The Finalists - Best Political Books - What We Do - Samara

The Finalists

1867: How the Fathers Made a Deal
by Christopher Moore
(published in 1997)

Read Christopher Moore's author Q&A here!

1867 is more than just an illuminating account of Canada's Confederation. Moore brings to life leading figures like John A. Macdonald, George Brown, Charles Tupper, and George Cartier and delightfully compares and contrasts their constitution-making process with contemporary Canada’s constitutional struggles. Moore explores the parallels that the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords have with the endeavours of the Fathers of Confederation, discovering that a messy, dramatic and crisis-ridden process does not always result in failure.

Christopher Moore is well-known for writing about history in an accessible and engaging manner. His writing has garnered numerous accolades including a Governor General's Award and the Secretary of State's Prize for Excellence in Canadian Studies. He helped write the bestselling children's history The Story of Canada and Canada: Our Century. Moore lives in Toronto with his wife and two daughters.

A Fair Country: Telling Truths About Canada
by John Ralston Saul
(published in 2008)

Read John Ralston Saul's author Q&A here!

In an original vision of Canada, John Ralston Saul asserts that the country was not founded only on English and French values, but that it is a Métis nation, heavily influenced and shaped by aboriginal ideas: egalitarianism, a proper balance between individual and group, and a penchant for negotiation over violence. He also argues that a simple switch of words in the BNA Act adversely affected Canada’s image of itself, creating confusion as to the purpose of the state. And finally, he takes aim at our business leaders, bureaucrats and politicians, claiming that their unwillingness to take risks and lack of creativity is hurting the country.

Également disponible en français sous le titre Mon pay métis: Quelques vérités sur le Canada.

An award-winning essayist and novelist, John Ralston Saul was elected President of International PEN in October 2009. He is General Editor of the Penguin Extraordinary Canadians project. His most recent book, a biography of Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine and Robert Baldwin, is his own contribution to this series.

The Best Laid Plans
by Terry Fallis
(published in 2008)

Read Terry Fallis's author Q&A here!

A burnt-out political aide quits just before an election — but is forced to run a hopeless campaign on the way out. He makes a deal with a crusty old Scot, Angus McLintock — an engineering professor who will do anything, anything, to avoid teaching English to engineers — to let his name stand in the election. No need to campaign, certain to lose, and so on. Then a great scandal blows away his opponent, and to their horror, Angus is elected. He decides to see what good an honest MP who doesn’t care about being re-elected can do in Parliament. The results are hilarious — and with chess, a hovercraft, and the love of a good woman thrown in, this very funny book has something for everyone.

Terry Fallis was drawn to politics at an early age, and he worked for Cabinet Ministers both at Ontario's Queen's Park and in Ottawa. The Best Laid Plans began as a podcast, then was self-published, won the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour, was re-published to great reviews by McClelland & Stewart, and was selected the 2011 winner of CBC’s Canada Reads competition. His follow-up novel is The High Road. He is the head of the public relations agency Thornley Fallis. He lives in Toronto with his wife and two children.

Fights of Our Lives: Elections, Leadership, and the Making of Canada
by John Duffy
(published in 2002)

Read John Duffy's author Q&A here!

Political insider John Duffy sets out to demonstrate why elections matter in a colourfully annotated political history. He offers a play-by-play account of the ideals and mechanics behind five pivotal contests that, since Confederation, have stood above the rest in the making of our nation. Readers get a sense of how a campaign looks from tne inside, as Duffy unfurls the drama of political fights — involving Laurier, Mackenzie King, Diefenbaker, Trudeau and Mulroney — that asked Canadians to decide upon great political issues and which yielded nation-altering results.

John Duffy is a founding partner of StrategyCorp, one of Canada's leading public policy consulting firms. He has served as a senior strategic advisor to several federal and Ontario Liberal Leaders, including Prime Minister Paul Martin, and worked at the centre of numerous campaigns. John is one of Canada's premier political commentators, appearing in print and broadcast outlets across the country and around the world. He lives in Toronto with his wife and two daughters. 

Harperland: The Politics of Control
by Lawrence Martin
(published in 2010)

Read Lawrence Martin's author Q&A here!

After four years in power, Stephen Harper's governance comes under the microscope of journalist Lawrence Martin. Focusing on the growth of executive power under Harper’s minority government, Martin probes the prorogations, the unprecedented centralizing of power, and campaign financing scrimmages. Gaining remarkable access to Conservative actors close to the Prime Minister, Martin pens a portrait of a defiant leader obsessed with party discipline and message control, a portrait that is balanced by the author's admiration for Harper's intelligence and his undeniable strategic skills.

Lawrence Martin is the author of ten books, including a two-volume study of Jean Chrétien. His career in journalism has seen him serve as a correspondent in Montreal, Moscow and Washington. Now based in Ottawa, Martin writes a weekly column for The Globe and Mail and contributes occasionally to La Presse.

John A: The Man Who Made Us
by Richard Gwyn
(published in 2007)

Read Richard Gwyn's author Q&A here!

In the first full-scale biography of our first prime minister in more than half a century, political columnist Richard Gwyn breathes fresh interpretation into the life and times of the “Old Chieftain.” Beginning with Macdonald’s birth in Glasgow and stretching to his role as one of the Fathers of Confederation, John A. tracks the development of his genius to create the country’s first true national party, combining French and English, straddling the political centre. The author discovers that the single most important decision Canadians of the day made was not to become a confederation, but not to become Americans, as they could have done so easily and profitably.

Richard Gwyn is a commentator for the Toronto Star on national and international affairs and a frequent contributor to television and radio programs. John A: The Man Who Made Us was a finalist for the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing in 2007. The second volume of the biography, Nation Maker: Sir John A. MacDonald: His Life, Our Times, will be published in September 2011.

On The Take: Crime, Corruption and Greed in the Mulroney Years
by Stevie Cameron
(published in 1994)

Read Stevie Cameron's author Q&A here!

Throughout Brian Mulroney’s decade in power, the Canadian public had suspected corruption, and one year after Mulroney left office, Stevie Cameron confirmed and detailed the shocking stories in this meticulously researched journalistic account. On the Take established Cameron as one of Canada’s top investigative reporters and ultimately helped lead to the demise of the Progressive Conservative Party. A page-turner that exposes the shady ways in which Ottawa operated during Mulroney’s years in power, On the Take is a cautionary tale about the misuse of power and public money for personal gain. It colours Canadians perceptions of politicians as corrupt and self-serving, even seventeen years later.

Stevie Cameron has written for newspapers, magazines, and worked on television. After On the Take, she wrote The Last Amigo, a book about Karlheinz Schreiber, a German-Canadian arms dealer who kick-started the Airbus scandal in Canada and payoff scandals in Germany that destroyed the reputation of former chancellor Helmut Kohl. She has written two books about the missing women in Vancouver and Robert Pickton: The Pickton File and, more recently, On the Farm.

One-Eyed Kings: Promise & Illusion in Canadian Politics
by Ron Graham
(published in 1986)

Read Ron Graham's author Q&A here!

In a land where prime ministerships are measured by the decade, the first half of the 1980s witnessed a succession of four Prime Ministers. In One-Eyed Kings, Ron Graham profiles Joe Clark, Pierre Trudeau, John Turner and Brian Mulroney and explores their roles in one of the country’s most dramatic periods. Whether it be the constitution, energy debate, role of government in the economy, or search for free trade with the Americans, Graham reveals a political culture with a pattern of inadequate, one-eyed approaches to the long-term challenges confronting Canada. Published in 1986, One-Eyed Kings is a classic of Canadian political writing.

Ron Graham is one of Canada’s most accomplished political journalists. Born in Ottawa, educated at McGill and Carleton Universities, he was an academic and documentary producer before moving to journalism. In April 2011 he published his fifth book, The Last Act: Pierre Trudeau, the Gang of Eight and the Fight for Canada, with Allen Lane as part of their History of Canada series. Graham also edited The Essential Trudeau and the two volumes of memoirs by Rt. Hon. Jean Chrétien. With his wife and three children, he divides his time between downtown Toronto and a cabin in Quebec.

Right Side Up: The Fall of Paul Martin and the Rise of Stephen Harper's New Conservatism
by Paul Wells
(published in 2006)

Read Paul Wells' author Q&A here!

Right Side Up documents the historic shift that occurred during the Canadian federal elections of 2004 and 2006. Political pundit Paul Wells dramatically recounts the stunning decline of the Liberal Party and the reemergence of a cohesive right-wing party through the figures of Paul Martin, once thought to be an unstoppable machine, and Stephen Harper, a supreme political operator forever underestimated by his opponents. The author lays responsibility with Martin and his overconfident team of advisors who were incapable of controlling the agenda, and credits Harper for running a strategically adept campaign that turned Martin’s woes into an improbable Conservative victory.

Paul Wells is a journalist and pundit, and currently Senior Columnist at Maclean’s. Random House Canada will be publishing his second book, which aims to be the definitive take on Stephen Harper’s years as Prime Minister, in 2013. He lives in Ottawa.

Shakedown: How Our Government is Undermining Democracy in the Name of Human Rights
by Ezra Levant
(published in 2009)

Read Ezra Levant's author Q&A here!

While serving as the publisher of the Western Standard, Levant published the infamous Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed. A complaint was filed with the Alberta Human Rights Commission and when Levant went before the commission he vigorously argued that publishing the images fell under free speech laws. In light of these and other events, Levant argues that the Canadian Human Rights Commission has become a threat to core civil liberties. Shakedown is an exposé that reveals how far government-appointed human rights bodies have strayed from the noble purpose for which they were created.

Ezra Levant is a prominent conservative commentator who has authored several bestselling books including Ethical Oil: The Case for Canada's Oilsands. Levant earned a law degree from the University of Alberta and, in 2004, co-founded the Western Standard. Levant currently hosts The Source on Sun News Network and is a columnist for the Sun Media newspaper chain.


Trudeau and Our Times: The Magnificent Obsession (vol 1) and The Heroic Delusion (vol 2)
by Christina McCall and Stephen Clarkson
(published in 1990 and 1994)

Read Stephen Clarkson's author Q&A!

Pierre Trudeau is our most written-about prime minister and Trudeau and Our Times was the first definitive, multi-volume, award-winning biography about him. The first volume traces his childhood, his knight-errant youth and early manhood, his charismatic ascent to the Liberal Party leadership, and his dramatic first decade as prime minister. It concludes with his bittersweet triumphs in fighting off the separatists in the 1980 referendum. The second volume describes the abiding liberal Trudeau’s quixotic confrontations with his neo-conservative opponents, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Trudeau and Our Times is a masterful analysis of a leader who continues to incite a strong emotional reaction amongst Canadians 25 years after he left office.

Stephen Clarkson is a professor of political economy at the University of Toronto and one of Canada’s preeminent political scientists. His work specializes in the evolution of North America as a continental state and the impact of globalization. Christina McCall was a much admired political writer who redefined nonfiction magazine writing as an art form with her work at Maclean’s, Chatelaine and Saturday Night. She is best known for Grits, her history of the Liberal Party. A collection of her writings was edited by her husband Stephen Clarkson and published posthumously in 2008 as My Life as a Dame.

While Canada Slept: How We Lost Our Place in the World
by Andrew Cohen
(published in 2003)

Read Andrew Cohen's author Q&A!

Should we continue to starve our military, reduce our humanitarian assistance, dilute our diplomacy, and absent ourselves from global intelligence-gathering? Can we expect to sit at the global table by virtue of our economic power without pursuing a foreign policy worthy of our history, geography, and diversity? Canada has been getting by on the cheap, writes Andrew Cohen in this bestselling and award-nominated book. We are still trading on the reputation this country built two generations ago, but it is a reputation we no longer deserve. With Canada’s international strategy and place in the world still unclear, While Canada Slept raised important issues and questions that have still not been answered today.

Andrew Cohen is a professor of journalism and international affairs at Carleton University. He has worked at home and abroad for The Ottawa Citizen, United Press International, Time, The Financial Post, Saturday Night and The Globe and Mail, where he was a member of the Editorial Board, a columnist and foreign correspondent in Washington. He has written and co-edited five books. His most recent book is Extraordinary Canadians: Lester B. Pearson


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