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Harper’s Team: Behind the Scenes in the Conservative Rise to Power

by Tom Flanagan

Harper’s Team is a lively and intriguing firsthand account of Stephen Harper’s rise to power, as well as a valuable historical document that does not pretend to be unbiased. With an infectious excitement about the process, Tom Flanagan, a University of Calgary political science professor who played a key role in Harper’s two leadership campaigns and his national campaigns, recounts the trials of fighting an election. His account of the democratic process in action quickly becomes the foundation for a subtly anti-democratic treatise on political strategy.

Flanagan, a committed classical liberal inspired by Friedrich Hayek, the guru of Thatcherism and Reaganomics, is clearly thrilled to have broken from campus life and bloodied himself in the political fray, and he is ecstatic that his team has emerged victorious. This book is above all a victory song, one that recounts tales of courage and perseverance; of near-misses, mistakes, and painful blows endured and overcome; and of shrewd strategy and finely executed tactics.

It is perhaps the glow of the victor’s fervour that has caused him to forget himself and reveal the truth he worked so hard to mask. He writes as though his readers are political allies who share his enthusiasm, ready to employ his market strategies, his “Ten Commandments,” in the final push of what he calls a “domesticated civil war.”  What else could explain his ability to deride the Liberal claim that Harper has a “hidden agenda” while simultaneously outlining the man’s agenda and the techniques he has used to hide it?

Flanagan reveals that, for him, Harper’s electoral victory is a major step toward the ultimate goal: “The work is far from done. Canada is not yet a conservative or Conservative country.” He argues, however, that conservatives must not frighten off the voters by stating or implementing their agenda too suddenly. In politics, one must appear to be moderate, initiate conservative policies incrementally, and, once a position of power is attained, “you control the government, you choose judges, appoint the senior civil service, fund or de-fund advocacy groups, and do many other things that gradually influence the climate of opinion.”

Flanagan’s look behind the scenes tells us about the agenda Harper is concealing and the methods he uses to conceal it. Clearly, his hope is that by the time Canadians realize where Harper is leading them, he will have already achieved his goal.


Reviewer: Robert Meynell

Publisher: McGill-Queen’s University Press


Price: $34.95

Page Count: 336 pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 978-0-7735-3298-4

Released: Sept.

Issue Date: 2007-10

Categories: Politics & Current Affairs