As the crummiest year in living memory grinds to a close, it’s time for the report card on your elected representatives in Ottawa. Every other member of the punditocracy is doing one, so why can’t your humble narrator? It may be a cliché but it’s fun!
Justin Trudeau: He’s the most popular prime minister since my former boss, Jean Chretien, and his honeymoon has turned into a stable marriage. Like most Liberal leaders before him, Trudeau campaigned from the left and governs from the right – and it hasn’t hurt his numbers one bit. Canadians like him, still. A-
Rona Ambrose: She’s the permanent Conservative leader everyone wants but no one is going to get. Never a standout when she was a cabinet minister, Ambrose has been a surprisingly effective leader of the Opposition – occasionally keeping Trudeau on his heels in question period while pushing her party into the new century. Why did she promise not to run for the Conservative leadership? Who knows. But it’s one promise she should break. A-
Tom Mulcair: He did the reverse of Trudeau – he campaigned from the right in the hope that he’d get to rule from the left. His New Democrat partisans were appalled, however, and deserted him in droves. Post-election, he added to his problems by lurching back to the left on Alberta pipelines, when his leadership was about to be reviewed in Rachel Notley’s Alberta. She paid him back, big time. Since then, Mulcair – soon to be deposed for good – has given us the impression he is having fun, without a care in the world. It looks good on him. B
Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott: Putting a couple of rookies in two of the most difficult cabinet roles – let alone a couple of rookies who had never before been members of Parliament – seemed very, very risky. But Wilson-Raybould (Justice) and Philpott (Health) have been standouts, handling complex and controversial files with dexterity and skill. Future Liberal leader material, here. A
Maryam Monsef: A lot of the criticism directed at the minister of Democratic Institutions has been ugly: a racist birther attack campaign and an ongoing undercurrent of sexism. A lot of the criticism has been unfair, too: she was tossed the electoral reform mess and was left to drown with it. That said, Monsef has made things more difficult for herself – by attacking the all-party committee that was giving recommendations on electoral reform and by running from the birther crap instead of confronting it, à la Barack Obama. C
Kellie Leitch: What’s worse: that Leitch has tried to channel Donald Trump by race-baiting immigrants and refugees, or that she has said those things without believing any of them? She’s a physician, she’s educated, she’s urban – but to win the Conservative leadership, she’s pretended to be something else entirely. That kind of crass cynicism may win her the party’s leadership in the short run – but it will destroy her party’s prospects in the long run. F
Dominic LeBlanc: Where did he go? What happened? From the Trudeau’s government’s obvious deputy prime minister to near-invisibility. LeBlanc needs to get back his mojo and back into the game. C
Michael Chong, Lisa Raitt, Michelle Rempel: They’re young, they’re smart, they’re progressive conservatives – and they’re precisely what their party needs. But the Conservatives won’t embrace them – precisely because they’re young, smart and progressive. Their party’s rank-and-file have (bizarrely) forgotten the lessons that Stephen Harper taught them – i.e., Canadians won’t ever bestow power on a party of crypto-racist Bible-thumpers. If Leitch wins, and I think she might, Chong, Raitt and Rempel will need to seriously consider their options. A-
Nathaniel Erskine-Smith: I’m a big fan of my Beaches-East York MP: he speaks his mind, he bucks the Liberal party line when he thinks he should and he’s got big cojones. He’s unlikely to be in cabinet because of that stuff, sure. But we need more representatives like this young man. A.
Am I being too kind? Perhaps. I just happen to think we are very well served by the folks presently in Ottawa. When contrasted with the circus unfolding in the U.S., you have to admit: we’re pretty lucky to have the calibre of folks we have in Parliament.
Canada, take a bow. Your politicians are at the top of the class.
Warren Kinsella is a Canadian journalist, political adviser and commentator.