Friday, January 26, 2007

Knowing your enemy

Well, enemy seems too harsh. Opponent is better. Anyway, I've just finished reading William Johnson's biography of Stephen Harper, Stephen Harper and the Future of Canada, and I wanted to share my thoughts.

This edition has recently been updated post-election and a few months into Harper's Prime Ministership, but the tale begins before Harper's birth, when his ancestors left England for the Maritimes and a better life.

Overall, I have to say it’s a very flattering portrait of Harper. He begins by comparing Harper to Trudeau (in a positive way my Con friends).Johnson is very sympathetic to and supportive of Harper, seemingly agreeing with most of his decisions, minimizing his mistakes and glossing over the achievements of others, particularly Liberals. This became particularly striking as we move closer to the present day, and his account of Harper as PM.

Still, despite these flaws it's a very interesting, if slow read. I started just before Christmas and just finished yesterday, so nearly a month, all told. It wasn't an easy read, can't put it down kind of book like Paul Wells' Right Side Up.

It is very much worth the read though if you're interested in getting past some of the partisan spin from all sides and learning more about Stephen Harper, who he is and where he came from, and what has influenced him.

It is very enlightening, and illuminating. For example, in his youth, young Steve was an admirer of Pierre Trudeau and even joined the Liberal Party. Crazy kids!

I was most struck though by how much Harper has changed, or at least appeared to change, over the years. He has gone from a very rigid, inflexible personality, evidenced by his disagreements with Preston Manning for example, to someone much more willing to compromise to achieve his greater goals. With tables reversed Cons would call it flip-flopping, I'd prefer to call it learning.

The schism with Manning was also something I wasn't too familiar with, and was interesting to read more about. Manning wanted Reform to be not left or right, but a true grassroots reform party drawing from the PCs, Libs and NDP equally, while Harper wanted a conservative-focus, leading them to butt heads. They also disagreed over Manning's populist desires, Harper was very much not a supporter of the more populist, power to the people aspects of Reform and it's unsurprising we haven't heard talk of recall or referenda from this new CPC.

Anyway, take Johnson's conclusions with a grain of salt but there's a lot of interesting source material that better informs our knowledge of the man who, for the time being anyway, is our Prime Minister.

*The publisher provided a copy of the book to facilitate this review.

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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Interesting that long after the book came out - Mr. Johnson was in a documentary about Harper with views by Harper's friends and collegues and Johnson admitted that he didn't like Harper the person. This, of course, was after the election.

Jason Hickman said...

For example, in his youth, young Steve was an admirer of Pierre Trudeau and even joined the Liberal Party. Crazy kids!

See Jeff? There's still hope for your redemption yet!

A BCer in Toronto said...

Trying to save my soul Jason? lol

I'm not in a high enough tax bracket yet to be a Conservative...and if I ever am, there's the danger I may go the caviar socialist route...