No Second Chances: Women and Political Power in Canada by Kate Graham

As a student of political science in Canada and a New Brunswicker, the fact we’ve only had 15 first ministers who’ve identified as women (and the majority of them being white women) was still shocking to me. For a country which likes to point to multiculturalism and diversity being important to our society (whether or not that’s actually true), we remain firm in the idea that our politicians should be middle-aged white men.

“Kate Graham’s book, No Second Chances: Women and Political Power in Canada, explores the few women who managed to get into the role of first minister – prime minister and premier – and what went wrong.”

Kate Graham’s book, No Second Chances: Women and Political Power in Canada, explores the few women who managed to get into the role of first minister – prime minister and premier – and what went wrong. The few women who have reached those top roles, as Graham notes, were almost all dumped when things started to go poorly, never had a second term, and were only able to take the top jobs under challenging circumstances. This book is a series of interviews with thirteen of the women who reached the top job of first minister; Heather Stefanson and Danielle Smith became premiers of their provinces after the book was written. Originally a podcast, the No Second Chances project is captured in this book.

From Kim Campbell, the first and still the only woman to have ever been Prime Minister of Canada, to Kathleen Wynne, the embattled Liberal premier of Ontario from 2013 to 2018, these interviews are candid and revealing. Each section starts with a biographical statement of the leader, followed by an interview in which Graham discusses the paths that led each woman to politics, how their career went, what sexism and obstacles did they have to deal with, and if they had any regrets. I’m personally a lot more to the left of most of the women in this book, and it was interesting, though often more sympathetic to the women than I might have expected otherwise. The reflections ranged the gamut, from anger, acceptance, bewilderment, and pride, often all in the same answer.

While Graham does discuss the obstacles to women, as well as other marginalized groups, to getting a foot into the electoral political process, the focus of the book is the interviews. For those looking for more analysis, you will be slightly disappointed. That said, this book does valuable work in gathering the thoughts of these women, discussing their experiences in governing in Canada, and exploring the ways in which their time as first ministers has continued to echo through their lives. All were interesting in their own way, though I was most drawn to Caroline Cochrane, the current premier of the Northwest Territories, and Rachel Notley, the former NDP premier and current leader of the opposition in Alberta.

No Second Chances is an informative, valuable book in the political science canon in Canada. A worthy project and read, this will be a great source for many years to come.


Kate Graham researches, writes, speaks and teaches about politics in Canada. She holds a PhD in Political Science and teaches in the Political Science Departments at Western and Huron University College. Kate is the creator and host of No Second Chances (NoSecondChances.ca), a Canada 2020 podcast about the rise and fall of women in Canada’s most senior political roles – a project which inspired her own political pursuits, and this book. Kate lives with her partner Jesse and daughter Flora in London, Ontario.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Second Story Press (May 3 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 232 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1772602183
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1772602180

 -- Website

Alison Manley has ricocheted between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia for most of her life. Now in Halifax, Nova Scotia, she is the Cataloguing and Metadata Librarian at Saint Mary's University. Her past life includes a long stint as a hospital librarian on the banks of the mighty Miramichi River. She has an honours BA in political science and English from St. Francis Xavier University, and a Master of Library and Information Studies from Dalhousie University. While she's adamant that her love of reading has nothing to do with her work, her ability to consume large amounts of information very quickly sure is helpful. She is often identified by her very red lipstick, and lives with her partner Brett and cat, Toasted Marshmallow.