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Open and Shut: Why America Has Barack Obama, and Canada Has Stephen Harper

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Last November America elected its first black president. Canada, too, went to the polls that month. The difference for the two nations was remarkable: Americans had a clear choice between an indecisive, has-been who represented at best more of the same and a progressive, eloquent, African American, the first ever black presidential candidate. As Ibbitson remarks, "What wer Last November America elected its first black president. Canada, too, went to the polls that month. The difference for the two nations was remarkable: Americans had a clear choice between an indecisive, has-been who represented at best more of the same and a progressive, eloquent, African American, the first ever black presidential candidate. As Ibbitson remarks, "What were Canadians being offered? An overweight economist who couldn't offer an honest smile to save his life, and a backpacking political scientist whose English made your ears bleed. Who elected these guys? Practically no one." Ibbitson argues that the result of the US election was electric, energizing, and represents a profound changes in American politics. Barack Obama may well be just the man to rescue the republic from its many serious woes. The result of the Canadian election was, he says, as flaccid as the campaign itself: another Conservative minority government that shortly afterward tripped over its own hubris, causing a major political tempest in the Ottawa teapot. The elections and their aftermaths tell us two crucial things: One, America is still capable of slamming on the brakes and putting itself back on the right track. Two, in Canada, something has gone so seriously wrong with our leadership it's time to sound the alarm. Which is just what he does in this timely, perceptive, persuasive book.


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Last November America elected its first black president. Canada, too, went to the polls that month. The difference for the two nations was remarkable: Americans had a clear choice between an indecisive, has-been who represented at best more of the same and a progressive, eloquent, African American, the first ever black presidential candidate. As Ibbitson remarks, "What wer Last November America elected its first black president. Canada, too, went to the polls that month. The difference for the two nations was remarkable: Americans had a clear choice between an indecisive, has-been who represented at best more of the same and a progressive, eloquent, African American, the first ever black presidential candidate. As Ibbitson remarks, "What were Canadians being offered? An overweight economist who couldn't offer an honest smile to save his life, and a backpacking political scientist whose English made your ears bleed. Who elected these guys? Practically no one." Ibbitson argues that the result of the US election was electric, energizing, and represents a profound changes in American politics. Barack Obama may well be just the man to rescue the republic from its many serious woes. The result of the Canadian election was, he says, as flaccid as the campaign itself: another Conservative minority government that shortly afterward tripped over its own hubris, causing a major political tempest in the Ottawa teapot. The elections and their aftermaths tell us two crucial things: One, America is still capable of slamming on the brakes and putting itself back on the right track. Two, in Canada, something has gone so seriously wrong with our leadership it's time to sound the alarm. Which is just what he does in this timely, perceptive, persuasive book.

30 review for Open and Shut: Why America Has Barack Obama, and Canada Has Stephen Harper

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    First thing: Major points for clear writing. I took sciences humaines instead of social studies in junior high and learned all about les autochtones and nothing about Canadian government. So, other than acing a few quizzes matching Premiers with their province circa 1999, I know nothing about how Canada works (or doesn't). The really good bits in here are the pie-in-the-sky fantasies that are fun to imagine, like an open border and North America as one big happy country with two opposite immigra First thing: Major points for clear writing. I took sciences humaines instead of social studies in junior high and learned all about les autochtones and nothing about Canadian government. So, other than acing a few quizzes matching Premiers with their province circa 1999, I know nothing about how Canada works (or doesn't). The really good bits in here are the pie-in-the-sky fantasies that are fun to imagine, like an open border and North America as one big happy country with two opposite immigration policies. Uh huh. Or trying to boss China around and seeing where that gets ya. Oh, and, Quebec is evil and we should probably have had a civil war. That opportunity seems to have slipped us by... or has it?! Seriously, the vitriol against Quebec was disturbingly almost convincing... to me!... and I love Quebec. When I drove to Montreal a few summers ago (nonstop from Halifax, ending up lost at 2 am in an under-construction tunnel, not recommended), my brother and I were so excited about real francophone people that we waited outside a gas station for a few minutes after a pee-stop to hold the door for a guy just to hear him say "Merci". For real! Quebec and francophone culture is part of Canada. A part that I love. Besides, kids don't start French immersion in grade primary now for the freaking fun of it. Another note: This book is a little outta date now/already. Written in '09, Obama was still a rock star and hadn't yet had former celebrity endorsers speaking out against him in disappointment. It's nice to think back in time about how things could have ended up though. Ahhhhh, hope. Also, the Stephen Harper picture hasn't gotten any prettier either. I would even dare to say he can't do anything right, but no one cares. SEE, PEOPLE! THIS is why we're stuck with him. Complacency. Lack of options. This little manifesto of Ibbitson's also had an accompanying forum on the Globe & Mail's website, which I would still be interested in seeing, but it seems to have been completely removed rather than closed and archived.

  2. 4 out of 5

    David Mcphee

    An interesting perspective could be that the election of Obama was, in some respects, the consequence of Americas horribly difficult, but ultimately successful, quest of racial justice. The election of Stephen Harper might be another chapter in the battle for environmental justice. I appreciate that the word racial and environmental justice may be too value laden for many. But the carbon age (aka status quo), proponents who were very active in their support for G W Bush, were also threatened by An interesting perspective could be that the election of Obama was, in some respects, the consequence of Americas horribly difficult, but ultimately successful, quest of racial justice. The election of Stephen Harper might be another chapter in the battle for environmental justice. I appreciate that the word racial and environmental justice may be too value laden for many. But the carbon age (aka status quo), proponents who were very active in their support for G W Bush, were also threatened by Stephane Dion and his carbon tax pollution not income approach and so successfully marshaled their political hatchet men. However once elected this ‘conservative’ government faced an economic downturn caused by war and debt and they promptly chose to incur a deficit building the infrastructure of yesteryear, eg roads, bridges and parking lots. These are in effect public subsidies for oil consumption, dirty or not. The final chapter has not be written in this Canadian book yet will parliament be produce a government able to nurture of profitable green economy or not?

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    A good book. Recommended by a colleague, I initially scoffed that I already knew why we have Harper and they have Obama. She said that she thought the same thing, read it anyway and learned some stuff. Short book, so I gave it a shot. And she was right. Very readable. Funny to see someone I know in it (David Eaves). Provocative - he's starting a conversation here...I'll have to check out how the conversation has been going online.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ahmed Messaoud

    John Ibbitson's book is a great read and gives insight into the Canadian Parliamentary system. The book is mostly focused on what makes Canada and the US different

  5. 4 out of 5

    Brendan Edwards

    John Ibbitson would prefer to be an American, I think.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jerry Lin

  7. 4 out of 5

    Laina Parkes

  8. 5 out of 5

    Joe Bauman

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mai

  10. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

  11. 4 out of 5

    Chinook

  12. 5 out of 5

    Taty

  13. 4 out of 5

    Adrian

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Kuzel

  15. 4 out of 5

    Haley

  16. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn

  17. 4 out of 5

    Chris

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mike Parkes

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tracey Policastri

  20. 4 out of 5

    Duane

  21. 4 out of 5

    Cmd

  22. 4 out of 5

    Charles

  23. 4 out of 5

    Shane

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Watson

  25. 5 out of 5

    Scott

  26. 5 out of 5

    Juan Labora

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kstrachan

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jaylani Adam

  29. 4 out of 5

    John Smithwicks

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tamer Nosshi

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