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Globe and Mail columnist John Ibbitson is this year's winner for an in-depth exploration of Stephen Harper.

John Ibbitson is this year's winner of the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing, it was announced Wednesday.

Mr. Ibbitson was honoured for his biography Stephen Harper, the second time in three years that a book about the former prime minister of Canada has captured the $25,000 prize. It was awarded during the annual Politics and the Pen gala in Ottawa. (Paul Wells won in 2014 for The Longer I'm Prime Minister: Stephen Harper and Canada, 2006-.)

In its citation, the jury said that "the many ways in which Canada changed during Stephen Harper's nearly 10 years in power have been well documented. But the man himself has remained a mystery. With impressive access and meticulous research, John Ibbitson writes a remarkable biography that puts us inside Harper's head during some of the most critical moments of his life, providing the definitive picture to date of one of the most significant Prime Ministers in Canadian history."

Mr. Ibbitson, a writer-at-large for The Globe and Mail, is the author of five previous books of political non-fiction, including The Polite Revolution: Perfecting the Canadian Dream and The Big Shift: The Seismic Change in Canadian Politics, Business, and Culture and What It Means for Our Future, co-written with Darrell J. Bricker. He is a past finalist for the Donner Prize, the Trillium Book Award and the BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction, among other prizes.

The other finalists, who each receive $2,500, are Norman Hillmer for O.D. Skelton: A Portrait of Canadian Ambition; Andrew Nikiforuk for Slick Water: Fracking and One Insider's Stand Against the World's Most Powerful Industry; Sheila Watt-Cloutier for The Right to Be Cold: One Woman's Story of Protecting Her Culture, the Arctic, and the Whole Planet; and Greg Donaghy for Grit: The Life and Politics of Paul Martin Sr.

They were selected by award-winning author and military historian Tim Cook, McGill University political science professor Antonia Maioni and Globe and Mail investigative reporter Robyn Doolittle.

Founded after the 1998 death of Ms. Cohen, who was a member of Parliament from Windsor, Ont., the prize celebrates a book "that captures a political subject of relevance to Canadian readers and has the potential to shape or influence thinking on Canadian political life."

Previous winners include Roméo Dallaire, Jane Jacobs, Anna Porter and Joseph Heath, who won last year for Enlightenment 2.0: Restoring Sanity to Our Politics, Our Economy, and Our Lives.