On Sunday, 2 August, our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, asked the Governor General to dissolve parliament and start what will be the longest election in Canada since 1870. Many were quick to point out how much this will cost the Canadian public, or the advantages the Conservative Party of Canada may have with its larger funding base, but there is one other thing to consider: more time to make an informed decision.
As the quotation above by JFK insinuates, informed voters are key to a functioning democracy. And the library is an obvious place to help you make that informed decision on poll day. As we showcase every February during Freedom to Read Week, the library is a staunch defendant of freedom of speech, which means we make sure to have every side of the discussion as long as books and articles are written on it. Libraries have a central role in the democratic process and it all has to do with providing that information to anyone who requests it. So I am going to list some books that may help you be more informed about some major topics that are being discussed this election.
“There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receives the slightest consideration.” – Andrew Carnegie
Publishing a biography before an election was something that was more common in the United States with Jimmy Carter starting the trend, while Canadian politicians usually published their memoirs after their term in office: e.g. Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Brian Mulroney, Kim Campbell, Paul Martin. The first to launch a book before a campaign was Jean Chrétien with his title Straight from the Heart, and many candidates have since followed suit: Michael Ignatieff, Stéphane Dion, Jack Layton (though his book was not a memoir but rather a manifesto) .
Here is a list of the most recent books on the leaders vying for the position of prime minister.
Justin Trudeau published his autobiography Common Ground last year, just five months after becoming the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, and one full year before the fixed election date of 19 October. This memoir outlines the major moments in Mr. Trudeau’s life that have prepared him for his political career.
Next we have Elizabeth May, the leader of the Green Party, who published her book around the same: Who we Are: Reflections on my life and Canada. This is described as a cross between an autobiography and a manifesto as it details her life but also her vision for Canada.
Just recently Tom Mulcair published his own autobiography, Strength of Conviction, which discusses his upbringing and political career, and more specifically how his experiences have shaped his vision and beliefs for Canada.
Finally, Globe and Mail journalist and award winning author John Ibbitson took a one year leave of absence from the paper to write Stephen Harper’s biography. The new book simply titled, Stephen Harper, was set to be released in September but the early start date of the election pushed its publication up to 12 August. While many books talk about Stephen Harper’s policies and rise to prime minister (e.g. published in the last two years: The Longer I’m Prime Minister by Paul Wells, Dismantling Canada: Stephen Harper’s new conservative agenda by Brooke Jeffery, Harperism : how Stephen Harper and his think tank colleagues have transformed Canada by Donald Gutstein, and Party of One: Stephen Harper and Canada’s radical makeover by Michael Harris) this biography takes a deeper look into his private life, and his relationships with Reform Leader Preston Manning, his family, and even his cats.
In order to properly assess the leaders’ promises, it is important to get a good understanding of the situation they’re talking about. I will present three major issues that have been hitting the headlines recently and give a few books that have been recently published on those issues.
With the trial of Mike Duffy and the scandal involving other disgraced Senators, there have been many discussions on the role and relevance of the Senate. Here are a few books that discuss the possibility of reform and the scandals that occurred:
The economy comes up in every election, and here are two books on this subject published this year:
The Arrogant Autocrat: Stephen harper’s Takeover of Canada by Mel Hurtig
Stalled : Jump-starting the Canadian Economy by Michael Hlinka
With the Trans-Pacific Partnership going on during the election, and a constant shift in the international theatre, understanding Canada’s place in the world can be difficult. Here is one book that discusses Canada’s historic relations with China, and another that looks into Canada’s role in the world in the future:
Engaging China: Myth, Aspiration, and Strategy in Canadian Policy from Trudeau to Harper by Paul Evans
Brave New Canada: Meeting the Challenge of a Changing World by Derek H. Burney and Fen Osler Hampson
Of course these are only a few of the topics that are important. Many more could be highlighted, and if any of these or any other topic interests you, make sure to check out your library for any election queries you may have. We’ll be glad to help!