By Mitchel Raphael - Thursday, November 22, 2012 - 0 Comments
Photo gallery from a party of parties at the Château Laurier
MPs, senators and the media gathered in the Adam Room of the The Fairmont Château Laurier for the 6th annual Parliamentarians of the Year awards ceremony.
Green Leader Elizabeth May was named Parliamentarian of the Year. Follow this link to a complete list of results.
By Philippe Gohier - Wednesday, November 23, 2011 at 11:00 AM - 0 Comments
Ipsos Reid asked all 308 members of Parliament to nominate the best MPs
This week, Maclean’s, in partnership with L’Actualité and the Historica-Dominion Institute, is pleased to present our fifth annual Parliamentarians of the Year awards. Bob Rae wins the top honour. His lifetime of political experience, unparalleled debating skills and intelligent approach to difficult issues belie the current state of the federal Liberal party and his title as its interim leader. When Rae speaks, colleagues on both sides of the House know to pay attention. He joins previous honourees John Baird, Jason Kenney, Bill Blaikie and Ralph Goodale.
From the hardest working to most knowledgeable, these awards celebrate those who represent what is right about Ottawa. To determine the winners, Ipsos Reid asked all 308 members of Parliament to nominate the best MPs from both inside and outside their own parties, in each of seven categories. (Votes were converted to a point system to ensure that larger parties did not have an advantage. The winner of Parliamentarian of the Year was awarded on the basis of the highest number of total points across all categories.)
And this year, for the first time, we are presenting a Lifetime Achievement award, as chosen by the editors. The winner, Jack Layton, made history this spring by single-handedly lifting the NDP to Canada’s official Opposition in a mesmerizing display of campaigning skill and character, before succumbing to cancer over the summer. His presence is sorely missed in Parliament.
By John Geddes - Monday, November 21, 2011 at 7:31 PM - 2 Comments
As a parliamentarian, he was a riveting speaker on the floor of the House and a sharp performer in question period
After he led the NDP to its breakthrough in the election last May 2, Jack Layton returned to Ottawa vowing to set a new tone. “One thing that we’re going to be doing is having no heckling,” said the new leader of the official Opposition. “It is difficult to speak in the House of Commons when you have boorish comments being yelled in your ear at top volume by people a few feet away.”
But Layton would have only the briefest chance to watch his marching orders be put into effect. In July, his fragile health took a terrible turn, and on Aug. 22, he died of cancer at just 61. In the national mourning that followed, Layton’s personal qualities and campaigning abilities were celebrated. But his parliamentary style and strategy were less frequently remembered, even though he established himself over his mere eight years on the federal stage as an uncommonly talented—and unusually shrewd—performer inside the House.
It wasn’t always obvious that Layton would put such emphasis on the Commons. When he was running for the NDP leadership in 2002, his background as a Toronto municipal politician made him a Parliament Hill outsider. His main rival, Bill Blaikie, was a veteran MP and acknowledged expert on the House. Blaikie says Layton used the 18 months he spent as the party’s leader before finally winning a seat in the 2004 election to study the place. “He certainly claimed at the time,” Blaikie recalls, “to be learning the art of asking a question by watching me and others as well.” It paid off. Layton proved himself a probing question period inquisitor and a stirring speech-maker.
And he didn’t hesitate to aggressively leverage his NDP votes when it mattered. In 2005, he extracted $4.6 billion for NDP priorities like affordable housing in return for temporarily propping up Paul Martin’s minority Liberal government. In 2008, he tried to forge a coalition with the Liberals—a controversial move he had quietly studied for years—to oust Stephen Harper’s Conservative minority. It nearly worked.
How he would have fared facing a Harper majority is, sadly, now a matter only for conjecture, as we pay tribute to the late Jack Layton’s rare achievements as a parliamentarian.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, November 21, 2011 at 7:30 PM - 28 Comments
When Bob Rae stands to question the government every afternoon, there is a noticeable pause
Shortly after Bob Rae was first elected in 1978, John Diefenbaker, the former prime minister who remained an MP until his death in 1979 at the age of 83, imparted two pieces of advice: “Don’t take any s–t from anybody” and “Go for the throat every time.”
These might be words to live by, but Rae looked elsewhere for inspiration—to Allan MacEachen, the legendary Liberal, and Tommy Douglas, the patron saint of the NDP. MacEachen was a commanding presence who taught Rae you couldn’t be yelling all the time, that you had to have “more than one gear.” Douglas was disciplined and practical. He cracked jokes and didn’t hold grudges. And it was Douglas who told him to eschew notes when speaking in the House. “Because as soon as you start to do it, he says, you lose all the spontaneity and all the effect,” Rae recalls. Continue…
By Richard Warnica - Monday, November 21, 2011 at 7:29 PM - 1 Comment
Jason Kenney is best known for his efforts with Canada’s immigrant communities
Jason Kenney works frenetically and snatches rest when he can. For the Calgary MP, sleep is less something that happens in blocks than in patches. On planes, between events, any free moment can become a catnap for the Conservative heavyweight. “I can sleep anywhere,” he says—which is good, because anywhere, other than his bed, is where he spends a good 20 hours most days.
“He seems to be everywhere at once,” Paul Wells wrote of Kenney last year. He’s at the cabinet table, in committee meetings or just as often jetting off to any one of the dozens of community dinners and other meetings he attends every year as part of his outreach to ethnic and religious groups. Continue…
By Nicholas Köhler - Monday, November 21, 2011 at 7:28 PM - 1 Comment
As a speaker, John Baird has uncommon energy, eloquence and range
Recently in the House, when, at the end of question period, the Bloc Québécois’s André Bellavance asked the government about its plans for spending cuts, it wasn’t immediately clear who among the Tories would take the question—so ensued five or 10 seconds of awkwardness, until Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, despite having no responsibility in this regard, and without benefit of script, leapt up and spun a vague but applicable response: “Mr. Speaker, we are obviously seeking to ensure that every dollar of taxpayer money is spent wisely,” he intoned. Continue…
By Alex Ballingall - Monday, November 21, 2011 at 7:27 PM - 0 Comments
‘Even his enemies like him’
Peter Stoffer has laugh lines etched deep in his cheeks, earned from a lifetime of smiling. “Even his enemies like him,” Conservative MP Randy Kamp tells Maclean’s. Indeed, the Dutch-born NDP member from Nova Scotia—who’s known to tip off opposing members on what he will ask them during question period—has been voted most collegial every year Maclean’s has offered the award. Stoffer, to the frustration of NDP brass, eschews a BlackBerry but personally responds to all inquiries he receives from veterans and Nova Scotians. “I take the job seriously, but I never take myself seriously,” says Stoffer. And he doesn’t have a lot of time for divisions polarizing the House. “Like Bob Dylan said in a song, we just sell it from a different point of view. That’s all.”
RUNNER UP: Rodger Cuzner
By Emma Teitel - Monday, November 21, 2011 at 7:26 PM - 0 Comments
Joe Comartin is known to arrive on Parliament Hill at 7 a.m. every day, in order to catch up on his reading
Joe Comartin reads for roughly two hours each day—often 10 minutes squeezed “here and there”—but he says he longs to read more. There’s always more to know. “I think I read only about half what I’d like to,” the NDP MP for Windsor-Tecumseh tells Maclean’s. The former criminal lawyer is up by 6 a.m. and on the Hill by 7:30 every morning. “I begin my day with preparatory work,” says Comartin, “and paperwork—which accumulates constantly.” Comartin, an expert on House procedure, intelligence services and criminal law, says he prepares extensively for speeches, debates and procedural motions, but often feels unfulfilled when they’re over. “I never feel comfortable we’ve covered enough,” he says. His love of learning makes him an obvious choice for “Most Knowledgeable MP,” and his perspective isn’t limited to politics. Continue…
By John Geddes - Monday, November 21, 2011 at 7:25 PM - 1 Comment
Chris Alexander landed in Ottawa last spring carrying a burden of expectations matched by few rookie MPs
For most rookie MPs, the move to Parliament Hill marks the most exciting job they’ve ever had, and the most media attention they’ve ever drawn. Not Chris Alexander. Before running for the Conservatives in Ajax-Pickering, just east of Toronto, Alexander was Canada’s most celebrated diplomat of recent times—the country’s ﬁrst resident ambassador in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban, then a special UN representative in Kabul. Six high-proﬁle years in the war-torn country ended in 2009, when he came home and soon announced he was entering politics as a Tory. Continue…
By Jen Cutts - Monday, November 21, 2011 at 7:24 PM - 0 Comments
Michael Chong’s guiding political rule is: “always pay attention to your constituents—constantly stay in touch with them”
Michael Chong’s guiding political rule is: always pay attention to your constituents. “The least we can do for people who have disagreements with the government is to relay those concerns to Ottawa,” he tells Maclean’s. “They want to know that, at the very least, they’re being listened to.”
Perhaps best known for resigning from the Harper cabinet after refusing to support a government motion recognizing the Québécois as a nation, the Tory backbencher remains a hometown hero in Wellington-Halton Hills, the riding in which he grew up, and now represents. This past spring, the self-described “Wellington County boy” took nearly 64 per cent of the vote in his fourth straight electoral win; few of his opponents bothered putting up signs, or showing up for all-candidates’ meetings. Continue…
By Mitchel Raphael - Thursday, June 17, 2010 at 9:20 AM - 5 Comments
Kelly Block and the Bloc, Jason Kenney couldn’t stop laughing, The MP and the pilots
Kelly Block and the Bloc
MPs from all parties took home prizes at Maclean’s fourth annual Parliamentarians of the Year awards ceremony held in the West Block. For the fourth time in a row, Nova Scotia NDP MP Peter Stoffer won for Most Collegial. (Stoffer said he voted for Liberal whip Rodger Cuzner, a fellow Nova Scotian, who came in second.) Ted Menzies got the prize for Hardest Working MP. It was the first year the Bloc won awards: Gilles Duceppe for Most Knowledgeable and Robert Bouchard for Best Represents Constituents. There was even a joke that the party was on a roll when it was announced that Saskatchewan Conservative Kelly Block had won for Rising Star. Toronto Liberal MP Bob Rae won for Best Orator, which was not surprising since he seems to be one of the few MPs who can ask a question in the House without reading from a piece of paper and can even do a follow-up question that takes into account the answer he just got from the government. The big winner of the night, though, was Transport Minister John Baird, who was named Parliamentarian of the Year.
Attending the awards ceremony was Baird’s mother, Marianne Anderson. Anderson told Capital Diary she tapes question period every day and watches it in the evening. Besides her son, her favourite people to watch in QP are Liberal MP Hedy Fry and NDP Leader Jack Layton. Also there to honour Baird was his Grade 7 teacher Kay Stanley, who happens to be Tory Senate leader Marjory LeBreton’s sister. “John was a very curious student,” said Stanley, who is credited with getting Baird into politics. Stanley used to have a phone in her classroom because she was head of the local teachers’ federation. But she was also heavily involved with the Progressive Conservative party and once received a call during class from then-PC leader Joe Clark. That really impressed Baird. “I never thought my sister and John would end up in cabinet together,” says Stanley. LeBreton said Baird always calls her “Marg, like in The Simpsons. So I call him Homer.” Laureen Harper, who often has Baird as her date at Ottawa social functions, was also at the party. When Stephen Harper famously surprised guests at the National Arts Centre by playing the piano, Mrs. Harper said Baird got a text from a friend saying: “It’s a real drag when your date’s husband shows up.” The night of the awards, Baird had a fundraiser scheduled in his riding so he sent Defence Minister Peter MacKay there in his place. Labour Minister Lisa Raitt, who was at the Maclean’s awards ceremony, said she learned that Baird has two stories he tells every time at fundraisers. She said that when she heard one of them the ﬁrst time, “I thought it was the funniest joke I ever heard and I believed it as a true story.” Baird describes going to a rickety old house no one ever hits while campaigning in the dead of winter. The person opens the door and says, “Who are you and why are you bothering me? I hate everything to do with the government.” Baird’s punchline? “I’m Dalton McGuinty and I’m here to get your vote for the Liberal party.” Baird’s award wasn’t without controversy. According to Toronto Liberal MP Rob Oliphant, “Anyone who has such great disdain for Parliament and parliamentary procedure makes it an embarrassing evening for Maclean’s. It makes a mockery of the contest.” Though Newfoundland Liberal MP Scott Simms noted that, “given the fact Parliament is immature, maybe it’s a good choice. Despite the bravado, Baird is an approachable guy. But I once called him a blowfish in the House.”
The MP and the pilots
Tory MP Patrick Brown hosted a special reception in the West Block for Air Canada’s pilots union. There are more than 200 Air Canada pilots who live in Barrie, Ont., the city Brown represents. That’s because pilots, Brown explained, must live close to the airport they work out of and Barrie is near Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. The Barrie pilots have a monthly pub night and a hockey league. Brown says Barrie is nicknamed “Terminal 4,” a reference to when Pearson had three terminals.
Jason Kenney couldn’t stop laughing
During a scrum on his immigration bill, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney was told that Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis, an outspoken MP who at times rubs people the wrong way, was complaining that had the bill in its current form been around when he immigrated to Canada from Greece, he would not have been allowed into the country. A cheeky journalist immediately asked, “Will the bill be retroactive?” Kenney started to crack up and couldn’t continue.
One ballroom, two very different days
The Council of Arab League Ambassadors in Ottawa held a celebration to showcase their countries in the Fairmont Château Laurier ballroom. Tables were set up highlighting a variety of Middle Eastern cultures, though Palestinian representatives kept their table empty as a sign of mourning for the aid flotilla that attempted to reach Gaza. The honoured guest was Senate Speaker Noël Kinsella. Treasury Board President Stockwell Day’s aide noted that the previous day the room had been made kosher by rabbis because Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu was supposed to have had an event there but had to return to Israel early to deal with the flotilla crisis.
The Maclean’s Parliamentarians of the Year party was sponsored by TD Bank Financial Group, Pfizer Canada, the Cable Public Affairs Channel (CPAC), the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association and Wayne Gretzky Estates winery and was hosted in association with the Historica-Dominion Institute and L’actualité.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, June 3, 2010 at 12:00 AM - 106 Comments
Maclean’s Exclusive: From the hardest working to most knowledgeable, best orator to rising star, here are Canada’s top MPs—as selected by their peers
Between the bluster and the blarney, there is a lot of good work done on Parliament Hill. And so for the fourth year in a row, we asked MPs to nominate the best among their peers. Nearly 70 per cent answered our call. Here are the results.
- Parlimentarian of the Year: John Baird (Conservative)
- Most Knowledgeable: Gilles Duceppe (BQ)
- Most Collegial: Peter Stoffer (NDP)
- Rising Star: Kelly Block (Conservative)
- Best Orator: Bob Rae (Liberal)
- Best Represents Constituents: Robert Bouchard (BQ)
- Hardest Working: Ted Menzies (Conservative)
How we did it: Ipsos Reid asked all members of Parliament to nominate the best MPs in each of seven categories. This year, 202 MPs responded, casting votes for members both in and outside their parties. The votes were converted to a point system to ensure that larger parties did not have an advantage. The MP who received the most points in each category won. The MP who earned the highest number of total points was named Parliamentarian of the Year.
By John Geddes - Wednesday, June 2, 2010 at 11:55 PM - 4 Comments
Not just sitting back
Given how often the House is compared to an unruly schoolyard, it’s not inappropriate that this year’s rookie MP of the year began her political life by signing up for a playground committee. Conservative Kelly Block says that modest first step, taken back when she was a stay-at-home mom with four young children, led to her serving on a rural Saskatchewan district health board, then as mayor of Waldheim, Sask., and finally as MP for Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar after winning the seat in the 2008 election.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, June 2, 2010 at 11:55 PM - 3 Comments
Now listen here
“The practice of discouraging the reading of speeches is of British derivation,” the official guide to House of Commons procedure explains, “and was intended to maintain the cut and thrust of debate, which depends upon successive speakers addressing to some extent in their speeches the arguments put forward by previous speakers.” This standard for spontaneous rhetoric has long since passed—but the ability to speak freely, as opposed to merely stand and read, is still what defines the House’s best orators. To be able to ask a question, listen to the response and react appropriately is, within the ornate walls of this House of Commons, a rare gift. And so it is perhaps the first thing one notices when Bob Rae rises to participate in debate or question period.
By John Geddes - Wednesday, June 2, 2010 at 11:55 PM - 4 Comments
Consider the topics Gilles Duceppe covered over three recent days in question period. On the first, the Bloc Québécois leader pressed the Prime Minister on reports that bureaucrats had urged the government not to cancel foreign aid funding of abortions. The next, he slammed Stephen Harper over his push to create a Canada-wide securities regulator. A day later, he was back on the abortion issue, this time listing prominent Tories as members of the Catholic group Opus Dei, charging that policy was being influenced by “the fundamentalist religious right.”
By Colby Cosh - Wednesday, June 2, 2010 at 11:55 PM - 3 Comments
On the road again
“Lobbyist has become a bit of a dirty word these days,” admits Alberta MP Ted Menzies. But the former president of the Western Canadian Grain Growers is not afraid to acknowledge his past as an L-word. He was elected to the Commons in 2004, at 52, after a dual career as a working farmer and globe-trotting representative of Canadian agriculture. “When I’m sitting in a committee,” he says, “I never forget what it’s like to be there as a witness, on the other side of the table. Not every politician has that experience.”
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, June 2, 2010 at 11:55 PM - 56 Comments
The charming Conservative
On a sweltering morning one week ago, the standing committee on access to information, privacy and ethics convened in Parliament’s West Block to hear the testimony of Dimitri Soudas, the Prime Minister’s director of communications. Only the government, in a new test of parliamentary democracy, had decided it would no longer allow its staff to appear at such hearings. And so, in Soudas’s place, the Prime Minister’s Office sent John Baird.
What followed was a great tempest. But while opposition members fumed—“This in my view is a subversion of Canadians,” snapped Liberal MP Wayne Easter—there were caveats for Baird. The Bloc’s Carole Freeman lamented that he was not who the committee had asked for, but welcomed Baird personally: “I’ve got nothing against Mr. Baird attending the committee. I even find it charming.” That adjective was then seconded by the NDP’s Bill Siksay. “I think,” offered Conservative Pierre Poilievre at one point, “we could probably pass a motion to that effect if it were so moved.”
By Claire Ward - Wednesday, June 2, 2010 at 11:55 PM - 1 Comment
Why everyone loves this guy
When Peter Stoffer heard that Canadian Blood Services was planning to move its only New Brunswick location in Saint John to Dartmouth, N.S., he was concerned for his neighbours. “I’m the kind of person who never really likes robbing Peter to pay Paul,” says the NDP member for Sackville–Eastern Shore. Having heard the motion by Conservative MP for Saint John Rodney Weston asking for all-party support to convince CBS to keep the New Brunswick facility open, Stoffer picked up the phone. “I called Rodney to find out exactly what was going on.” Three days later, Stoffer was on a conference call with Mike Savage [Liberal MP for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour] and representatives from CBS.
By Philippe Gohier - Wednesday, June 2, 2010 at 11:55 PM - 2 Comments
Home is where the heart is
The Bloc Québécois’ Robert Bouchard doesn’t have to look far for reasons to make the Saguenay a better place to live: three of his four children have decamped for greener pastures, and the MP for Chicoutimi-Le Fjord says it’s time for the federal government to help stop the exodus. “We should have more of our children living here,” he says. But with the local economy in a tailspin, many young residents are packing up and moving on. According to the latest census data, while the number of seniors in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean grew by 16 per cent between 2001 and 2006, the number of people under 45 shrank by 14 per cent.
By Mitchel Raphael - Thursday, May 14, 2009 at 2:00 PM - 8 Comments
Mitchel Raphael at Maclean’s Third Annual Parliamentarians of the Year awards
Maclean’s Third Annual Parliamentarians of the Year awards packed Room 200 of the West Block on Parliament Hill.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney won for MP of the Year, the first Conservative to win a Parliamentarian of the Year award.
By Kate Lunau - Thursday, May 14, 2009 at 12:07 AM - 5 Comments
Got a question about the mob? Joe would know.
Joe Comartin likes to be on the Hill by 7 a.m. That gives him an hour, he says, to catch up on the issues before the day begins. Once he gets back to his apartment, sometimes as late as 9 p.m., he’ll fit in a couple more hours with books, newspapers and journals before bed. As the NDP MP for Ontario’s Windsor-Tecumseh riding, “I read a lot,” Comartin says. Even so, “I think I read only about half of what I’d like to.”
Given his studious habits, it’s no surprise that the NDP’s justice and public safety critic was named Canada’s most knowledgeable MP by a jury of his peers. Comartin, who also won the title in 2007, admits he’s flattered to be recognized for his facility with issues that range from the auto industry and terrorism to a detailed knowledge of organized crime.
By Rachel Mendleson - Thursday, May 14, 2009 at 12:06 AM - 0 Comments
Yes, he has been known to work a 24-hour day
Paul Szabo’s busiest day in recent memory began right at 12:01 a.m. It was Dec. 13, 2007, a matter of hours before his months of hard work as chair of the federal ethics committee on the Mulroney-Schreiber affair would culminate with a significant milestone. Former prime minister Brian Mulroney was set to take the stand. “This was very, very important, and it had to be done well,” says the Liberal MP for Mississauga South.
As night turned to day, Szabo was technically in bed, but he was up often, jotting in the notebook on his nightstand to help prepare him for the day ahead. “I saw every hour of the clock,” he says—and by the time he got up that morning, “I’d filled a pad of paper.” The hearing and media circus that followed kept Szabo buzzing until midnight, making for a workday almost 24 hours long. No wonder then, that for the third time running, he has been named the hardest-working MP in Canada.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 14, 2009 at 12:04 AM - 2 Comments
On tipping the question, and other niceties
Peter Stoffer had a question. Specifically, he had a question about the great basking shark, which, to his knowledge, was nearing eradication off Canada’s West Coast, but was not listed under the Species at Risk Act.
But before rising to hector the government on this matter during question period, Stoffer did a decent thing. He sought out Randy Kamp—the Conservative MP who serves as parliamentary secretary to the minister of fisheries—and he told Kamp the question. “Otherwise, he’d get up and say, ‘Well, the member brings up an issue and I’ll get back to him.’ But I wanted him to really have an answer on this issue,” Stoffer says. “I just thought that I would give him the question so he can give me a decent response and he did and I appreciate it. And that’s how Parliament should work, in my view.”
By John Geddes - Thursday, May 14, 2009 at 12:03 AM - 10 Comments
How confidence breeds influence, even for rookies
Like a lot of the MPs elected for the first time last fall, Megan Leslie didn’t have quite as much time as she might have liked to prepare to take her seat in the House. It resumed sitting exactly one month after the Oct. 14 election, an unusually short time for rookies to get set up. “I was a sitting MP without an office,” the Halifax New Democrat says. “Without staff. Without pens.”
Not only was Leslie obliged to plunge into Parliament, Parliament itself was soon plunged into turmoil. Last fall’s crisis—when Prime Minister Stephen Harper narrowly averted being unseated by an Opposition coalition—was a frenetic introduction to life on the Hill.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 14, 2009 at 12:02 AM - 1 Comment
The benefits of speaking softly, and other tricks
In the House of Commons, there is no greater sign of respect than silence. Amid the shouted invective and feigned fury, calm is what comes when people feel there’s reason enough to listen.
So the other day when all sides of the House sat quietly as Bob Rae questioned the foreign affairs minister about the plight of Abousfian Abdelrazik, the unlucky Canadian stranded in Sudan, it was with no small amount of reverence. Rae spoke deliberately in an even tone, laying out the situation in detail before proceeding with a straightforward question free of provocation or insult.