Women, Power, Politics: Sylvia Bashevkin, 2009

In a new book, Sylvia Bashevkin looks at why women’s progress in politics seems stalled in this country. She is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto. Her book is called “Women, Power, Politics: the Hidden Story of Canada’s Unfinished Democracy”.

Many great comments in this interview however one idea stood out for me personally and that was the idea of false familiarization with female politicians as they are referred to as their first names instead of in the respectful way men are often referred to as Mr. or by their title.

Belinda Stronach, a former female politician and cabinet minister, frequently argues for reforms to be brought to the system that would benefit women and encourage more female candidates to step forward. One such suggestion was documented in Maclean’s Magazine:

http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/11/10/idea-alert-38/

‘Lester B. Pearson’: Andrew Cohen

Andrew Cohen discusses his contribution to the book series ‘Extraordinary Canadians’ about the 14th Prime Minister of Canada, Lester Pearson. Andrew Cohen argues that few leaders have changed this country so profoundly in such a short time.

‘My Years as Prime Minister’: Jean Chrétien, 2007

Former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien sits down with Allan Gregg for a wide-ranging interview. They discuss Chrétien’s new memoir, My Years as Prime Minister, his views on the state of politics in Canada and his recent heart surgery. Released earlier this fall, the book chronicles the high points and challenges of Chrétien’s decade in office as Canada’s twentieth prime minister – from eliminating the deficit to the 1995 cliffhanger Quebec referendum to his decision to keep Canada out of the Iraq war, as well as the rift between Chretien and his successor, Paul Martin.

‘True Patriot Love’: Michael Ignatieff, 2009

The leader of the federal Liberals writes in a new memoir about his mother’s side of the family stretching back to Confederation, and how they influenced him. It’s called “True Patriot Love: Four Generations in Search of Canada”.

‘Harperland’: Lawrence Martin, 2010

Harperland by Lawrence Martin“For Stephen Harper the end justified the means, almost any means. It was what troubled so may Canadians about him. He was caught up in his own internal war. The forces of old grievances and narrow ideology pulled him in one direction. The forces of broader enlightenment pulled him in the other. The former won too many of the battles.

He was one of the more talented Canadian political leaders to come along in decades. His range of knowledge, the precision of his mind, his degree of discipline, his capacity to strategize, to work his way through whatever maze stood before him, was of an unusually high standard.

He was a leader who was capable of triumphing on the high road but who, a victim of his brooding resentments, too often surrendered himself to the low.

In his holding to such a cynical view of governance, lessons of history were to be borne in mind. Before this prime minister, many leaders paid a steep price for exceeding their bounds of authority. They would have done well to recall the adage of the philosopher Heraclitus: ‘Character is fate.'”

-Lawrence Martin, Harperland

Martin’s Harperland provides an interesting and intimate behind the scenes view of the Conservative government under Stephen Harper. He spoke with former aids and friends of the Prime Minister and the party to flesh out the events of the first two terms of Harper’s reign.

The coverage and analysis is fair but critical, praising Harper’s strategic intelligence and political instincts while charging him with undercutting democratic principles and eroding the power of Parliament, centralizing it instead in the PMO.

Perhaps the most important chapter in the book and Harper’s time as Prime Minister is the chapter entitled ‘Surviving the Coalition’ which covers the Constitutional Crisis of 2008.  This event, perhaps best covered by the book Parliamentary Democracy in Crisis, marks a rare moment in modern Canadian history where the electorate was engaged (and to some extent enraged) by the events taking place in Ottawa.

Martin outlines the Conservative response to the situation, the party’s use of propaganda to convince the electorate to back them and not the opposition during the crisis in order to convince the Governor General to side with Harper and prorogue parliament.

As Martin points out, “Parliament had been shut down twice. From June on, it sat for less than a month” (p190). Prior to the crisis Canadians largely did not know the meaning of the word prorogue and the entire situation highlighted the lack of awareness and knowledge of the Canadian people about their own political and electoral system.

Whether the crisis actually increased the knowledge of any Canadians in a permanent way is debatable. But Martin’s book highlights this crisis and the response of Canadians to it. The book touches on many topics in the lead-up to Harper becoming Prime Minister as well as issues during his time in that position. It ultimately serves as an extremely detailed account of how the nation got to that moment of crisis and how it has been shaped since by the most powerful man in the country.