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5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for every Canadian
There isn't a day that goes by that I don't remind myself how lucky I am to live in Canada and by no means do I think the United States is any better with their political system. However, that doesn't mean I will accept everything the Liberals have thrown at us the past nine years like how they've recently blown about $1.6 billion on gun registry.
This book finally...
Published on Dec 10 2002 by lost_in_space82

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not as great as they all say...
Simpson is a journalist. He gets lost several times in reporting things like the Martin-Chretien rivalry, which have very little to do with the book's subject matter. He has lots of good and enlightening info late in the book on the different electoral systems. But he lacks insight into his own position, and his attempts to avoid the charge of being...
Published on Oct. 28 2003 by Don Campbell


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5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for every Canadian, Dec 10 2002
By 
lost_in_space82 (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) - See all my reviews
There isn't a day that goes by that I don't remind myself how lucky I am to live in Canada and by no means do I think the United States is any better with their political system. However, that doesn't mean I will accept everything the Liberals have thrown at us the past nine years like how they've recently blown about $1.6 billion on gun registry.
This book finally points out what I have thought for quite a while now: Canadian voters have no one to complain about other than themselves for our sad political state. People in this country have been blind to what Jean Chretien has done to this country and I put the blame on everyone who has voted Liberal in elections since 1993. This book makes it clear that the people of Canada have to wake up and start voting for other parties or the Liberals will continue to waste our money and embarrass us on a global scale. I just hope people in Canada realise this before we really do become a one-party country. I think this book is a must for all Canadians to read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for every Canadian, Dec 10 2002
By 
lost_in_space82 (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) - See all my reviews
There isn't a day that goes by that I don't remind myself how lucky I am to live in Canada and by no means do I think the United States is any better with their political system. However, that doesn't mean I will accept everything the Liberals have thrown at us the past nine years like how they've recently blown about $1.6 billion on gun registry.
This book finally points out what I have thought for quite a while now: Canadian voters have no one to complain about other than themselves for our sad political state. People in this country have been blind to what Jean Chretien has done to this country and I put the blame on everyone who has voted Liberal in elections since 1993. This book makes it clear that the people of Canada have to wake up and start voting for other parties or the Liberals will continue to waste our money and embarrass us on a global scale. I just hope people in Canada realise this before we really do become a one-party country. I think this book is a must for all Canadians to read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A good, thoughtful commentary on Canadian politics., Feb. 9 2002
By 
"dougeb" (Bloomington, IN United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Friendly Dictatorship (Hardcover)
Jeffrey Simpson offers very insightful and readable commentary on Canadian political systems in his 'The Friendly Dictatorship.' His observations are exactly in line with what I witnessed as an intern with a backbench Government MP in 2001, and his deep understanding of Canadian history adds an essential depth to his analysis.
That said, the title and cover are especially misleading. For someone who decries the media's over-sensationalization of politics, Simpson (or his publisher) obviously panders to the mass market with a bold, emotion-inducing, and sensational title that does not do justice to Simpson's nuanced arguments. Simpson often (perhaps to often) returns in his book to his catch phrase of 'friendly dictatorship,' but each time he does seems more and more forced. Though Simpson makes good points about the dangers of over-centralized government power, it is completely inappropriate to even imply a similarity between Canada and Libya or North Korea.
"The book takes the form, if you like, of four extended essays rather than an academic treatise, but offers no apologies for that." Of the four, the second (Our Friendly Dictators) and fourth (Now What?) were particularly excellent and enjoyable to read, but the first and third are worth your time as well.
The first essay (Prime-Ministerial Government) is well-written and mostly well argued, but comes back too often and too bluntly to the theme of unfettered Primie-Ministerial power. In fact, Simpson's argument is very similar to the ones I often heard from Opposition MPs as they criticized the iron grip Jean Chretien holds over the parliamentary process. Like those MPs, Mr. Simpson makes a good, logical case in favor of reform but leaves the impression that he is engaging in partisan criticism of Jean Chretien and the Federal Liberals as much as he is engaging in constructive criticism of the Canadian political process.
The title of second essay is somewhat misleading in that the essay focuses far more on the blunders of the NDP, PC, and Reform/Alliance parties than it does on Chretien or any other supposed "friendly dictator." It is, however, a very insightful analysis into the recent troubles of the opposition parties, especially as they relate to the conglomeration of political power in Liberal hands. It is in this section that Simpson's experience in Ottawa truly shows, as he demonstrates his vivid understanding of Canadian politics in the last 25 years.
The third essay (The Decline of Voting) adds a great deal to Simpson's overall thesis, but could also stand alone as an essay on voter apathy and civic disengagement.
The fourth essay is the shortest but the most indicative of Simpson's original thinking. It outlines numerous rational, well thought out, changes that might be made to the Canadian political system, notably the election system, that could "fix" Canadian democracy and bring it out of the perilous situation Simpson spends almost 200 pages describing. The only problem with his suggestions is that the "friendly dictatorship" he describes so eloquently would be loath to institute even a portion of his suggested reforms.
All in all, 'The Friendly Dictatorship' is a very worthwhile read. Simpson's commentary is well-informed, well-reasoned, and interesting. It is a testament to the readability of the book that I, someone who rarely finds time for non-class-related reading, read the book mostly in one [long] sitting. I recommend that anyone with an interest in Canadian politics read this book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A thoughtful and reasonable take on the state of the nation, Dec 30 2001
By 
Jonathan Crowe (Shawville, QC, Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Friendly Dictatorship (Hardcover)
Veteran Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson presents this thoughtful and coherent reflection on the state of Canadian democracy. Simpson is erudite without being pedantic or obscure. His analysis rings true for anyone who has been paying attention to Canada's national political scene. No system of checks and balances reins in the prime minister, whose power in our political system is little short of absolute, between elections. Opposition parties, for various reasons, cannot currently get their act together to provide a reasonable alternative to the governing party. And the electorate is increasingly tuning out the whole thing.
Now this is where most pundits and dinner-table grumps stop -- that, or they offer one or two hobby-horse solutions -- but Simpson offers a few suggestions that, he thinks, might tip the balance back to a somewhat healthier polity. A revamped electoral system -- he prefers a preferential ballot in single-member constituencies to proportional representation. Fewer patronage opportunities (i.e. appointments) for the prime minister. An elected Senate. And the parties need to stop deluding themselves and reconnect with the Canadian public. However unlikely to be adopted these solutions are in the current political environment, they are rational and moderate; we could do a lot worse.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, June 27 2002
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This review is from: The Friendly Dictatorship (Hardcover)
Simpson is an excellent editorial writer with great insight into the "sausage factory" of politics.
This book is a must-read for anyone who believes that Canadians live in an efficient democracy, that MPs have power, or that the Parliamentary system is the most effective form of government.
Through specific examples, Simpson outlines just why Canada's government may work well on paper, but in practice leads to a truly grotesque charade of democracy.
His suggestions for a new, responsible government at the end of the book are well-reasoned and could easily work, but alas, because of the bureaucratic nightmare that is Canada's constitution, such reforms can never be achieved unless the Provinces all simultaneously decide that they love one another, and the Prime Minister agrees to surrender approximately 50% of his power. It makes me think Canada really does need a "Friendly Dictator", because at this point, a dictator seems like the only one who would be able to create real change in this country.
The only part I disagreed with in this book is his analysis of Canada's party politics. Simpson is a left-of-center "radical centerist" who loves the Canadian status quo and is frightened by anyone who proposes changing it. As such, he argues that the Alliance is forever doomed to suffer electoral defeat because it is too "radical" (ie: dares to challenge the status quo). Simpson calls on the party to create a platform to appeal to "the whole country" but what he actually means is a "platform to apppeal to Ontario." I'm always suspicious of Canadian authors who claim to be able to speak for "what Canada wants" or "how Canadians think" with such authority.
Regardless, this is an excellent book that should be read by all.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not as great as they all say..., Oct. 28 2003
By 
Don Campbell (Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Friendly Dictatorship (Hardcover)
Simpson is a journalist. He gets lost several times in reporting things like the Martin-Chretien rivalry, which have very little to do with the book's subject matter. He has lots of good and enlightening info late in the book on the different electoral systems. But he lacks insight into his own position, and his attempts to avoid the charge of being ideologically-motivated lead him into embarrassing contortions.
Simpson confuses soft-left ideology with a non-ideological outlook, saying Canadians do not elect on the basis of ideology. His own information contradicts this, with the country split every election, Simpson shows, on a wide range of ideological issues. But we always see the Liberals capturing the majority of votes in Ontario -- the decisive province -- and very little outside it. This is always an attempt to placate Quebec, never fully assimilated into Confederation. It is this ongoing source of sedition that leads panicky Ontarians to trump the best interests of the rest of the country.
It is also the assumption of most left-wing journalists that their view is the only one that sensible and logical people should hold. Simpson favors so many policies that can only be applied in a top-down, elitist way -- such as Canada has suffered under since the 1960s -- that he never really comes to any conclusions about just what system would be best for us. He knows the policies which he favors, which have been put in place by the "friendly dictatorship," would be among the first to go, were Canadians allowed a truly democratic system, i.e. we would see capital punishment, some private health care, etc.
So Simpson really just dances around the issue of reform, while breathing a sigh of relief, I would guess, that the friendly dictatorship he decries will still be in place when he wakes up tomorrow morning, regardless of this rather disingenuous effort.
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