Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the Commander’s Palace restaurant Monday evening, April 21, 2008, after attending the North American Leaders’ Summit dinner in New Orleans. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It’s not a secret that our Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a hockey fan. But a lot of people might be surprised to know that he’s been writing a hockey book for years…and it’s just been picked up by a publishing house! The story of the hockey book goes a little deeper, however, and has caused some controversy along the way.
With no official title yet, the book is being marketed as a history of the early days of the NHL. It’s not really anything new, maybe, but this type of book generally does well on the market. With Mr. Harper’s name attached to it, the interest is sure to explode once it is released. And good for him! From all accounts, he really worked hard on this–a labour of love–rather than allowing someone to pen it with him in a matter of weeks. So, what’s the problem you might ask?
Apparently, the book has been picked up by a major publishing house—Simon & Schuster. For most authors, that would be a great accomplishment. The bigger the publishing house, the better the deal. While Mr. Harper is going to donate his royalties to the Canadian Forces Personnel and Family Support Services, one would assume he’d still want to get the biggest deal he could, if only to give his charity the most money possible. Great! The controversy starts here.
While Simon & Schuster is a well known and respected publishing house, it is barred by the Investment Canada Act from “acquiring and publishing domestic books”. What does that mean? It means that while they have offices in Toronto, legally, they only sell and market the books already acquired by their New York offices. So, Mr. Harper’s book will be published in the US, sold across the border here in Canada, and the money he makes will go back across to the US before he sees any of it.
This may sound typical of a lot of Canadian authors. While many writers on this side of the border sign with American agents and have US publishing deals, the fact that Mr. Harper, our Prime Minister, did not choose to go with a Canadian publishing house when so many of them are suffering in this economy, is not sitting well with some. Apparently, none of the Canadian publishing houses even made an offer on the book. This probably isn’t because they weren’t interested or didn’t think it would sell, but rather, they knew they wouldn’t be able to compete with the larger American houses. And for his side, Mr. Harper’s agent, Michael Levine, insists this isn’t something we should view as a political faux pas. This deal was a book written by a Canadian with a love of hockey. If it had been any one other than our nation’s leader, no one would have questioned it.
I guess it won’t matter once the book comes out. Not many people will remember this controversy in November when they’re scrambling to get their hands on it. At that point, people will only be concerned with whether the book is good or not. (I’m sure it will be fascinating!) And really, why all the fuss? Do we care if Mr. Harper buys jeans at Walmart–an American company, or if he gets his furniture from Ikea–a Swedish company? If he supports other ventures that make money for companies that might also have competitors in Canada, we don’t protest. While it would have been nice for him to “choose” a Canadian publisher, the offer just wasn’t there. You can’t complain about something that never was.