Who shone and who stank in Parliament this year | News | National Post
Call them sizzlers or fizzlers, stars or squibs:
Alexandre Boulerice (NDP, Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie)
The NDP’s treasury board critic has earned a reputation as the competent, articulate, francophone sidekick to the always outspoken Charlie Angus on all matters related to Treasury Board. The former CUPE spokesman and television journalist has also been a vocal member of the Commons ethics committee, taking the government to task for attacks by some of its members against the CBC.
Michelle Rempel (Conservative, Calgary Centre-North)
A classically trained pianist and sommelier, this rookie politician replaced popular cabinet minister Jim Prentice as both MP in the Calgary Centre-North riding and — in her role as junior environment minister — a key government point person on the oilsands file. Rempel has been known for years within Conservative circles: at 26, she was a riding association president for fellow Calgary Tory Diane Ablonczy, and at 28 she chaired a national development committee for the Conservative party. Beyond her MP duties, she’s co-chair of the Conservative party’s national policy committee.
Ashley Fraser/Postmedia News
Megan Leslie (NDP, Halifax)
Young, attractive and well-spoken, New Democrat environment critic Megan Leslie is not afraid to mix it up in the House of Commons, regularly lambasting Environment Minister Peter Kent and Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver. She has a way of criticizing the government, particularly on climate change and the oilsands, that makes the attacks look effortless. And she has an impish sense of fun.
Charlie Angus (NDP, Timmins-James Bay)
His sustained attack on Treasury Board President Tony Clement over G8 spending showed how good a parliamentary performer Angus is. More importantly, Angus put the Attawapiskat First Nations story on the national radar, which he manages to do every few years with a new example of how that community struggles with poverty. As much of the NDP front bench is on the road chasing votes for the party leadership, Angus has focused on holding government’s feet to the fire. He’s a large part of the reason the NDP hasn’t been completely eclipsed by Bob Rae and the Liberals on opposition benches this year.
Bob Rae (Liberal, Toronto Centre, interim Liberal leader)
In many ways, Rae has become to the Liberals what Stephen Harper is to the Conservatives: the unquestioned focal point of political activity. Rae performs with skill and wit in Parliament, and can almost take sole credit for keeping his shrunken party relevant and managing something his predecessors often failed to do: keeping order. Many expect this is the year Rae will solidify his hold on the Liberal Party leadership, with the aim of removing that pesky “interim” from his job description.
Marc Garneau (Liberal, Westmount-Ville-Marie)
For the nearly five years, Ralph Goodale served as Liberal House leader, a rock of stability in a party that was anything but solid. Now Garneau, who has been learning the ropes surely and steadily, has replaced him in that role. Likable, bilingual, with a unique history as Canada’s first man in space, Garneau can’t be counted out as a future party leader. Indeed, he recently told CTV, “I’m in politics not to sit on the sidelines,” and used Twitter to reconfirm his interest in the leadership.
Matthew Kellway (NDP, Beaches-East York)
After defeating longtime Liberal Maria Minna to take the Toronto-area riding of Beaches-East York in 2011, this rookie MP and former economist, who serves as his party’s military procurement critic, has established himself in question period by taking on Defence Minister Peter MacKay over the F-35 military fighter jet and the minister’s use of search-and-rescue helicopters. He has quickly become a “go-to” guy for the NDP.
Chris Alexander (Conservative, Ajax-Pickering)
Alexander, parliamentary secretary to the defence minister, a former diplomat and star candidate for the party in the May 2011 election, has performed well in his transition to the House of Commons. While he appears ready for more responsibility, some feel that, so far, he’s a better spokesman than leader on important issues. The coming year will give a better sense of his trajectory.
Rona Ambrose (Conservative, Edmonton-Spruce Grove)
The public works minister has been in Parliament since 2004, and after early learning pains, has performed steadily and competently. This year’s triumph was the handling of a $33-billion shipbuilding contract that went off without a hitch, procedurally or politically. Some say it’s too bad she isn’t in charge of the fighter jet file.
Nycole Turmel (NDP, Hull-Aylmer)
It’s not really her fault things haven’t gone well, since she was thrust into the high-profile role of interim leader following Jack Layton’s death. Nonetheless, Turmel has faced criticism for her performance in question period, her limited English-language skills and her lack of knowledge on a variety of subjects. The Liberals have used the opportunity to fashion themselves as the more effective opposition, with Turmel caught in the spotlight while the party gets its affairs in order. After the NDP elects a new leader on March 24, expect to see a lot less of her in front of the TV cameras.
Robert Chisholm (NDP, Dartmouth-Cole Harbour)
Having led the Nova Scotia New Democrats from four to 19 seats in 1998, placing the party in official Opposition status in that province for the first time, Chisholm came to Ottawa with lofty goals, but his lack of French got the better of him. His candidacy for leadership of the NDP was widely viewed as a joke and his first debate performance was a disaster. No surprise that he quickly dropped out. Now, will he be able to bounce back and resume his critic’s spot on the NDP’s front bench?
Bob Dechert (Conservative, Mississauga-Erindale)
The parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs saw his career sputter to a halt after it was revealed he’d been exchanging flirtatious emails with a Chinese reporter for the Xinhua News Agency, thought by many to be a hotbed for spying on Canadian government and business affairs. He’s been low-profile since; she’s gone back to China.
Peter Goldring (Conservative, Edmonton East)
Goldring, first elected in 1997, had to drop out of caucus after his refusal to provide a roadside breath sample at a random police check resulted in charges. The incident occurred soon after he’d held an event in his riding to talk about drinking and driving laws.
John Duncan (Conservative, Vancouver Island North)
The aboriginal affairs minister should have been better prepared for the Attawapiskat crisis, since he had a background as parliamentary secretary to the former minister on this file, Chuck Strahl. Instead, Duncan scrambled to catch up as the NDP shone the spotlight on substandard housing and poverty in the Northern Ontario community.
Tony Clement (Conservative, Parry Sound-Muskoka)
Clement, a veteran politician, has been under constant fire since the Conservative government captured a majority mandate in May. The NDP and Liberals hammered the Treasury Board president repeatedly in question period over what they saw as improper spending on 32 municipal projects in Clement’s riding that were included in a $50 million G8 Legacy Infrastructure Fund. Day after day in question period, Clement remained in his chair as he was assailed by the opposition, while Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird — who was infrastructure minister at the time of the summit — fielded questions for him.
Dominic LeBlanc (Liberal, Beausejour)
LeBlanc has been at the forefront when it comes to discussing the future of the Liberal Party. He is young, fluently bilingual and the son of one of Canada’s most respected governors general, Romeo LeBlanc. He briefly ran for the leadership of the party in 2008, and was expected to be a front-runner in the coming campaign. But LeBlanc has been nearly invisible since May. Even on the file for which he is the critic, foreign affairs, he has been largely a non-factor, ceding the floor to interim leader Bob Rae. Given the Liberal Party’s current status, one would have expected its brightest stars to step up and shoulder more of the burden.
Julian Fantino (Conservative, Vaughan)
One might expect the man who headed the Toronto Police Service and the Ontario Provincial Police to be a star pickup for a government that defines itself as law-and-order and pro-military. Maybe he’s just feeling cautious, but Fantino’s wooden, repetitive answers to questions in the House of Commons are embarrassing. There are also questions as to what he is actually doing on his main file, which is reforming the military’s troubled, multi-billion-dollar procurement process, as associate minister of defence.
Peter MacKay (Conservative, Central Nova)
Fantino’s defensiveness is more understandable when you look at the annus horribilis the defence minister himself has had. Under fire over the government’s planned purchase of F-35 fighter jets, MacKay has also been battered by the release of information on his use of government Challenger jets and search-and-rescue helicopters. If anyone needed to be winched to safety …