This post is part of the LRC’s 25 year anniversary project. We are asking our readers for the most influential Canadian books published in the last quarter century. For more information, click here.
Peering out from the cover of Preston Manning’s 1992 The New Canada was a somewhat dorky, unassuming technocrat; inside was nothing less than a revolution. The book, its author, and the Reform Party policies it came to represent dramatically changed Canada’s political dynamic. At turns provocative, prescient, and policy-heavy, The New Canada was the original modern attack on the “Laurentian Consensus”—the West Wanted In, and The New Canada was its powerful 1990s door-crashing salvo, with long-term reverberations.
Following the Reform Party’s success in 1993, Manning moved the goalposts of political dialogue on a number of important aspects. The New Canada called for fiscal prudence; Reformers helped to pressure Liberal Ottawa into the far-reaching 1995 budget, which did, indeed balance Ottawa’s books, but also was a step along Canada’s road to neoliberalism. The book demanded a hardline approach towards Quebec separatists, and no special status for Quebec; though Manning was obviously not the only one of this view (see Trudeau, Pierre), he was instrumental in spurring the Liberals into what eventually became the Clarity Act. Manning also demanded changes to the Senate, a bugaboo that is still with us, though his remedies (remember Triple-E?) have fallen to the wayside. On a litany of issues, from federalism to the environment to multiculturalism, The New Canada shaped and predicted much of the country’s discourse after 1993.
Perhaps most importantly, The New Canada set the tone for a re-alignment of Canadian politics through the destruction of the Progressive Conservative party, and ultimately, the rise of Stephen Harper.
Dimitry Anastakis teaches Canadian history at Trent University. His most recent work is Death Death in the Peaceable Kingdom: Canadian History since 1867 through Murder, Execution, Assassination and Suicide (2015).