To his fans, former Ontario premier Mike Harris is a conservative icon, a leader who cut taxes, reduced government spending, made sensible education and welfare reforms and put Canada’s biggest province back on the road to prosperity. To his enemies he was a ruthless ideologue whose “Common Sense Revolution” ignored the weak and punished the poor. A new book of essays by seasoned political campaigners and prominent policy experts re-examines this polarizing figure and finds both strengths and weaknesses. Harris’ success on the big issues of the day, finds reviewer Sam Routley, shows that when it comes to actually governing a democracy, what matters most is a clear-headed willingness to just get things done.
Free trade and economic liberalization have been bedrock beliefs of Canadian conservatives and official Conservative party policy since the 1980s. But in the past few years, conservatives in the United States and Europe have charged that these policies destroy manufacturing jobs, promote national economic decline and cede authority and influence to bad actors like China. What’s a Canadian conservative to do? Samuel Routley traces the evolution of conservative thinking on free trade and draws lessons for how it should change now. Conservatives, Routley argues, should dislodge free trade from ideological orthodoxy and redirect attention to a renewed engagement with social and cultural institutions.
The knives are out for Pierre Poilievre. Virtually everything about him displeases not only the hard-left but soft conservatives and ostensibly well-meaning centrists who believe – or claim – that he is an ideologue (or opportunist) mesmerized by (or perhaps merely exploiting) populism, a word raised in their minds to the power of incantation signalling everything bad in the human soul. Samuel Routley conducts a detached and good-faith evaluation of Poilievre’s policies, style, messaging and background, setting the Conservative leadership candidate’s meteoric rise against the context of an increasingly disgruntled electorate with a potential “change” election on the horizon.