Holding the Bully's Coat by Linda McQuaig

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      By Linda McQuaig. Doubleday Canada, 296 pp, $34.95, hardcover

      Linda McQuaig has always displayed a knack for exposing the machinations of Canada's corporate and political elite. That she has done so in both a regular Toronto Star column and a series of best-selling books has earned her more than her share of everlasting scorn. Conrad Black long ago set the standard in this department, once saying that McQuaig should be "horsewhipped".

      The disgraced press baron's misogynistic rage might have resulted from reading such 1990s McQuaig titles as The Wealthy Banker's Wife, Shooting the Hippo, and The Cult of Impotence, all of which challenged the then-reigning orthodoxies of neoliberalism and globalization.

      Holding the Bully's Coat: Canada and the U.S. Empire is bound to irk cheerleaders for Canada's "new government", as Stephen Harper is fond of calling his minority regime, not to mention the few remaining fans of the Bush administration (the titular bully, naturally). The detailed critique of recent changes in Canadian foreign policy is bound to upset plenty of Liberals, too. In clear prose, McQuaig outlines the genesis of the Kandahar mission, looks at Ottawa's increasingly open support for Israeli policy in the Middle East, and denounces the Canadian role in sponsoring the 2004 coup against Haiti's Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

      To her credit, McQuaig doesn't limit herself to contemporary grievances, tracing back the history of the major issues in Canadian foreign policy. Refreshingly, she eschews the simplistic narrative that until very recently Canada had a pristine record of peacekeeping.

      For instance, she provides a good summary of Lester Pearson's role in international affairs. For many, the former prime minister is a sacred cow, evidence of Canada's long-standing benevolence in the world. In fact, according to McQuaig, Pearson's major motivation during the 1956 Suez Crisis–when Israel, France, and Britain attacked Egypt–was to maintain the relationship between the United States and the U.K., which were the rising and falling imperial powers of the day.

      Today, Canadian prime ministers are much more preoccupied with their own relationship with Washington. McQuaig, as ever, provides invaluable background for those looking to understand Ottawa's foreign policy in this era of empire and "war on terror".

      Linda McQuaig reads from Holding the Bully's Coat on Tuesday (May 8) at the Maritime Labour Centre (1880 Triumph Street), beginning at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 at the door.