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.
“I’ve always been sensitive to crime because of where I am geographically,” says Comartin, who worked as a criminal lawyer before becoming an MP. Smuggling and cross-border crimes drive up the crime rate in Windsor, he notes, which is just across the river from Detroit. “That’s what got me studying organized crime, even before I was elected.”
To stay abreast of the issues, Comartin consults with a team of experts, and he’s quick to acknowledge that fellow NDP MPs Libby Davies and Judy Wasylycia-Leis are “at least as knowledgeable about Parliament, and how government functions, as I am.” Just like those who voted for him, it seems, Comartin likes to give credit where credit is due.