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18 questions for Justin Trudeau: Ottawa Power Rankings

Who’s up? Opposition MPs who grilled the PM. Who’s down? The suddenly busy Jim Carr and a backtracking Bardish Chagger.


 

Green inroads in B.C. offer hope for the party’s federal future. A cabinet minister faces energy uncertainty on the west coast. See who’s up and who’s down in and around Parliament Hill’s corridors of power. And check out the rest of our weekly power rankings.

Listen to Shannon Proudfoot on her power rankings:

WHO’S UP:

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ELIZABETH MAY

The federal Green Party leader campaigned for several of her provincial brethren in the B.C. election, so the party’s breakthrough gives her reason to bask in some reflected glory. But more importantly, now that the Greens appear to hold the balance of power—three members elected, with the Liberals holding 43 seats and the NDP 41—it suggests a path to clout for May’s Greens in Ottawa. The B.C. results show that a small party doesn’t need to net a whole bunch of seats to suddenly carry a bigger stick. Given the right mix of results, a handful of ridings could suddenly vault May’s party into kingmaker territory one day.

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OPPOSITION MPs

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau again test-drove his idea for a designated weekly PM’s Question Period. By way of protesting, opposition MPs, led by the Conservatives, asked him 18 times in 18 slightly different ways how many times he met with the federal ethics commissioner about his Christmas vacation to the Aga Khan’s private island. And 18 times, Trudeau offered up the same bland non-answer. You could argue, as plenty did, that the opposition theatrically overplayed its hand here. But the fact is that if they’d merely asked a couple of times and dropped it, Trudeau’s conspicuous refusal to answer would have slipped between the cracks; instead, it became a derisive talking point and news story.

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GRANT MITCHELL

After months of delay, Bill C-16, the trans-rights bill sponsored by the government’s Senate whip, appears now to have the momentum to pass the red chamber. The bill would include gender identity and expression in the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code as prohibited grounds for discrimination. It’s been hamstrung by adjournments in the Senate since last fall, and several private members’ bills attempting to make similar changes have failed in the past. But now Sen. Mitchell smells victory; he’s willing to use time allocation to force the issue if necessary, but he doesn’t believe he’ll have to in order to see this through. “This is a hill I’m prepared to die on,” he said.

WHO’S DOWN:

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BARDISH CHAGGER

She backtracked on proposed rule changes to streamline debate when the opposition howled in protest, and now the government House leader looks poised to abandon ship on new rules for the Parliamentary Budget Officer. The government claims the proposals laid out in the budget bill would make the PBO more independent, but the opposition argues they would hamper the ability to provide real scrutiny—to which Chagger sort of agreeably shrugged. “Let us work together to improve the legislation. Let us pass it at second reading,” she said. “Let us send it to committee so the committee can do its important work.” Responding to criticism is all well and good, but serial climb-downs in the face of ordinary pushback start to look unserious.

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JIM CARR

Christy Clark’s Liberal government in B.C. was, by the narrowest of margins—pending a recount and absentee ballots—reduced to a minority, leaving the federal government’s Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion and Site C hydroelectric dam twisting in the wind. As natural resources minister, Carr is the face of the Trudeau government’s signature projects to balance resource development and environmental concerns, and his job just got harder. It remains to be seen whether the B.C. Liberals (who align with their federal cousins on these projects) or NDP (who don’t) will woo their way into being dance partners with the Greens.

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DON MEREDITH

He resigned when it became obvious he would likely be expelled from the Senate—a historic first—over accusations he preyed on a teenage girl using the clout of his office. Now, he gets to keep his pension. He has two months to clean out his office, during which staffers will help him and his travel will continue to be covered. But this could, quite possibly, be the end of the tawdry tale of the now-former senator Meredith, and so everyone else should just appreciate the chance to draw a deep, cleansing breath and move on, consigning him to obscurity.


 

18 questions for Justin Trudeau: Ottawa Power Rankings

  1. “the federal government’s Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion and Site C hydroelectric dam” ??? No time for editor’s or even good journalism? When was the Site C hydroelectric dam a federal government project?

  2. The opposition is given an opportunity to grill the PM on anything and they choose to repeat 18 times whether and how often he has met with someone. And this is good politics? Why does he have to answer that question? Why should he have to answer questions about a supposedly independent process looking at his own possible wrong-doing? Perhaps you prefer the Trump approach. JT could tweet how many times he met with her and how she assured him three times he did nothing wrong and how this is fake news and on and on? Honestly, I think you need to look a little more critically at what the point of answering that question would be. Who benefits by knowing whether he has met 1, 2 or 10 times with her? Why should we know about an independent enquiry that is supposed to be going on away from the public eye? Isn’t the point to wait for the results of the report and then do the grilling? Didn’t the commissioner say she prefers it if participants in the process keep mum on it? How does it make her job better or easier with this kind of attention? Do you guys even care about good public policy or is your preference for a story and having something to put in the power rankings?

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