Thirteen days before his 83rd birthday, Mel Hurtig is on a roll.
Last week it was American Pharoah ’s victory in the Belmont Stakes, a low-odds (3-5) win that put an extra $1,000 in his pocket.
“I don’t bet a lot,” says Mr. Hurtig from his Vancouver home, “but I do bet on the Ryder Cup, which I always win, and the World Series, which I always win. This is the first time I have ever bet on the horses, but I took one look at that guy in the Kentucky Derby and I said, ‘That guy’s going to go all the way.’”
The lucky roll continued this week with word that his book on a very different sort of pharaoh – Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper – has hit the 25,000 mark in sales, a truly remarkably tally for a self-published book that Mr. Hurtig didn’t want to give to certain publishers and certain other publishers didn’t want to touch.
Mel Hurtig has never pulled a punch in his long, scrappy life. The title of his slim 140-page treatise, The Arrogant Autocrat: Stephen Harper’s Takeover of Canada, is all most potential readers will need, those in favour of the Prime Minister instantly turning their backs on it, those determined that Mr. Harper’s nine-year run come to an abrupt end on Oct. 19 racing to the cash register to have their anger confirmed.
It is not a book that requires flap copy to entice or explain.
Mr. Hurtig storms in right off the cover, keyboard firing at anything that moves: the muzzling of scientists, the knee-capping of institutions, the gutting of Parliament, the denial of climate change, the neglect of the poverty-stricken – even taking on, with Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) data filling his smoking chambers, the Harper government’s longstanding claim that it has managed the economy well.
Those looking to the elected House of Commons to restore democracy, argues the author, would be sorely disappointed. The muzzling of cabinet ministers, let alone backbenchers, the tactics brought to committee work and sneaky omnibus bills, have reduced Parliament to what he calls “a largely ceremonial body.”
His dislike of the Canadian Prime Minister is visceral. Every sparrow that falls is carefully noted, most sentences lacking only an exclamation point to underline the urgency.
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