The Donner Prize - The Award for the Best Book on Canadian Public Policy

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Alex Marland’s Brand Command: Canadian Politics and Democracy in the Age of Message Control wins $50,000 top prize

TORONTO May 15, 2017 – The winner of 2016/17 Donner Prize was announced tonight by Ken Whyte, Chair of the Donner Canadian Foundation in Toronto. The awards gala at The Carlu was hosted by former Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan, who served as the Donner Prize Jury Chair from 2009 to 2016.

Alex Marland was awarded the $50,000 Donner Prize for Brand Command: Canadian Politics and Democracy in the Age of Message Control, published by UBC Press.

The pursuit of political power is strategic as never before. Brand Command demonstrates the power of branding and marketing in Canada's democracy, arguing that political parties and governments are beholden to the same marketing principles used by the world's largest corporations. Marland asserts that branding demands repetition of spoken, written and visual messages, predetermined by the leader's inner circles. It has firmly penetrated parliamentary democracy in Canada.

"Marland's authoritative, original and accessible treatise on the most significant development in modern democratic politics will captivate Canadians, especially those with an interest in policy and politics. The priority given to 'brand' in contemporary politics has led to ever tighter message control and consequently to increased centralization of power in the Prime Minister's Office. While branding and message control have always been part of political image making, their strategic significance has increased markedly with the 24-hour news cycle and social media. The incentives to exercise brand control have therefore not diminished regardless of who is occupying the Prime Minister's office. Alex Marland's path-breaking analysis of 'brand command', although developed in the context of the Harper government, is of undiminished relevance looking forward."– Donner Jury.

Alex Marland is a leading researcher of political communication and marketing in Canada, an Associate Professor of Political Science and Associate Dean of Arts at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Dr. Marland's research and teaching focuses on political marketing, public policy, electioneering and the political elites in Canada. Before entering academia he worked in Ottawa and St. John's in government, media relations and opinion research. He is the co-editor, with Thierry Giasson (Laval), of the upcoming UBC Press series Communication, Strategy, and Politics.

The other nominated titles, each of which received $7,500, were:

  • L'intégration des services en santé: Une approche populationnelle by Yves Couturier, Lucie Bonin, Louise Belzile (Les Presses de l'Université de Montréal)
  • Priests of Prosperity: How Central Bankers Transformed the Postcommunist World by Juliet Johnson (Cornell University Press)
  • A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information Age by Daniel J. Levitin (Allen Lane Canada, Penguin Random House Canada)
  • A Good Death: Making the Most of Our Final Choices by Sandra Martin (HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.)

The winner of the Donner Prize was chosen from an impressive list of 81 submissions by a five-member jury: Peter Nicholson C.M. (Jury Chair), Eva Busza, Jean-Marie Dufour, Jennifer Jeffs and Donald Savoie.

Jury Chair Peter Nicholson commented on this year's shortlist: "All five finalists exemplify the criteria established for the Donner Prize: relevant and important topics for Canadian public policy; based on sound and original analysis; and accessible not only to experts but to a general readership. These five books include thoroughly researched, evidence-based examinations of significant subjects such as medically-assisted dying; separating truth from fiction in the digital age; integrating health services to focus on the patient; and the transfer of Western policy models; to postcommunist countries. By stimulating informed discussion, each of these books contributes to an even stronger and more inclusive Canadian democracy."

The Donner Prize, established in 1998, annually rewards excellence and innovation in Canadian public policy thinking, writing and research. In bestowing this award, the Donner Canadian Foundation seeks to broaden policy debates, increase general awareness of the importance of policy decision making and make an original and meaningful contribution to policy discourse.

For further information, please contact:
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Phone: 416 368 8253