- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Random House Canada; 1st Edition edition (Nov. 22 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0307358267
- ISBN-13: 978-0307358264
- Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 2.8 x 23.6 cm
- Shipping Weight: 499 g
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #381,117 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
When the Gods Changed: The Death of Liberal Canada Hardcover – Nov 22 2011
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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.”
“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.”
“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.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
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Newman's writing remains crisp, the problem is his thought and his thesis about the Liberal Party of Canada are a mix of bang on or bozo.
At is core, I sense that Newman is writing this not as an actual practioner of Canadian politics, but as someone who reads a lot about it and talks a lot about it. And the difference shows in this work.
There is some original stuff in here, which is fantastic. But for the most part, I thought I was getting a regurgitated revision of what others like Paul Wells have already published.
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. These are some of the better parts of the book.
The second reason for the Liberal's fate is that they were a party in decline. The arrogance of the Chretien years was matched by the lack of a credible opposition, which made the Liberals lazy and inefficient, if not contemptuous. That left them vulnerable, as did the Martin-Chretien infighting. My most shocking revelation from the book is that Chretien reportedly told Martin he'd stay on a few months longer to take the flack of the Adscam affair, and that the RCMP should handle it discretely rather than a public inquiry. Supposedly, Martin and his advisers said no to both. HUGE mistake. In any case, after Paul Martin, there really was no clear-cut candidate who stepped up to lead the party. Rock, McKenna, Tobin were all names that I remembered with some respect, but none of them stepped up. That led to Dion being nominated, largely because he was bland enough for no one to seriously dislike him. His failure led to Ignatieff and a party reportedly more concerned with saving their own jobs rather than the party.
The third reason given is Stephen Harper. I'm no fan of the man, but clearly he is a master political strategist. His only major blunder was trying to pull the funding of the parties while he led a minority. The resulting coalition against him almost cost him power as he was saved by the questionable action of the Governor General. Since then, he has been solid. Drab, boring and conservative, but solid. The Conservatives $10 million campaign slandering Ignatieff was a great success, leading many Canadians to believe Iggy was in it for himself. His ties to the US were a disadvantage, which is surprising given how similar Harper's policies were to G.W. Bush's and how cozy Harper likes to be to the US. One would think that a Harvard position is something to be proud of, but the Conservatives were deftly able to turn it into a negative. I suppose some credit should also go to Jack Layton, who's raw charisma allowed a third-rate NDP party (in terms of experience, money and organization) to vault handily over the Liberals.
So there you have it. The three main causes of the changing of the guard/gods. Newman states that he thinks this is the end of the Liberal party for good. We will now be heading down a two-party political road. I'm not so sure. The Conservatives were able to reinvent themselves after being gutted down to two seats. The Liberals came back from forty seats after losing to Diefenbaker. Whether they will be able to as the same party, or whether they will have to reinvent themselves remains to be seen. But I sincerely hope that a centrist party returns meaningfully to Canadian politics. Whether or not that's your thing, one can't argue with the notion that more choice is better in a democracy. As I stated up front, I have clearly taken advantage of that diversity to send different messages at different times. I would sure hate for my vote to end up being a yes/no, right/left only option. And that's perhaps the most important message of this book. Democracy is in some ways a fragile, but very human endeavor that relies a great deal on the quality of the people involved at both ends as leaders and voters. Regardless of who you vote for, I for one hope that the both the number and thoughtfulness of our choices and our voices improve in future elections.
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. It doesn't imply Canada should copy the American primary system; but it does suggest adopting new and more open methods of selecting candidates.
Newman skillfully cites the arrogance and incompetence of the Worthy Old Elder Statesmen (WOES). It's not unique to politics; the basic errors are much the same as the collapse of once great businesses such as Kodak -- the company that invented digital photography; or Research in Motion -- creator of the world's best business phone. Good companies re-organize and thrive; weak companies, and inept politicians, refuse to change and die.
This is a textbook on how to lose an election, destroy a great candidate and crush a venerable political party. It's essential political reading as an example of what not to do; plus, as a foundation to create reforms. After reading it, perhaps Liberals will organize a new "Kingston Conference" similar to the one held in the wake of the 1958 triumph by Diefenbaker.
Politics is a process of continual rebirth, simply because the interests, needs and whims of voters always change. Newman has written a fine obituary of old Liberals; now, party leaders must decide whether to die like Britain's Liberals or be reborn like Democrats after the 2004 election. President Bush bragged of mandates and holding power for at least a generation after 2004; Republicans were trounced in 2006 and 2008, then revived by 2010. Such is the volatile nature of politics.
Newman deftly outlines the Liberal WOES. Now, Young Liberals must reform or learn to graciously fade into history like a curious oddity from times long past.
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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