Harper vs. Canada: Five Ways of Looking at the Conservative Regime

by Karl Nerenberg

The election of a majority government led by Stephen Harper’s Conservatives in 2011 ushered in a new era in federal politics. It has been one defined by the Harper government’s anti-democratic, anti-union, anti-environment agenda. To paraphrase a quote attributed to Stephen Harper, when he was through with Canada, we wouldn’t recognize it. Harper vs. Canada: Five Ways of Looking at the Conservative Regime is framed by the shifts in political power and direction that took place after the 2011 election — and the changes for the country that followed.

This book is also the outcome of a move at rabble.ca to expand our coverage of federal politics, to inform and empower people at a critical time for the country. We decided it was time to get an independent reporter on Parliament Hill, to counter the dominant coverage — to report stories not found in mainstream media, give context to political actions, and cover the political events that matter.

In summer 2011 we put out a call to crowdfund a journalist to report on the Hill “for the rest of us.” Our readers came through and award-winning journalist Karl Nerenberg answered the call, joining rabble as our first-ever Parliamentary reporter, at the start of the 41st session of Parliament.

Karl filed his first story on September 19, 2011 and has been writing Hill Dispatches in the ensuing years since. A bilingual, seasoned journalist with over 25 years’ experience, including eight years as producer of the CBC politics show The House, Karl brings a breadth of knowledge and skill to the job. As he puts it, the goal from his first day was “to provide clear, fact-based analysis and historic context.” If there is a reporter who can take on the Harper regime and serve as rabble’s watchdog on Parliament Hill, it is Karl Nerenberg.

Harper vs. Canada brings together a selection of Karl’s work in rabble.ca to shed light on federal politics during Harper’s time in majority government — to map out the ways in which Harper, true to his promise, has effectively changed the fabric of the country. The book looks at the Harper regime from five perspectives: Democracy; Foreign Affairs; Environment; First Nations; and Refugees, Migrant Workers and Immigration. While not a complete rendering of Harper’s changes in the last three years (or Karl’s work covering them), each of these areas encapsulates central policy directions and changes under the Harper Conservatives.

By highlighting the important stories in federal politics, the book shares insight into the often opaque workings of Parliament and the significance of seemingly removed political proceedings for life in Canada. In his writing on rabble.ca, Karl gets behind the political structures and headlines dominating the mainstream, to report on important stories that would otherwise get overlooked. When other media were focused almost exclusively on expense claims in the Senate scandals, Karl was writing about how Harper’s appointments themselves were likely unconstitutional. When other media cover immigrants or refugees it is often around scandals or short-term events. Karl takes a longer view, focusing on the systems of government policy that are inhumane and oppressive.

As demonstrated by the stories in this volume, Karl Nerenberg brings a depth of knowledge and passion to his work, presented in his inimitable style. If you enjoy the selections we’ve brought together here, please read his latest reports which are collected in Hill Dispatches on rabble.ca:

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Praise for Karl Nerenberg:

“Karl is providing excellent analysis of public policy issues in Canada based on his many years of experience in the media field.” Andrew Sharpe, Economist and Director of the Centre for the Study of Living Standards, Ottawa

“Karl Nerenberg has been the sole, consistent source of factual information on the conditions of Roma persecution in Europe and the prejudice, often racist portrayal of Roma (Gypsy) people in Canada.” Gina Csanyi-Robah, Mosaïc Institute and Romani Alliance, Toronto

“Karl is a superb researcher, analyst and communicator on issues of national importance. Bringing rigorous research skills and over 40 years of experience to support his astute observations of social and political issues in Canada, Karl’s passionate devotion to his journalistic calling makes him one of Canada’s foremost and respected commentators.” Stephen Knowles, Director, Canadian Study of Parliament Group, Gatineau, Quebec

“One of the most creative and knowledgeable journalists in Canada. Karl’s understanding of Canadian Federal politics is second to none.” Jon Kalina, filmmaker, former CBC Radio Host, Montreal.

“Karl brings the kind of intellect and independence that is too often lacking in the field of journalism and, more generally, new media.” Lois Ross, Communications Specialist and Writer, Ottawa and Gravelbourg, Saskatchewan

“Great writing: facts that others miss, and a point of view that is always worth serious thought.” Avrim Lazar, former senior federal public servant and industry association head, policy consultant, Ottawa