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What is the state of Canada's democracy: Salvageable or broken?

Tragedy in the Commons: Former Members of Parliament Speak Out About Canada's Failing Democracy

by Alison Loat, Michael MacMillan
(Random House Canada,
2014;
$29.95)

I'm not sure what's worse for democracy -- the truth, or fictional representations of the political world.

On the one hand, we've got shows like "House of Cards" that make politics look like the playground of the most manipulative, selfish and conniving people in our society, and on the other hand, we have constant real life scandals swirling around our elected (and non-elected) representatives.

Somewhere in the midst of all this, there are those who believe we can't give up on our democratic institutions.

Wishful thinking?

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'Crazy Town': Doolittle does a lot with Rob Ford's story

Crazy Town: The Rob Ford Story

by Robyn Doolittle
(Penguin Canada,
2014;
$29.95)

Imagine the following scenario:  

I am the principal of a school. I use illegal hard drugs that I get from the drug dealers I spend a lot of time with (and even hire sometimes to do work for me and who get paid for this out of the school budget). I also have ties to dangerous street gangs that smuggle guns and drugs into my city, contributing to the city's crime problems. 



I have been drunk on the job. I have not shown up for important events and meetings and I have also shown up intoxicated to other important events. I am under investigation by the police, but I refuse to cooperate with them and think the police are at fault for investigating me in the first place. 



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'Building Sanctuary' for war resisters, circa 1965

Building Sanctuary: The Movement to Support Vietnam War Resisters in Canada, 1965-73

by Jessica Squires
(UBC Press,
2013;
$34.95)

You can change the arts and culture conversation. Chip in to rabble's donation drive today!

"What happens when U.S. war resisters to the Vietnam war arrive here in Canada, which was undergoing a major political, economic and cultural shift during that time?" is the subject of the new historical work Building Sanctuary: The Movement to Support Vietnam War Resisters in Canada, 1965-73 by independent scholar Jessica Squires.

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Beyond Politics? The origins (and future) of the NDP's Orange Wave

Building the Orange Wave: The Inside Story Behind the Historic Rise of Jack Layton and the NDP

by Brad Lavigne
(Douglas and McIntyre,
2013;
$35.00)

Has the Orange Wave collapsed? Are we now in thrall of Trudeaumania 2.0? Can the Harper Conservatives be defeated in 2015? After the NDP's recent implosion in Nova Scotia, disappointment in British Columbia, and stalled hopes in federal byelections, these are the questions many progressives are posing.

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'Svend Robinson: A Life in Politics' reflects on a brilliant activist and a courageous politician

Svend Robinson: A Life in Politics

by Graeme Truelove
(New Star Books,
2013;
$24.00)

Judy Rebick was the founding publisher of rabble.ca and has known Svend Robinson for many decades. Rebick recalls that she can’t remember the first time they met, but that Robinson was always one of the MP’s who she and her community looked to for support in the House of Commons. Rebick and Robinson were also allies on the left of the NDP especially during the 1980s. Rebick supported his bid for leadership and both were in the leadership of the New Politics Initiative in 2002.

Rebick writes this review from the perspective of the personal and the political of her friend and ally Svend Robinson.

 

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Excerpt: Historical reformers: Why and how democratic institutions change

Wrestling with Democracy: Voting Systems as Politics in the 20th Century West

by Dennis Pilon
(University of Toronto Press Publishing,
2013;
$37.95)

The following is an excerpt from the new book Wrestling with Democracy: Voting Systems as Politics in the 20th Century West, which examines why voting systems have or have not changed in western industrialized countries over the past century.

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Sailing for freedom

Freedom Sailors

by Greta Berlin and Bill Dienst, eds.
(Free Gaza Movement,
2012;
$15.00)

Freedom Sailors defies conventional narrative and adherence to globalist media by aligning itself with a narrative resounding with internationalism. The book provides an account replete with contrasts, highlighting the many facets of history and identifying the differing dynamics between activism and foreign policy.

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The ugly truth about Stephen Harper's foreign policy

The Ugly Canadian: Stephen Harper's Foreign Policy

by Yves Engler
(Fernwood Publishing co-published with Red Publishing,
2012;
$19.95)

For a long time now, there has been a serious weakness on the part of progressive movements in the most over-developed countries of the world. The ability to recognize that so much of the privileges we enjoy, but that governments and corporations enjoy even more so, comes from years of exploitation, subjugation and extreme levels of violence towards countries of the Global South, but too often, our history and continued practice of imperialism is either forgotten or ignored.  In The Ugly Canadian, Yves Engler sets out to provide "a small spark in lighting a fire of interest in Canadian foreign policy."

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What happened to social democracy?

Social Democracy After the Cold War

Social Democracy After the Cold War

by Bryan Evans and Ingo Schmidt, eds.
(Athabasca University Press,
2012;
$29.95)

Anyone who has followed the current economic and financial crisis in Europe knows that social democratic governments and parties have consistently lined up on the side of the banks and the rich in the ongoing political conflict. The policies they have implemented while in government have been nearly identical to those advanced by the traditional right-wing parties and governments. In several counties, the social democrats have formed political alliances to govern with the right wing parties. What is going on here?

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The truth about Lester Pearson's peacekeeping

Lester Pearson’s Peacekeeping: The Truth May Hurt

Lester Pearson’s Peacekeeping: The Truth May Hurt

by Yves Engler
(Fernwood Publishing,
2012;
$15.95)

In his new book, Yves Engler sets to demolish the near saintly status of Lester Bowles ("Mike") Pearson in the public sphere, Canadian foreign policy circles and even on the social democratic left. And in the process, he takes on the much repeated slogan that "the world needs more of Canada."

Much like Noam Chomsky who provides a forward to Lester Pearson's Peacekeeping, the author relies mostly on the excellent but largely unread scholarship plus the former PM's own statements in Parliament and in memos to successfully establish a case.

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