime Minister about the man's rise to power. It seems like when that didn't quite pan out he re-purposed that material, added some segments about the history of the Liberal Party and rushed out the present book.

To Newman's credit, the book does have some interesting things to say about the party, and the insider account of Ignatieff's recruitment and time as Liberal leader are valuable, but I can't help feeling like I've been deceived by the book's title and marketing. It's a biography of Ignatieff and chronicle of his role in the party's history more than anything else. If that's what you're looking for, you'll enjoy this book. If it's not, it may still be worth a read as long as you don't come into it with any false expectations.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Two things to start with. This is probably four and a half-stars, but I went with four. In parts, and especially when referring to broader trends, I would have liked to have seen more factual evidence presented rather than people's comments and opinions. Second, in reviewing a book about a political party, I suppose I should note that I've voted Liberal, Conservative, NDP, and Green in past elections. I really vote for who I think is best at that moment (or where my vote is most likely to be effective). I'm a pragmatist rather than a liberal or conservative. That said, pragmatism usually leads towards the center, the natural domain of the Liberal party. Given the shocking fortunes of the Liberal party in the last election, I thought it would be interesting to read more about how and why those events happened.

Peter Newman is a journalist who has had one-on-one access with all the past prime ministers, except for perhaps Harper. So he chose to follow and interview Ignatieff, whom he believed would be the next prime minister. Clearly, that didn't pan out. This book is an explanation of why that's so. There are really three causes. The first is that Iggy never really caught on to how the game was played. A relative newcomer to politics, he acted more like an academic, seeking truth and dialogue rather than emotions and selling points. The people around him were unable to give him the right advice or help him follow it. That left him badly stunted and looking awkward on camera. Surprisingly, he came away as a man without big ideas, despite the fact that as a professor he had written about some pretty big ideas. Newman reports some of his interviews with Iggy, who indeed comes across as more profound and interesting than he did on the political stage.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A valuable resource, but unfocused. Jan. 5 2013
Peter Newman admitted it early, this was supposed to be a book about Ignatieff's rise to power; it was changed mid-stream as a result of the 2011 election. The result is a number of chapters with fascinating revelations about the inner workings of the Liberal party, particularly when pertaining to Ignatieff's recruitment, rise and defeat. However, there are also a number of chapters that come off as either out of place or shallow filler. The biographical elements delve too deep into Ignatieff's history and psyche. A biography of Prime Minister Ignatieff should probably include a discussion of his relationship with his father or a description of the family's summer home in France. An analysis of the decline of the Liberal Party, not so much.

I would definitely recommend this book to political junkies and anyone looking for a bit of insight into the Grits as they enter what may be their last leadership campaign. However, this is not the full and definitive account of the death (or near death) of Canada's natural governing party.
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