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How Stephen Harper and his think tank colleagues have transformed Canada

By Donald Gutstein

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Margaret Thatcher transformed British political life forever. So did Ronald Reagan in the United States. Now Canada has experienced a similar, dramatic shift to a new kind of politics, which author Donald Gustein terms Harperism. Among its key tenets:

  • A weakened labour movement--and preferably the disappearance of unions--will contribute to Canada's economic prosperity
  • Cutting back government scientific research and data collection will improve public policy-making
  • Eliminating First Nations reserves by converting them to private property will improve conditions of life for aboriginal peoples
  • Inequality of incomes and wealth is a good thing--and Canada needs more of it

These and other essential elements of Harperism flow from neo-liberal economic theories propounded by the Austrian economist Friedrich von Hayek and his U.S. disciples. They inspired Thatcherism and Reaganism. Stephen Harper has taken this neo-liberalism much further in many key areas. As Donald Gutstein shows, Harper has successfully used a strategy of incremental change coupled with denial of the underlying neo-liberal analysis that explains these hard-to-understand measures.

The success of Harperism is no accident. Donald Gutstein documents the links between the politicians, think tanks, journalists, academics, and researchers who nurture and promote each other's neo-liberal ideas. They do so using funds provided by ultra-rich U.S. donors, by Canadian billionaires like Peter Munk, and by many big corporations--all of whom stand to gain from the ideas and policies the Harperites develop and push.

This book casts new light on the last ten years of Canadian politics. It documents the challenges that Harperism--with or without Stephen Harper--will continue to offer to the many Canadians who do not share this pro-market world view.



  1. Convince Canadians of the Importance of Economic Freedom
  2. Send in the Think Tanks to Win the Battle of Ideas
  3. Reject Unions and Prosper
  4. Liberate Dead Capital on First Nations Reserves
  5. Counter the Environmental Threat to the Market
  6. Undermine Scientific Knowledge
  7. Deny Income Inequality
  8. Fashion Canada as a Great Nation



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"Harperism is the best explanation yet for whats happening in Ottawa and demonstrates why the Harper revolution will be difficult to unravel even if the Conservatives lose the next election."

- The Georgia Straight, Best Books of 2014

Do all of the examples contained in Gutsteins book make the case for something we can name Harperism? Theres a revolving door of individuals who all pass through think tanks, media, and government that have supported Harpers policies and the Conservative Party itself. The case for Harperism is strong.

- Gerard Di Triolo, Briarpatch Magazine

"A Best Book of 2014"

- The Hill Times,

"What causes dramatic changes in political culture? Historic events, powerful leaders or breakthroughs in science and technology form the basis on many. But in the age of globalization, the internet and information overload, there are also more subtle and incremental ways to effect change. Harperism connects the dots by drawing a line between the free market philosophy espoused by Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman and the global phenomenon of conservative think tanks. Gutstein argues that the dotted line leads all the way to the change in political culture that encouraged nearly 40 percent of Canadians to vote for the most conservative prime minister in Canadian history."

- Beth Haddon, Literary Review of Canada

"Harperism has been published months ahead of what is quite possibly the most important federal election ever... [It is essential reading. Understanding its central thesis is important to every voter, including the mistaken 30+% who think they are supporting conservatism, not liberalism. And it should be mandatory reading for anyone planning to not cast their precious ballot. It offers scary motivation, indeed, for all Canadians to get to the polls this fall."

- Bruce Mason, Common Ground

"Gutstein argues that right wing think-tanks and their allies are made more influential by a mainstream media echo chamber. He says an examination of the 2013 Canadian Newsstand Major Dailies database shows that research from right wing sources like the Fraser Institute appears more often than papers released by left and progressive think-tanks like the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. The tax-and-service-cutting gospel promoted by bodies like the Fraser Institute seems to have the compelling power of constant repetition and this may be one of the reasons, as this book suggests, that Harper and his colleagues have been as successful as they have been at changing the face of Canada.

- Tom Sandborn, Vancouver Sun

"While it may sometimes seem the Harper government's policies are an ad hoc mixture of right-wing populism, poll-driven opportunism and economic austerity (with a dash of nationalism and military swagger thrown in), a new book by Donald Gustein argues that Conservative policy development is more calculated than that, and heavily influenced by the work of think tanks."

- Frank Bayerl, The Monitor (Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives)

"Mont Pelerin, Switzerland, in 1947 seems far removed from Ottawa, Canada, 2014, and yet Gutstein methodically makes the links between the neoliberal, neo-conservative agenda and the current government's handling of a number of high profile issues."

- Amira Elghawaby,

"This book sheds new light on Harper's symbiotic relationships with the network of conservative think tanks that created the environment that moved his ideas from the fringes to the mainstream and continue to validate his agenda."

- Bruce Campbell, Executive Director, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA)

"Donald Gutstein does a powerful job of analyzing the ideology and practice of Harperism as it rolls steadily across the institutions of our country, undermining regulations, firing researchers, intimidating NGOs, and demonizing labour unions, environmentalists, and Native leaders."

- Charlie Angus, Member of Parliament

"An immensely powerful and insightful probe of Stephen Harper's impact on Canada. While the mainstream media allows Harper to portray himself as a moderate, Donald Gutstein skillfully traces the deep links between Harper and the right-wing world of corporate-funded think tanks. A great book for anyone looking to cast an informed vote in the 2015 election."

- author Linda McQuaig

"Engaging...Gutsteins most important observation for the future is that other countries that have endured comparable regimes the U.K. under Thatcher; the U.S. under Regan and Bush, Sr. did not see neoliberal policies reversed by the centrist administration that followed."

- Dan Rowe, Quill & Quire

DONALD GUTSTEIN has written four books on the links between large corporations, politics, and the media. His previous book, Not A Conspiracy Theory, is a history of the Fraser Institute and other think tanks. Gutstein writes for The Tyee, Georgia Straight, and He is an adjunct professor in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University and co-director of NewsWatch Canada, a media-monitoring project in the school. He lives in Vancouver.

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Publication Details:

Binding: Paperback, 288 pages
Publication Date: 3rd September 2014
ISBN: 9781459406636
Format: 9in x 6in

Binding: Electronic book text
Publication Date: 3rd September 2014
ISBN: 9781459407336
Format: PDF

Binding: Electronic book text
Publication Date: 3rd September 2014
ISBN: 9781459406643
Format: EPUB

BISAC Code:, POL042000, POL043000, POL056000
Imprint: Lorimer


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