The Longer I'm Prime Minister: Stephen Harper and Canada, 2006-
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The definitive portrait of Stephen Harper in power by this country's most trenchant, influential and surprising political commentator.
Despite a constant barrage of outrage and disbelief from his detractors, Stephen Harper is on his way to becoming one of Canada's most significant prime ministers. He has already been in power longer than Lester B. Pearson and John Diefenbaker. By 2015, and the end of this majority term, he'll have caught up to Brian Mulroney. No matter the ups and downs, the triumphs and the self-inflicted wounds, Harper has been moving to build the Canada he wants--the Canada a significant proportion of Canadian voters want or they wouldn't have elected him three times. As Wells writes, "He could not win elections without widespread support in the land. . . . Which suggests that Harper has what every successful federal leader has needed to survive over a long stretch of time: a superior understanding of Canada."
In The Longer I'm Prime Minister, Paul Wells explores just what Harper's understanding of Canada is, and who he speaks for in the national conversation. He explains Harper not only to Harper supporters but also to readers who can't believe he is still Canada's prime minister. In this authoritative, engaging and sometimes deeply critical account of the man, Paul Wells also brings us an illuminating portrait of Canadian democracy: "glorious, a little dented, and free."
When you’re managing a trillion-and-a-half-dollar economy, you don’t get a chance to do do-overs, over and over again,” Harper said. “I don’t think this is a question of language at all. The question was very clear. It was asked repeatedly. But what’s important in the end, after all the times the question was put, the answer was, from Mr. Dion, that he does not have a plan, that if he is elected he would spend thirty days trying to create one. ” To call this entire display disingenuous would be like calling the Pacific Ocean moist.
Even though procedures existed for handling any complaints … Stephen went to the media. ” There followed a special caucus meeting and several rounds of internal finger-pointing. Manning’s relations with his wife, Sandra, at whom “part of Stephen’s attack had been directed,” suffered. She felt he hadn’t done enough to defend her. “This whole issue—which really wasn’t about expenses at all—was the most painful experience our family had endured to date,” Manning wrote. “What made it particularly hard to endure was that it was initiated not by an external opponent, but by one of our own.
For a guy that’s changed his mind three times in a week with respect to the Middle East …” With that the hostilities were engaged. The surprise scrapper of the afternoon was Stéphane Dion. The political scientist son of a political scientist, the owlish and intermittently comprehensible Dion had done yeoman work as Jean Chrétien’s national-unity enforcer before recycling himself as Paul Martin’s environment minister. Dion often presented as an A student on every subject in the world except English syntax and political strategy, but there was a clever design to his work that day.
Bennett and Joe Clark. Each was defeated, not by a new opponent, but by the veteran he had beaten in the previous election. Sir John A. Macdonald beat Mackenzie. William Lyon Mackenzie King beat Bennett. And Pierre Trudeau came out of retirement to beat Joe Clark. It was far more common for a new prime minister to be re-elected. Nor did Dion have a strong hold on his party’s leadership. On the first ballot in the Montreal convention in 2006, he won only 18 percent of the vote. Voting went to four ballots; Dion didn’t lead until the third.
By late August hundreds of artists were staging protests in Montreal and Toronto. “They don’t want to recognize the existence of art in our society, and that’s appalling,” actress Marie Tifo said in Montreal. “I’m here with all my peers to say ‘no,’ we exist, and [culture] is an essential good. ” A satirical video appeared on YouTube, showing pop singer Michel Rivard facing a thuggish panel of Ottawa arts bureaucrats who get his French lyrics all wrong and won’t give him a grant. The ad, which was funnier than I’ve made it sound, went viral, logging hundreds of thousands of views.