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Harperland: The Politics of Control
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Harperland: The Politics of Control

3.86  ·  Rating Details ·  324 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
After four years in power, Stephen Harper's governance comes under the microscope of prominent Globe and Mail columnist Lawrence Martin. Focusing on the growth of executive power under Harper and drawing on interviews with prominent insiders, Martin probes the smearing of opponents, the silencing of the public and diplomatic service, the secrecy, the prorogations, the unpr ...more
Published October 2010 by Penguin Group (Canada) (first published September 1st 2010)
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Apr 16, 2011 Shireen rated it really liked it
Shelves: canadian, biography, 2011
Lawrence Martin has an engaging, effortless writing style that draws you in right from the first sentence. I wanted to read Harperland because of Parliament's increasing dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. I put it on hold at the Toronto Public Library, and by the time I got it, the election was underway. I wanted to read it more than ever by then, but anticipating a tough slog of the must-read kind of reading, I procrastinated. I should've known better.

I had read one of Martin's
Nadine Lumley
Jan 10, 2012 Nadine Lumley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ten things you don’t know about Steve Harper, the leader of Canada’s “Corporate Party”

1. Harper’s an Evangelist (i.e. a Holy Roller, but he doesn’t believe in it, it’s just for show, it’s actually just a front for “corporate interests”)
1. Harper’s church rejected divorcee Laureen, so after living common-law together, they married in a civil ceremony on December 11, 1993. So much for his religious shtick.
2. He's getting divorced (check out his website, all pics of Harper and Laureen together have
Gail Martin
Feb 08, 2011 Gail Martin marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Interesting read -- the rise of a politician with a not so blind ambition. On the contrary, the silent minority has been blind-sided by Harper's sneaky maneuverings in Ottawa on behalf of big business. Can't wait to read the sequel, 'the fall of a polititican'. Sorry, hard to be objective about this snake in the grass. Kudos to Lawrence Martin for his restraint -- at times, I could have sworn he actually liked his subject.
Sep 05, 2010 rabbitprincess rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: CanPol junkies
Recommended to rabbitprincess by: Ottawa Citizen (Sep 5/2010)
An important book in light of its subject's recent majority government, albeit a highly depressing one. Reasonably well-informed readers will recall most of the events in this book, even the ones they may have wanted to forget. What's surprising is just how far Harper is willing to go to completely demolish his enemies and what he is prepared to do in quest of power. Martin's interviews extend over all party lines and include former staffers, so there is no shortage of viewpoints and it feels li ...more
Jan 13, 2011 Jen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
This is a pretty good run-down of all the reasons to find Harper and his people scary and loathsome. It covers the issues that have been in the public eye over the last 5 years, as well as some background info from the Reform & Alliance days. What it didn't really get into, which I am curious about, is WHY THE HELL IS HE LIKE THIS? But it's not all bad. Some of Harper's traits I can understand, recognize in myself, and even almost admire, but not the way he uses them. Too much killer instinc ...more
Sep 27, 2012 Jade rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The reading of this book left me perplex. It surely highlights how anti-democratic Harper's top-to-bottom methods are. However, it also shines a light on how disciplined and effective he is, two characteristics that are utterly needed in the public arena.

Harperland is an interesting read for whomever wants to get a better grasp of Harper's accomplishments (both constructive and destructive), and a more complete portrait of one of Canada's most controversial prime ministers.
Jan 25, 2011 Vionna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mr. Martin certainly wrote a very thorough, thoughtful and insightful review of not only Stephen Harper, but his party as well. I find it amazing that Mr. Harper harbours such long-standing hatreds and slights and can't seem to stop himself for going for the jogular when matters are not going his way.
Oct 21, 2010 Paddy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canada, politics
This catalogue of Harper's flaws offers juicy quotes but little else. The events will be familiar to anyone who reads the papers, and Martin's rhetoric is over the top, even for those who aren't fans of the Conservatives.
Oct 19, 2010 Foggygirl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rather alarming to realize that Mr. Harper has been given pretty much a free reign by both his own party and the opposition because they are so afraid of reprecussions from the PMO's office. Shame on them and shame on us for not calling them on it enough.
Feb 05, 2011 Toni rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As someone who follows politics and very much disagrees with Harper's ideologies and tactics, this book didn't offer me much new information. Martin did do a great job at presenting some behind the scenes information that any die hard political junkie, like myself, thoroughly enjoyed. At times I actually found myself understanding some of Harper's decisions but that quickly faded and my disgust and anger towards this man, his ideologies, his lack of respect for democracy and his employers (the C ...more
Jun 26, 2014 Alanna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
"Harperland" is a comprehensive chronicle of Harper's Conservatives' time in minority government. While Lawrence does an excellent job of charting all the Conservatives' noteworthy episodes in office, he didn't explore them as in depth as I expected him to. Instead, Lawrence seemed content to simplify matters into that of good and evil - the backward-minded Prairie boys having their vengeance on Liberal institutions. Indeed, while Harper may be an enigmatic (and, frankly, unsettling) figure, thi ...more
Mar 03, 2015 Meg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very unbiased facts-based account of Harper's actions during his first 4 years as Prime Minister of Canada. These actions can be interpreted by the reader as being positive or negative at their leisure. Which is the way books like this should be written.

Popular opinion said that there was "no way" he could get a majority government in 2011... Now they say there's no way Canadians can let him keep his power in 2015... He is smart and calculating, no action is too far, he is not to be underestim
Mar 24, 2015 Sandra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, canadiana
A book on current politics can hardly get 5 stars, but this one is solid 4+. If you've been following news, not much will be new. What you get here is all those little pieces presented together in a coherent and at times scary whole. It is remarkable how much a capable and driven person, such as Harper, can change the political landscape of the entire country. There are also a few lessons on the Canadian parliamentary system and how easy is to subvert the democratic process. But then you look at ...more
Carlyn Craig
Jan 20, 2011 Carlyn Craig rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In Harperland, Lawrence Martin takes a balanced and fair view of Stephen Harper's first four years in office. Through interviews with friends and colleagues, Martin paints a portrait of a man who is secretive, controlling, and also very shrewd and gifted with strong beliefs and a determination to make his vision of Canada a reality. Michael Puttonen does a great job of breathing life into the array of characters surrounding Stephen Harper and the conservative government. All Canadians should lis ...more
Jamal Al-Bayaa
Nov 16, 2016 Jamal Al-Bayaa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Deeply informative, highly narrative, and structurally sound, this book perfectly describes the information-withholding, narrative manipulating, politically maligned governing party that Canada held until 2015. While reading an exciting story, you're gaining a deeper understanding of the inside of Canadian Politics, human nature, and Stephen Harper. This is what happens when journalists write books :)
Bruno de Maremma
A sad litany of the betrayal of promises and the cynical manipulation of power by the conservatives over the last decade. Attack ads and the control of information are the legacy of the new right in Canada. They have learned well from their american cousins. My greatest fear is that they actually represent the new political leanings of this generation of canadians. God help us all ( at leat that's what I would say if I actually thought there was a god).
Terrance Kutney
Jan 20, 2013 Terrance Kutney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well written book about the pre-majority government years of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The author focuses in on what he calls the "politics of control" that Mr. Harper has used to such success in expanding the power of the Prime Minister to unprecedented levels. The author is reasonably level-handed, showing the good with the bad, and presents a compelling case that Mr. Harper has had a destructive impact on democracy in Canada.
Jul 26, 2012 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An important read for all Canadians. A well-researched and well-presented profile of a strict, disciplined, controlling leader who plays a lot of dirty politics, has been singularly focused on destroying the Liberal party and whose political leanings are far more right than many people may realise. Canadians should be paying much closer attention to the man driving this bus and just where he seems to be taking us.
Hal Carim
Dec 24, 2015 Hal Carim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015

Written in 2010, Stephen Harper's rise to power through merciless control, smearing of opposition, muzzling of dissenting opinion, silencing the public service through his PMO and PCO, muzzling access by the press, application of wedge politics and dirty tricks consolidating power and tarnishing the image of the open and inclusive Canada through this mean spiritidness of control at all costs.

Happy Days/Ways since October 19!
Kathleen McRae
Sep 21, 2011 Kathleen McRae rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Harperland was a well written accounting of Stephen Harper's political career.I learned some things I did not know and tried to remain aware that all tales can have multiple tellings.I thought the author presented a good background and explanation as to why things unfolded as they did.I am actually surprised to see this book in print.I guess there are still a few things that Mr Harper cannot control.
Dec 31, 2012 Meghan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Irrespective of whether you agree with Harper's social-conservative stance or not, this book demonstrates Harper's complete lack of regard for the Canadian public and the democratic process. When his closest advisers discuss how paranoid and vindictive he is and how he's surrounding himself with like-minded people in the PMO/PCO, it's very upsetting. I felt sick for most of this book. Sick and frightened for Canada.
Dec 19, 2011 Nancy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian-authors
I don't like anything about Harper so had to really steel myself to read this book - but have to say that it confirmed why I don't like anything about Harper. He's a bully, a liar, a cheat and the eyes don't lie - he is not to be trusted.

Best companion book to this one I can think of is The Sociopath Next Door.

Lawrence Martin did us all a great service by writing this book.

I recommend it.
Ann Douglas
How odd that my original review of this book disappeared from GoodReads. (I just noticed that it was missing tonight when I went to add it to a bookshelf I was creating.)

Harperland provides a well-researched and thought-provoking portrait of Stephen Harper's rise to power, as written by a top political journalist. Highly recommended.
Sep 12, 2012 Jeremy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well-written and lucid account of the increased centralization of power in the PMO under Harper. It would have been helpful if Martin went into more detail on the Chretien government and how its policies lead to the increase in executive power we see today, but this is most likely addressed in his books on Chretien.
Alexander Nachaj
As if the news wasn't enough to make you suspicious of the man and the policies running our country. A definite read for Canadians. It may not be the most-partial book out there, but it is certainly well-researched, written and argued. Then again, with all the partisan politics flying back and forth these days, the lack of impartially should come as no surprise.
John Stinson
Aug 12, 2012 John Stinson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lawrence Martin portrays Harper as a ruthless, suspicious, mean spirited leader obsessed with control. He not only wants to defeat his enemies ... he wants to maim them.
What happened to his ideals of open, accountable government, senate reform … access to information? It is frightening he comes across more Putin than Sir John A.
May 15, 2011 Marguerite rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who follows federal Canadian politics
The portrait of Stephen Harper as a brilliant man with a vindictive streak was on the whole fair, I thought. I'd have liked to know more background -- what made Mr. Harper so mistrustful of democracy that he must vet every comment his Conservative MPs say publicly.
David Akin
I love gossiping with Larry - and he's written some terrific books -- but if you really want insight into "Harperland", the two Wells books are better reportage and less of an indictment. 'course, if it's an indictment you want, this is your tome...
Justin Reist
Jan 22, 2013 Justin Reist rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, politics
Great overview of the past few years of Harper's government. Goes from his early days before reform until just after the 2011 election. Really interesting to see what drives Harper and how he and his staff operate.
Jacob Kojfman
Feb 10, 2015 Jacob Kojfman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
An insightful look at Harper's rise and the level of control he displays not just within his own party but with the Canadian media and people. Give him credit for one thing, when Stephen Harper sets his mind to something, he will get it done.
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“As opposition leader, [Stephen Harper] wrote in the Montreal Gazette in the year before he came to power: 'Information is the lifeblood of a democracy. Without adequate access to key information about government policies and programs, citizens and parliamentarians cannot make informed decisions and incompetent or corrupt governments can be hidden under a cloak of secrecy.'

When he became prime minister, his attitude appeared to undergo a shift of considerable proportions. It often took the Conservatives twice as long as previous governments to handle access requests. Sometimes it took six months to a year.”
“For [Stephen] Harper, a national daycare plan bordered on being a socialist scheme, a phrase he had once used to describe the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. For [Paul] Martin, whose plan would have transferred to the provinces $5 billion over five years, the national program was what Canadianism was all about. "Think about it this way," [Martin] said. "What if, decades ago, Tommy Douglas and my father and Lester Pearson had considered the idea of medicare and then said, 'Forget it! Let's just give people twenty-five dollars a week.' You want a fundamental difference between Mr. Harper and myself? Well, this is it.” 7 likes
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