How We Almost Gave the Tories the Boot

The inside story behind the coalition

by Brian Topp

An exciting insider's account of the formation and dissolution of the coalition against Stephen Harper's Conservative Party in November 2008.
In November 2008 the opposition came very close to replacing Stephen Harper with a new government. It was an astonishing few days for Canadian politics; opposition party leaders came together, announcing a formal coalition of the Liberals and the NDP, while the Bloc offered guaranteed support for the new government in the House of Commons.
This came at a time of crisis. Many of the world's large financial institutions were tottering, leading to unprecedented government intervention in the U.S, the U.K. and elsewhere. Prime Minister Stephen Harper had attacked the opposition parties through a move to deny them public funding, along with other proposals which enraged them. There was no sign that he was ready to put aside his neo-conservative ideology to take action to address the worst recession in the past 50 years.
Brian Topp lived through this period as the key negotiator for the NDP, and in this book he offer's a day-by-day insider's account of how the coalition was put together - and how it fell apart. Topp participated in many key meetings to get the coalition under way. His narrative is built around the words of the participants, front-line as well as backroom, as they work to establish a deal, and then try to hold on to it in the face of a withering attack from the Conservatives. Among the key players in this story are Stéphane Dion, Michael Ignatieff, Jack Layton and Dawn Black - and behind the scenes Ed Broadbent, Jean Chrétien, Roy Romanow and Allan Blakeney are active too.
Ottawa insiders will learn much from this book about exactly who said and did what when from this book. More importantly, Canadians interested in federal politics will be able to get a fresh and revealing view of the way Ottawa actually works today.
Coalition governments are very unusual in Canadian federal politics, but Brian Topp argues they offer a promising alternative to both hyper-centralized "majority" governments and to relatively unstable minority ones.

About the Author

Brian Topp

Brian Topp
Born and raised in Montreal, Brian Topp studied history at McGill. He became active in the NDP in 1988 and went to Ottawa in 1989 as a staffer for NDP MP Phil Edmonston. During the 1990s he served as deputy chief of staff to Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow and saw the implementation of a successful coalition agreement between the provincial NDP and the Liberals. He subsequently moved back to the federal arena, managing the NDP war room in the 2004 federal campaign, and acting as national Campaign Director in the 2006 and 2008 elections. In June 2011 Topp was elected President of the New Democratic Party of Canada and was a close advisor to party leader Jack Layton until Layton's death in July. As a close advisor to the late Jack Layton, and intimately involved in composing Layton's final letter to Canadians, he was seen as a top contender to become Party leader. In March 2012 Topp lost his bid to become party leader when Thomas Mulcair was selected on the 4th ballot at the leadership convention held in Toronto.(more)


"A terrific read."
Kathleen Petty, CBC Radio's "The House"

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