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TORONTO, Oct 4 /CNW/ - Harperland: The Politics of Control, a new book on the Prime Minister by Globe and Mail columnist Lawrence Martin is on-sale tomorrow. The book, which includes many interviews with senior Harper advisers, says democracy has been undermined to an unprecedented degree by a closed, secretive prime minister bidding for absolute control of the system.
The strong-arm tactics have worked well for Harper, says author Lawrence Martin, enabling him to become a conservative success story, a prime minister who has driven back the Liberals and advanced conservative policy goals. At the same time Harper's autocratic, confrontational methods have seeded doubts about his character and created a level of distrust of his intentions, preventing him from increasing his support to a majority-government level.
Among the book's highlights:
- Harper was so obsessed with control that he tried to prevent a book on him by close adviser Tom Flanagan from being published. Harper gave his chief of staff Ian Brodie the task of killing the 2007 book, Harper's Team, which was not critical of Harper but shed light on his operation. The book was published, but with a significant amount of material deleted. The Harper move ended a fifteen-year relationship between him and Flanagan, who had been a driving force behind Harper's success.
- David Emerson, who served in both Harper's and Paul Martin's cabinet, tells the author that what set Harper apart was his degree of venom. He describes Harper and colleagues as "viscerally hating" Liberal opponents. But with his extraordinary discipline, Harper ran an operation, Emerson says, that was many times more efficient than the scattershot Martin Liberals. It was like night and day. Under Martin "You could be in the cabinet meeting from nine till noon...and really nothing would happen."
- Former chief of staff Ian Brodie describes Harper as sometimes being "a sonofabitch," a leader, he says, determined to take down opponents by driving a hard and brutal message. But, Brodie maintains, Harper has a good record as a unifier.
- The level of paranoia at the PMO was such that even a press release by Parks Canada on the mating season of the black bear had to be vetted.
- Harper succeeded in humiliating the Liberals to a degree never before seen, keeping them at or below thirty percent in the polls for a longer period than ever before. The PM's top priority was not policy but, according to his advisers, the destruction of the Liberal Party.
- In the coalition crisis, if Harper didn't get his way with Governor-General Michaëlle Jean on prorogation, one option being considered, reveals Kory Teynecke, Harper's former communications director, was to go over her head to the Queen. The government would appeal the decision and seek to have Jean replaced.
- A journalist's book was a big motivating factor in Harper's decision to carry out a dictatorial style of governance. The strategy was "indelibly formed by one source," says Ian Brodie. It was the Harper team's study of Discipline of Power by Jeffrey Simpson, a book which charted the collapse of the Joe Clark minority in 1979. Harper and colleagues vowed never to repeat those mistakes.
Lawrence Martin is a Globe and Mail columnist and author of ten books, including many critically acclaimed bestsellers. Raised in Hamilton, educated at McMaster and Harvard, Martin served as both Washington and Moscow correspondent for The Globe and Mail before becoming an Ottawa-based national columnist. His books include The Presidents and the Prime Ministers, The Red Machine (a history of hockey in the Soviet Union), and a two-volume biography of Jean Chrétien.
THE POLITICS OF CONTROL by Lawrence Martin
NonFiction/ ISBN 9780670065172 / $35 / Hardcover /
Published by Viking Canada, an imprint of Penguin Group (Canada)
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