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The Longer I’m Prime Minister: Stephen Harper and Canada, 2006–

by Paul Wells

To the exaltation of many Canadians, the outrage of many others, and the sheer incomprehension of most in the country’s chattering classes, Stephen Harper has survived and prospered as prime minister for the past seven years. In that time, he has had a profound impact on the nature of politics in Canada. Veteran Maclean’s political columnist Paul Wells, arguably one of the writers best equipped to seriously comment on this conundrum, makes the bold claim that he can “explain Harper’s success as something more than an accident and his appeal as something more than a trick.”

The Longer I’m Prime Minister tells the story of Harper’s marathon run to power, from his inauspicious start as a virtually unknown ideologue at the helm of the faltering Canadian Alliance Party to his avuncular, sweater-vest leadership of the powerhouse Conservatives. Wells shows Harper and his team to be close students and savvy players of the political game and illuminates their intellectual influences, day-to-day governance style, and highly effective, incrementalist approach to policy-making.

Throughout, Wells gets the politicking and electioneering down perfectly. His signature casual prose style, interspersed with more than a few genuine laughs, makes reading more than 400 pages of bumpy Canadian politics a breeze.

But Wells falls flat in his goal of explaining why Canadians support Harper. He paints the electorate as superficially diverse but basically fickle, risk-averse, and small-C conservative. He criticizes many Harper policies and decisions, but fails to address their effects, such as a severely hamstrung federal government and scientific community, the rise of an American-style model of electoral politics, and a schizophrenic economic policy in thrall to the free market but driven by deficit spending.

Without seriously analyzing the effects of the changes Harper has instituted and the real damage they have done, Wells almost cannot help drawing the unsubstantiated conclusion that, regardless of politics, the “result will always be the same: Canada, glorious, a little dented, and free.” Such unconvincing optimism suggests that maybe Wells has learned more from Harper than he would care to admit.


Reviewer: Jan Dutkiewicz

Publisher: Random House Canada


Price: $32

Page Count: 448 pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 978-0-30736-132-5

Released: Oct.

Issue Date: 2013-12

Categories: Politics & Current Affairs