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All stories relating to Stephen Harper

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Stephen Harper hockey book title, trailer revealed

At the start of one of the busiest seasons for CanLit in recent memory, one of the most hotly anticipated titles must be the forthcoming book on our national sports obsession, written by sitting Prime Minister (and leader of “Canada’s Founding Party”) Stephen Harper. Due to be published by Simon & Schuster Canada on Nov. 5, the book has already garnered extensive word of mouth attention  in and out of publishing circles, as much for the notoriety of its author (a lifelong hockey fan who apparently wrote the book in daily 15-minute chunks) as for its subject.

In a press release yesterday, S&S released the title of the volume – A Great Game: The Forgotten Leafs and the Rise of Professional Hockey – along with a cover image and a video trailer.

From the release:

Drawing on extensive archival records and illustrations, histories of the sport, and newspaper files, A Great Game delves into the fascinating early years of ice hockey. It tells of the hockey heroes and hard-boiled businessmen who built the game, and the rise and fall of legendary teams pursuing the Stanley Cup. With a historian’s perspective and fan’s passion, Stephen Harper presents a riveting and often-surprising portrait, capturing everything from the physical contests on the rinks to the battles behind the scenes and the changing social conventions of the twentieth century.

An article by Toronto Star political reporter Susan Delacourt indicates that the PM consulted the ethics commissioner about which publisher to sign with and what to do with royalties from the book. Proceeds from A Great Game, which will also appear in a French translation, will be donated to the Military Families Fund, which provides financial assistance to the families of Canadian soldiers and military personnel.

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Simon & Schuster confirmed as publisher of Stephen Harper’s hockey book

Stephen Harper holds a hockey stick from the 1907 Stanley Cup final (photo: courtesy Stephen Harper)

It’s no secret that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is an avid hockey fan, and has been diligently working on a historical examination of Canada’s national sport for years. Today it was officially revealed that Simon & Schuster will publish the PM’s untitled manuscript about the history of hockey. Publication in the U.S. and Canada is slated for November.

According to a press release issued by S&S, the book tells the “intriguing, little-known story of the origins of professional hockey, where strong personalities and philosophies battled to define not only how the game would be played on ice, but by whom.” The comprehensive book, which draws on “extensive archival records and illustrations, early hockey histories, and newspaper archives,” will examine “early quests for the Stanley Cup, the rise of professional hockey,” and – good news for beleaguered Maple Leafs fans — the “ascent of Toronto teams and players that have long been forgotten.”

The press release notes that prolific author and journalist Roy MacGregor is offering “editorial services” for the book. In January, MacGregor told the National Post the PM has not employed a ghost writer. “I can guarantee you there’s no ghost,” he said during the interview. “I’m sure it would come up. The reason it would come up is I know of his stated determination that no matter how long it took, he wanted to be the one that did it. He had research help but it was going to be him plucking away at the computer keys.”

In the press release, Harper says, “Canadians from all walks of life enjoy cheering on the great heroes of our national game, but it wasn’t always that way. The early days of professional hockey featured outsized personalities who fought pitched battles to shape the game we know and love today. Writing this book has taught me a lot about hockey and a great deal more about Canada. I hope all who read the book enjoy it as much as I enjoyed the experience of writing it.”

Kevin Hanson, president of Simon & Schuster Canada, says in the release: “Everyone knows that Canadians are zealous about our national sport, and who better to write about the history of hockey and our love of the game than Stephen Harper.”

All author royalties from the book will go to a fund administered by the Canadian Forces Personnel and Family Support Services that provides emergency financial assistance to military families.

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Book links round-up: stories of remembrance, a dissected e-reader, and more


Ezra Levant wins Best Political Book contest

The Writers’ Trust of Canada, in collaboration with Samara, has named Ezra Levant’s Shakedown: How Our Government is Undermining Democracy in the Name of Human Rights (McClelland & Stewart, 2009) the Best Canadian Political Book of the Last 25 Years.

The WTOC and Samara, a non-profit organization for citizen engagement in Canada’s democratic system, announced the contest in June to recognize books “that have captured the Canadian political imagination and contributed in a compelling and unique way to how Canadians understand a political issue, event, or personality” as a means of teaching Canadian political history and sparking political debate. The public was asked to submit their top three recommendations for the longlist, revealed July 1st, and vote on the final 12.

Shakedown, the conservative commentator’s critique of government-appointed human rights commissions and their impact on civil liberties, edged out On the Take: Crime, Corruption and Greed in the Mulroney Years by Stevie Cameron (Seal Books/Random House, 1995), Harperland: The Politics of Control by Lawrence Martin (Penguin, 2010), and Fights of Our Lives: Elections, Leadership, and the Making of Canada by John Duffy (HarperCollins Canada, 2002) to win the popular vote.

The other eight finalists were:

The sponsoring organizations are planning an event with the contest finalists on the topic of political writing in Canada later this year.

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Writers’ Trust turns spotlight on political books

Spurred by the recent federal election, The Writers’ Trust of Canada has partnered with Samara, a non-profit organization that seeks to strengthen citizen engagement in Canada’s democratic system, to launch a project called The Best Canadian Political Books of the Last 25 Years.

In a press release, the WTOC describes the project as an opportunity to “highlight books that have captured the Canadian political imagination and contributed in a compelling and unique way to how Canadians understand a political issue, event, or personality” — and they want everyone to join in.

The public is encouraged to nominate their top three titles in Canadian politics via Samara’s online nomination form before June 23. A longlist will be announced July 1 (Canada’s most patriotic of day of the year, of course).  Throughout the month of July, Canadians will again be encouraged to vote and comment on the list, with the winning books announced Aug. 1.

WTOC and Samara have asked a few notable Canadian political writers and activists to nominate their favourite books. Here are a some of the titles already in the ring:

Anna Porter’s Nominees:
The Player: The Life & Times of Dalton Camp by Geoffrey Stevens
Harperland: The Politics of Control by Lawrence Martin
Right Side Up: The Fall of Paul Martin and the Rise of Stephen Harper’s New Conservatism by Paul Wells

Terry Fallis’s Nominees:
King John of Canada by Scott Gardiner
Louis Riel: A Comic Strip Biography by Chester Brown
Just Watch Me: The Life of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Volume II: 1968–2000 by John English

Tim Cook’s Nominees:
The Worldly Years: Life of Lester Pearson, Volume II: 1949–1972 by John English
Memoirs: 1939–1993 by Brian Mulroney
Empire to Umpire: Canada and the World into the 1990s by J. L. Granatstein and Norman Hillmer


Publishing at the polls: where’s the art speak?

During the 2008 federal election, Stephen Harper spoke up for all those “ordinary people” who were tired of rich, elitist artists drowning in champagne at fancy galas. That glib comment backfired for the Conservatives, especially with Quebec voters, and for a brief moment, arts funding actually made headline news.

Obviously, Harper learned his lesson. This election, the Conservatives are steering clear of any discussions related to the arts. They haven’t attended any all-candidates arts and culture meetings, or responded to any requests for arts platform information.

But the discussion doesn’t end with Harper. The Canadian Arts Coalition has provided a handy Arts Vote Toolkit, which includes questions to ask your local candidates, statistics, and information on where to vote. The organization suggests using the hashtag #artsvotecan whenever you’re tweeting culture-related election issues, and offers some helpful social media tips.

UPDATE: Conservative candidate Dean Del Mastro, Liberal candidate Bob Rae, and the NDP’s Charlie Angus will debate arts and culture issues on CBC Radio 1 program Q, tomorrow a.m.


Publishing at the polls: Arts and culture platforms

Tonight is the first televised leadership debate of the federal election. It’s unlikely arts and culture will be mentioned, so here’s a primer on how all parties (including the Green Party) stand on issues that impact the publishing industry. Here’s a summary of points, taken directly from each platform:

Bloc Québécois

  • Ensure that the federal government increases its support for our culture and contributes to its development

Conservative Party

  • We will provide ongoing support for the Canada Periodical Fund to support the distribution of publications to Canadians, while providing long-term, stable program funding
  • A Stephen Harper-led majority Government will also reintroduce and pass the Copyright Modernization Act, a key pillar in our commitment to make Canada a leader in the global digital economy. This balanced, common-sense legislation recognizes the practical priorities of teachers, students, artists, families, and technology companies, among others, while aligning Canada with international standards. It respects both the rights of creators and the interests of consumers. It will ensure that Canada’s copyright law will be responsive in a fast-changing digital world, while protecting and creating jobs, promoting innovation, and attracting investment to Canada

Green Party

  • Increase funding to all of Canada’s arts and culture organizations including The Canada Council for the Arts, Telefilm Canada, orchestras, theatres and publishers. The goal will be to make increases in this sector commensurate with increases in support over the years for other sectors of the economy such as transport, the auto industry, health care, and the oil and gas industry
  • Restore and improve arm’s length principles in the governance of arts and cultural institutions and agencies under the federal jurisdiction.  In keeping with such a position, we believe that the heads of Canada’s cultural organizations such as the CRTC, Canada Council, CBC, and Telefilm Canada should not be appointed by the political party in power but by an arm’s length committee made up of competent people representative of the various diverse stakeholders in Canadian society
  • Increase support for community arts programs and facilities across Canada by establishing stable base-funding at a set percentage of the federal budget
  • Equalize federal funding for Arts and Culture among provinces, territories, and municipalities to make it consistent with the provinces and municipalities that have the highest current standards
  • Provide incentives to all provinces and territories to restore and improve arts and culture components to schools and extra-curricular activities not only in urban but also in rural areas
  • Extend income tax relief and incentives to artists (on the very successful models established by Ireland and the city of Berlin).  Doing so will: encourage artists to settle in Canada and build businesses here; result in other (usually) white collar “clean” industries that follow the arts jobs and dollars; help to provide meaningful jobs to university and college graduates;enrich schools and their offerings thereby attracting immigrants to settle in rural areas; revitalize and discover talent in communities where traditional industries are declining and young people are leaving
  • Follow and implement recommendations of Canadian Conference of the Arts in order to enable artists to access various social programs including Employment Insurance, Worker’s Compensation, and Canada Pension Plan
  • Change the Canada Revenue Act to allow arts and culture workers to benefit from a tax averaging plan that will take into account the fact that lean years often precede and follow the good year when a show is produced, a book is published and a grant or a prize is won
  • Protect Canada’s cultural identity during trade negotiations

Liberal Party

  • The Canada Council for the Arts is a major force in supporting working artists. A Liberal government will significantly increase support for Canadian artists and creators by doubling the annual budget of the Canada Council for the Arts, from $180 million to $360 million over the next four years
  • A Liberal government will also restore the PromArt and Trade Routes cultural promotion programs, increasing their funding to $25 million. These programs play an important role in bringing Canadian culture to the world and increasing our exports. The new annual funding will help to create a domestic tours program as well
  • Digital technology offers many new opportunities, but enjoying content without compensating its creators shouldn’t be among them. At the same time, consumers should have freedom for personal use of digital content they rightfully possess. Liberals have worked to pass effective copyright legislation, including a private copying compensation fund instead of any new tax on consumers


  • We will promote the production and broadcast of Canadian content on Canadian television and in Canadian theatres, and will strongly support Canada’s performing arts, cultural institutions, and creators
  • We will ensure Canadian TV and telecom networks remain Canadian-owned by maintaining effective regulations on foreign ownership
  • We will increase public funding for the Canada Council and implement tax averaging for artists and cultural workers
  • We will explore the creation of a new international arts touring fund to replace the now-defunct Trade Routes and PromArt programs
  • We will develop a digital online culture service to broaden access to Canadian content
  • We will introduce a bill on copyright reform to ensure that Canada complies with its international treaty obligations, while balancing consumers’ and creators’ rights


Atwood-bashing begins over “Fox News North”

Margaret Atwood is once again lending her name to a worthy cause, and like her support for the environment, brown-bag lunches, and stay-at-home book tours, the celebrated novelist’s actions have generated some mild controversy in the Canadian media.

The latest episode erupted on Tuesday when Atwood announced (via Twitter) that she had added her name to a petition protesting Sun Media’s efforts to launch a Fox TV-style news channel in Canada (the channel is being dubbed “Fox News North” and “Tory TV”). That immediately prompted a response, also via Twitter, from Sun Media national bureau chief David Akin accusing Atwood of supporting “an anti-free speech movement” and effectively accusing “me and my colleagues of hate speech.”

Atwood in turn replied that the issue isn’t about free speech per se, but rather Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s meddlesome involvement with the CRTC, which recently denied the network a top-tier broadcast licence. As Atwood puts it in fewer than 140 characters, “we shouldn’t B Forced to Pay for it, & CRTC chair should be arms’ length, not Harper tool. Fox free 2 set itself up.” She elaborates her position in The Globe and Mail:

“Of course Fox & Co. can set up a channel or whatever they want to do, if it’s legal etc.,” she told The Globe and Mail in an email. “But it shouldn’t happen this way. It’s like the head-of-census affair – gov’t direct meddling in affairs that are supposed to be arm’s length – so do what they say or they fire you.

“It’s part of the ‘I make the rules around here,’ Harper-is-a-king thing,” she wrote.

In today’s National Post, columnist Kelly McParland hits back with an editorial deriding Atwood for “sign[ing] onto this silliness.” Atwood, McParland writes, “stands for good stuff like freedom of speech and freedom of the press, except when it comes to the case of people who don’t agree with her…. Right Peggy? Because you can’t be a good Canadian if you’re a Conservative. Everyone at the CanLit festivals agrees, so it must be true.”

The Post‘s paranoid speculation about a left-leaning CanLit cabal is nothing new. Assuming that at least some of Quillblog’s readers will want to follow Atwood in rejecting Fox News North, you can do so by adding your name to the petition here.


Yann Martel takes a break from Stephen Harper book project

With his next novel coming out in April, Yann Martel has informed Stephen Harper, his unresponsive book club partner, that he will be taking a break from his biweekly book-sharing project.

Since 2007, Martel has sent Harper 76 book that have “been known to expand stillness.” Today, however, Martel sent the prime minister a book accompanied by a letter explaining that he will take a four-month break from the project to promote his new novel, Beatrice & Virgil. From Martel’s letter:

I’ve decided to invite other Canadian writers to join our literary journey. I’m glad about the decision. This is certainly a case of making a virtue of necessity. After all, why should I be alone in making reading suggestions to you?

Martel also revealed that he recently received a handwritten thank you note from Barack Obama, who had just finished reading Martel’s Life of Pi with his daughter. The president wrote that it was “a lovely book – an elegant proof of God, and the power of storytelling.” Martel told Harper that he would frame the note “for sure,” and still takes it out sometimes to marvel at it:

What amazes me is the gratuity of it. As you would know, there is a large measure of calculation in what public figures do. But here, what does he gain? I’m not a US citizen. In no way can I be of help to President Obama. Clearly he did it for personal reasons, as a reader and as a father. And in two lines, what an insightful analysis of Life of Pi. Bless him, bless him.


Yann Martel sends Yann Martel to Stephen Harper

The first rule one learns in today’s publishing climate is that an opportunity to promote one’s own book should never, ever be passed up. Crank letter writer Renowned author Yann Martel demonstrates this truth with the 66th pick in his unilateral book club. This week, Martel is sending Stephen Harper … What Is Stephen Harper Reading? by Yann Martel.

The book’s accompanying letter is mostly a lot of musing about the wonderful thing that is a book, and how lasting. It’s fairly boilerplate book-thumping, with a few thoroughly Martelesque stylistic and ideological quirks. For example, he says that his book “will last because it will find protection in all the homes and libraries that shelter it,” suggesting that the tome is a kind of literary refugee. Martel also refers to Harper’s recent performance of The Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends” as singing “poetry to the Canadian people.”

Interestingly, Martel notes that “eventually, there will be a complete edition” of WISHR? “When it comes out,” he writes, “how many letters it will contain – that all depends on [Harper].”

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