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on August 19, 2014
“Ultimately this book is about social justice, the quality of life, and about democracy” reads a preface. Nine parts ranging from health care, poverty, education, big business to government lead to the conclusion that Canada is being integrated into the USA by secrecy and stealth. This is orchestrated by big business with cooperation of both Liberal and Conservative governments.

Each chapter provides us with many statistics, many rather discouraging and showing how much better Canada could be doing. Occasionally after reading some one is left wondering ‘so what’. There are numerous quotes illustrating the desired message.

There is a chapter on the electoral system, with numerous examples, federally and provincially, of when we did not get the parliament or legislature we voted for. This is of course what usually happens with First-Past-The-Post. The solution of course is some form of proportional representation and Hurtig points out a little-known fact that in 1984 Jean Chretien promised he would introduce it “right after the next election”. But he didn’t. Mackenzie King and Pierre Trudeau previously also promised, but did not deliver, proportional representation. In 2005, British Columbian’s voted 58 % in favour of BC-STV, a proportional representation system recommended by the BC Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform, but the government refused to implement it.

Politicians generally loathe STV. Hurtig appears to sympathize with them since he quotes Bill Tieleman’s arguments against it. Hurtig evidently does not recognize that Tieleman’s arguments (not all of which are quoted here) are a combination of specious arguments, deception and occasional outright lies.

When Hurtig makes such a blunder as this one wonders how many of his other quotes suffer the same deficiency.

While Hurtig is on the right track in promoting a Canada that is socially just and not just a branch of the USA, I kept thinking that a much better book could have been written.
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on September 4, 2011
Reading this book you will learn 100% "Some Important, Some Astonishing, and Some Truly Appalling Things All Canadians Should Know About Our Country." Mel's presentation isn't poetry, it is a book of facts which point out the dismal state of Canada. Very rarely are they used to draw any specific conclusions, and when they are I can hardly say that they're very disagreeable arguments.

Another reviewer (Chris Horlacher), who appears to have put the book down before getting half way through the first chapter, has misrepresented Mel's argument on healthcare. Mel is arguing that Canada has high expenditure on private healthcare, and that this is pulling down the efficiency of our healthcare system. This point is further supported by the unarguable fact that countries with greater public health-care spending and very little private health-care spending, end up spending far less overall due to the fact that well rounded funding reduces inefficiencies.
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on July 29, 2010
Hurtig makes some very emotive hypotheses about a range of Canadian social issues and then provides statistics, international and Canadian, to prove his point over the inadequacies of Canadian social policy.

Unfortunately he does not do this in a very readible manner and in a number of instances the statistics he quotes appear selective and/or are not a relevant measure of the parameters of his hypothesis.

As a result Hertig's truth is not very believable for his reader.
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on August 4, 2009
This book covers a lot of important issues that should concern all Canadians. However, instead of providing a balanced argument, relevant context or suggestions for improvements, Hurtig hammers the reader over the head with one message: "canada sucks." There are valid points raised in this book such as the failure of provincial governments to raise the minimum wage to keep pace with inflation. But even when Hurtig makes his case he proceeds to undermine it by manipulating statistics to bolster his case even when they don't. For example, when he talks of wage discrepancy over the past decade he blasts the top 10 percent for seeing their incomes increase by some $23 000 against very minimal increases for the lower tiers. However, the $23 000 barely works out to keeping pace with inflation of 2-3% compounded for a decade. After reading a hundred pages I started to feel as though I was reading an undergraduate paper by a political science student. I'm hoping to find some more constructive and balanced analysis out there.
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on September 27, 2008
Mel accurately assesses the symptoms being experienced by Canadians today, inadequate health care, increasing income disparity, increasing income inequality etc. but fails to describe WHY this is happening. The reader will get the distinct impression that Mel believes that it is up to the government to deal with everything he views as the inadequacy of the Canadian experience. The problem is that Mel's analysis is only superficial and fails to provide proper context for the issues that he brings up.

For example, in the first chapter he lambastes the Canadian health care system for not being able to keep up with other health care systems in the OECD nations (Mel cites OECD statistics extensively throughout the book). He's very good at describing where Canada falls short and even correctly shows that it is not due to any lack of funding because Canada spends far more per capita than other OECD nations who rank higher than us on health care. Unfortunately, in the next part of the chapter he simply states that under no circumstances should Canada adopt what he incorrectly calls 'two-tier' health care. His emotional appeal to class warfare belies the fact the Mel really has no idea why Canada's health care system is the way it is and his only solution seems to be that he wants to throw more money in to it. But he already proved that the problem is not due to a lack of funding. Mel's superficial analysis quickly becomes apparent when we realize that the top ranked OECD nations he so praises are employing the exact kinds of systems that Mel calls 'two-tier' and says that we must avoid at all costs. Mel repeats the same errors throughout the book.

Overall this book is quite good at telling us what's wrong with Canada and where the country is falling behind. Unfortunately we also have to read through his heavy statist bias and hatred of his nebulous enemy, 'the corporations'. There are no solutions presented in the book other than throwing money at the problems he describes. In this regards, I find the book highly lacking in any real creativity as it is more of a statistics dump than an intelligent analysis that puts forth rational and creative solutions.
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on July 31, 2008
From self-proclaimed anti-continentalist, Mel Hurtig's latest book is certainly his most controversial. "The Truth about Canada" acts as an exposé for what Hurtig feels to be the absolute wrong direction for Canada.

Hurtig's arguments boil down to (in no particular order):

1. Canada is quickly becoming the 51st American state, economically and culturally
2. Canada's once comprehensive social services are decaying daily
3. Canada is no longer a peacekeeping country
4. Canada is no longer a primary aid donor to developing countries

It's hard to argue against any of Hurtig's arguments, especially with the insane amount of OECD statistics he cites. And if you thought Hurtig's polemic is focused just on Harper and Co., you'll be surprised (or not) to know he reserves his most critical judgments against the Liberals.

The major issue I have with an otherwise fine text is that Hurtig provides little if any of the necessary background, context or significance of what he is saying and why he is saying it. Hurtig takes for granted that his reader actually agrees with everything that he will argue, before you read the book. Books are supposed to be written the other way around, to convince us WHY we should care. Of which, unfortunately, Hurtig fails to do other than to say "this is what Canada was built on and look how it is changing".
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