The Books of the Canadian Party Leaders
Nov 30, 2010

The Books of the Canadian Party Leaders

I have now read books from three of the Canadian party leaders: Jack Layton and Elizabeth May and two from Michael Ignatieff (Harper hasn't published a book). It quite interesting to compare the leaders, as presented in the book, and the leaders as presented in politics and the media.

Jack Layton: Speaking Out
This book represented the closest match between politician and author and I found it very worthwhile. What you expect out of Layton speech, you are going to see in the book. It has a completely Canadian basis using innumerable examples from all around Canada as he argues very coherently for the policies and perspectives he represents politically.  In addition to several specific issues that he was both instructive and persuasive on, one general theme that I have really taken away is the importance of local community engagement and activism as well as the importance of bottom up democracy. I would rank this book as the most accessible and interesting of the books for Canadians.

Michael Ignatieff: Empire Lite
I enjoyed both of Ignatieff's books but I see little of the author and academician in the politician, or at least of the politician after filtered through a soundbite obsessed media. Ignatieff makes strong stands in his books on many issues and argues for them very convincingly, but these issues don't seem to be part of his political platform. As for Empire Lite, Ignatieff describes the state of western nation building in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan and gives some interesting anecdotes that illustrate some of the problems and solutions intrinsic in our nation building. While I didn't use the term, the expression 'Empire lite' coined by Ignatieff aptly coincides with my description of the US empire. Or Empire Lite, perhaps I should say. To his credit, the liberal support for a continued noncombat role for Canada in Afghanistan does reflect his views but there is so many good things and specifics about nation building that should be communicated to the Canadian people and reflected in the the policies advocated for. It is a missed opportunity.

Michael Ignatieff: The Lesser Evil
This book is about the political ethics of war. It is very much an academic book and very inaccessible to the average reader. I did find it very useful in the process of creating a moral framework for liberal interventionism around the world. Again, the arguments of the book seem absent from the politician but perhaps that is simply due to the somewhat abstract and academic nature of the content.

Elizabeth May: Global Warming for Dummies
This was the most disappointing of the four books in the sense that it could have been written by anyone and doesn't offer much insight into Ms. May in specific. While it is a worthwhile read for someone fairly new to the basics of climate science and solutions regarding climate change, it didn't offer much beyond the basics or do anything particularly novel that isn't covered elsewhere with the exception perhaps of a small Canadian spin on things. 

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