In review

by Aaron Wherry

The At Issue panel reviewed the parliamentary season last night with their traditional handing out of honours and dishonours. Video is here.

My picks, not that anyone asked, after the jump.

Most underrated. Peter MacKay. Overrated, then dismissed, now taken for granted.

Most overrated. Thomas Mulcair. Chantal Hebert had a fantastic observation about him awhile back: if the NDP want him to be the next leader, they best hurry up because he might not have a seat after the next election.

Most shamelessly exploited issue. The economy.

Most under-reported event. Parliament and the thousands upon thousands of words that are spoken out loud there each day.

Best political play. The coalition. Setting aside everything about it, it was a remarkable idea.

Worst political play. The fall economic update. Rather unnecessary.

Next election. Fall 2009.

In review

  1. Most over rated: Peter Mackay. Agreed
    Most under rated: Muclair. Agreed
    Most Shameless: Isotopes
    Most Under-reported: Parliament. Agreed!!!!!
    Best Political Play: The coalition was a remarkablely BAD idea. Unite the left and it would marginalize the Bloc. But a coalition that depends on the Bloc is horrible!
    Worst Play: Dion's out of focus message to Canadians
    Next election: March 2010

  2. My picks:

    Most underrated. I draw a blank.

    Most overrated: A tie between Iggy and James Moore.

    Most shamelessly exploited issue. I'm with Aaron on this one – the economy.

    Most under-reported event. CRTC's decision on Dion's CTV interview and its subsequent impact on the 2006 election.

    Best political play. Again with Aaron on this one: the coalition.

    Worst political play. Without a doubt, the fall economic update.

    Next election. Next federal budget.

  3. Most over rated: Stephen Harper, by his partisans

    Most under rated: Stephen Harper, by his detractors

    Most Shameless: the coalition by Harper – claims it to be enough of a threat to democracy that he… had to temporarily suspend the democratic parts of our Parliament!!!

    Most Under-reported: Shovelling infrastructure and stimulus tax dollars into Tory ridings at 4-5 times the rate of non-Tory ridings

    Best Political Play: Harper and Ignatieff both on the budget – for Harper, not just abandoning everything he believes in but advocating for something he strongly opposes – that government can be part of the solution, have a positive effect – and try to turn that into a positive for his government; and for Ignatieff, new leader forces the most stubborn uncaring PM to actually do something for Canadians against his will instead of using government as a personal Liberal-bashing hammer.

    • Forgot to add: European free trade negotiations and Afghanistan are close second and third on most under-reported.

  4. [CONT]
    Worst Play: Tie – Harper's fiscal update and the coalition that responded to it. The Liberals under Dion would probably be in government if they had not had that public and formal agreement of coalition. Distant dishonourable mention: Dhalla, Raitt-tapes, and the government blaming its screw-ups on staffers (MacDonnell, Sparrow, website poop, etc.).

    Next election: Fall 2009

  5. As for the overrated category, I have to say that those of us (and there are many) who'd always seen Iggy for what he truly is are just amused by the growing list of pundits who seem "perplexed" by his performance.

    Personally, I think that we haven't seen the worse of Iggy yet. Wait until the writ is dropped. Only then will the Liberals realize the magnitude of their mistake.

  6. Mulcair's a fairly able guy, but he's descended into self-parody. He's become hysterically partisan, which is a bit rich coming from a guy who been a party member for all of a year. He'd be a terrible choice for leader, with all the negatives of Jack Layton without most of the positives. His Quebec origins would not be helpful in the party's western base.

  7. Most underrated. (by me anyways) Jason Kenney. He can be very partisan, but expresses himself well enough to be persuasive.

    Most overrated. no one

    Most shamelessly exploited issue. Raitt tape. Many think along those lines and were just glad it wasn't them that were caught and it sets a bad precedence when something inevitably similar happens to an opposition member.

    Most under-reported event. Parliament's daily activities

    Best political play. Bob Rae and Deepak Obhrai heading to Sri Lanka.

    Worst political play. Attempt to remove party funding. I like the idea of corporations and private interests not filling their war chests and $27-30 million is a small price to pay

    Next election. Fall 2009.

  8. For most underrated, I'd say the enormous number of incredibly able, hard-working MPs who almost never get their names in the paper. I'm glad that Glen Pearson at least gets an occasional mention on this site.

    If I had to name one, though, it'd be Gilles Duceppe. He reminds me of John Diefenbaker: written off by the media and pundit class between elections, but an inexplicably magnificent campaigner (with a bit of luck) who always manages to pull it out of the fire. Watch for a huge collapse in the Bloc vote as soon as he retires.

  9. "Most underrated. (by me anyways) Jason Kenney. He can be very partisan, but expresses himself well enough to be persuasive. "

    MUAHAHAHA!!!!

  10. Most underrated. Duceppe (Chantel H was right on) Duceppe knows when to keep quiet.

    Most overrated: Ignatieff, by a long shot. Andrew doesn't see that our current democratic deficit is happening at the federal scene. Over the past week, Ignatieff completely disregarded our parliamentary system.

    Most shamelessly exploited issue: the economy, but no wonder; there's no one in this world who can profess to have a grip on things,economically speaking.

    Most under-reported event: Harper having lost support in Quebec (after all he had tried to do for the province) and having lost his chance for winning a majority government, ever! (reported in hush tones by Andrew on At Issue: "for the crime of saying that separatists should not participate in federal elections…….ha, ha)

    Best political play: Ignatieff counting on the voter's ignorant understanding of our parliamentary system.

    Worst political play: Layton and his musing during the pre-coalition prep-talks (brought to light by mistakenly 'invited' guest))

    • There's a typo in your comment after "Best political play" you wrote "Ignatieff" counted on voter's ignorant understanding of our parliamentary system. Obviously, you meant Harper and his effort at painting the coalition as an unconstitutional coup (it was stupid, but 100% in line with our parliamentary democracy) and using that as a foil to cancel promised votes in Parliament and then cancelling Parliament altogether just to save his own job.

      You're welcome.

      • OH, I never said that the coalition was not in line with our parliamentary democracy; it was. But so was Harper's call to prorogue the house. Both, asking the GG for a coalition and asking the GG to grant prorogation are rights under our parliamentary system. You cannot pick and choose rights based on opinion only. Rights are rights, regardsless of opinions held. And I, for one, agreed for the acting PM of this country to go against putting in place formal coalitions which include the BQ. Please note, the NDP and Lib members combined are LESS than the Conservative members in the house. Over to you.

  11. "reported in hush tones by Andrew on At Issue: "for the crime of saying that separatists should not participate in federal elections…….ha, ha"

    I'm glad that Hebert shut that one down. God knows we don't need to revisit this nonsense though I'm sure Duceppe would love nothing more. It's that kind of talk that almost cost Charest his majority. ROCers will never understand…

    • So now the feds are to be held responsible for wins and losses within Quebec provincial politics? This is getting better all the time (for Quebec at least, I'm not so sure about the ROC)

  12. Aaron, I think your citing the coalition as "best political play of year" this is a very courageous example standing up to the group think.

    It's become CW that the coalition as a massive blunder mostly based on bad polls numbers. Specifically, the Conservatives' horserace numbers went from 37.5 to about 43-44%. Those numbers are key–majority territory–but only represent five or six percent of Canadians.

    I prefer to think about the coalition in this context: it came a Govenor General's coin toss away from forming government.

    The coalition would have made Stephane Dion prime minister, brought the NDP into government and shown that the Bloc can achieve policy relevance even if they can never form government.

    If someone had told you on election night that they had an idea that had a 50-50 chance of achieveing those results, would you have said "that's a silly idea; they shouldn't do try that"?

    Even in failure the coalition for the Conservatives to drop their deadly political financing plan and bring in an economic stimulus package.

    The coalition failed, but it was still a brilliant play.

    • "forCED the Conservatives"

    • Certainly an interesting moment but "best" political play? It ended Dion's career, it damaged Layton, it divided the Liberals and almost blew them apart, it was strongly strongly opposed by Canadians – over 50% felt very strongly opposed, and it gave Harper his game back days after he almost destroyed his career and government.

      Jean would never ever ever have allowed it.

      On the contrary, it was one of the worst political plays. Had they not struct a formal and public coalition, Dion would have been PM like Trudeau in 1980. He promised to resign and then circumstances led him back. If they had just struck an informal arrangement and agreed to work on the details after defeating Harper, we would have Prime Minister Dion now and a Minister of Foreign Affairs Michael Ignatieff.

        • Not sure what you mean. Obviously she was involved in this but she allowed Harper to cancel Parliament to avoid a confidence vote. If that was her state of mind and a reflection of the legal advice she was getting, do you think Jean was going just let the coalition take over?

          • Whoops, I misunderstood you – I thought you Jean as in Chretien. Sorry. The GG is close friends with Loreen Harper – I have trouble with that.

      • Ted you could not possibly be more wrong.

        Had it not been for the coalition Harper would have either (a) forced new election in which he would have outspent the Liberals by between two and four times or (b) passed his public financing plan that would have totally or nearly bankrupt the Liberal Party. I don't think you understand just how bad a position Liberal finances were in after the last election.

        Harper knew this when he brought in his election financing package–which is why he thought it was a brilliant idea. The coalition was brilliant in response because it was the one alternative that Harper hadn't thought of.

        As for the idea that over 50% of Canadians stringly opposed the coalition, that's just utter nonsense. Horserace polls showed that had there been a new election Canadians still would have supported coalition parties 55-45 over the Conservatives.

        • I'm not sure if you get what I am saying.

          Had the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc stood together and said no way to Harper, we would have had a much different result than the three parties reaching a formal agreement with some details. Harper was on the ropes, he had overplayed his card, the public was appalled at his crass partisanship in the face of an economic troubles and his lack of any measures to tackle the economy. All that was out the window as soon as Dion and Layton and Duceppe sat down together for the press conference and agreement signing. It was all Harper needed. Polling showed clearly and consistently that Canadians were strongly strongly opposed to the coalition. There was never a chance of the coalition forming government so it's only effect was to give the game back to Harper.

          • Standing together and saying "no way" to Harper would have meant voting against his fiscal update bill. Had there not been an agreeent to support a coalition before that vote there would have been an election and Harper would have won a majority.

          • And don't forget: the Liberals did get their act together and ARE fundraising now, thanks to Harper's push!!

  13. You know what's kind of strange of late that whenver I hear bad things about mulcair the source tends to appear to be liberal hmmm me thinks they protest too much!

  14. The best political play of the year = Harper still sitting in the PM's chair as after all folks if you put the partisan blinkers to the side and think back only a few months ago he was written off – toe tagged – DOA … and all I can say is thank god as the only other option is patently obvious now and would have been a historic disaster of truly epic proportions.

  15. Most Underrated : Peter Van Loan – started off as traditional duty of attack dog fdor the PM and carried on the fine tradition in the manner that Chretien did and performed duties excellently. Now he is in perfect postion getting things done and rescuing Janet N. (usa homeland security) at press conference in a fashion and manner I haven't seen in a long time when he stepped up to the plate and no doubt about it earned some cudos from the Yanks which incidentally always comes in handy. Most Overrated : Obviously Iggy no one else comes even close – my favorite part is where the back room boys coronated him and it was a lot of speechifying saying the last lib's need immediate unity to face down evil meanie Stevie and we have no time to vote for a leader -> then to turn around and support the gov't on every confidence motion again which an interim leader could have done just as well – and the lib's bought into it – who knows maybe a little buyers remorse right now is setting in would not surprise me in the least.

    • well said. There are many competent players in the Conservative government. All it takes is a look through some objective glasses ( once in a while would help) There is the good and the bad, just like in any other party.

      When Coyne's pick for most underrated politician came up and he handpicked Igantieff on At Issue, I actually turned the video off! I could not believe a man who wants so desparately to change our democratic state for the better (Coyne himself) to give the audience an opinion like that. I did return to watch the complete segment of At Issue and could not believe when Coyne said that "managing to take the Liberal leadership without a race" was a good thing????? Maybe we have complete different understandings about the meaning of democracy. That could be……..

  16. Intersting how people can't look at thing objectively – have to put their partisan crap in here. What a waste.

    Overrated – political pundits and strategists on the political shows.

    Underrated – the new health minister. She has a quiet voice, doesn't mean she can't do the job. Too bad Harper has forced to make partisan shots lately – it's ruining the respect people have for her. I don't think a woman has to be a ball breaker to be effective and competent.

  17. Gregg Allan mentioned the ads that don't say anything – and thinks they break the rules – and why hasn't Elections Canada looked into this.

    No one talking about it – hence my point about political pundits. They just yap and have opinions, but add nothing of importance to the political scene.

    • They just yap and have opinions, but add nothing of importance to the political scene.

      Sorta like blog commenters….

  18. Polls also showed Canadians preferred the coalition to a Conservative government by a 55-45 margin. The reasons that the coalition was preceived as so unpopular were that (a) polls also showed that Canadians thought there should be a new election if the government was voted down and (b) that regardless of whether a majority of Canadians preferred a coalition to the Conservatives, 45% would still have meant a Conservative majority government.

    Dion career was already over; the coalition offered him a chance to save. Any damage done to the NDP was minor compared to the potential upside.

    If you think the Governor General would have refused to ask the coalition to govern because of her personal perception of public opinion rather than constitutional precedent you're out to lunch. That sort of thing can affect decisions on the margins, but if Harper had been voted down she would have had no other choice.

    I do agree that the public signing ceremony turn out to hurt the coalition, but I think that's a more complicated question.

  19. Most underrated. Gary Doer. No one notices him in Manitoba, but, man, that's a steady ship he runs.

    Most overrated. Gilles Duceppe. I'm mostly reacting against the excessive praise from the At Issue panel. He has an exceedingly easy job. Views issues solely from the perspective of a Quebec nationalist. Leads caucus of sheep-like non-entities. Win elections by relying on 3-4 other parties splitting the federalist vote. Blame the federal govt for everything. You could see his weakness when he stepped out of his comfortable BQ bubble, and made that aborted attempt to become PQ leader.

    Most shamelessly exploited issue. God so very many. I can't decide between Dhalla and Raitt.

    Most under-reported event: I'll go with the story about how Canada's innovation weakness can betrayed to the failure of Canadian firms to commercialize the R&D done in this country. Will hurt us badly long-term.

    Best political play: Ignatieff's handling of the coalition/budget back in January. I was a coalition supporter, but recognize it was a high-risk strategy that may have fatally split the Liberal Party. Ignatieff played it safe, and he played it very deftly.

    Worst political play. No doubt Harper's attempt to bankrupt ALL the opposition parties. Just can't help himself at times.

    Next election: Fall 2009, if the NDP and BQ cooperate.

  20. Most underrated. Gary Doer. No one notices him in Manitoba, but, man, that's a steady ship he runs.

    Most overrated. Gilles Duceppe. I'm mostly reacting against the excessive praise from the At Issue panel. He has an exceedingly easy job. Views issues solely from the perspective of a Quebec nationalist. Leads caucus of sheep-like non-entities. Win elections by relying on 3-4 other parties splitting the federalist vote. Blame the federal govt for everything. You could see his weakness when he stepped out of his comfortable BQ bubble, and made that aborted attempt to become PQ leader.

    Most shamelessly exploited issue. God so very many. I can't decide between Dhalla and Raitt.

    Most under-reported event: I'll go with the story about how Canada's innovation weakness can betrayed to the failure of Canadian firms to commercialize the R&D done in this country. Will hurt us badly long-term.

    Best political play: Ignatieff's handling of the coalition/budget back in January. I was a coalition supporter, but recognize it was a high-risk strategy that may have fatally split the Liberal Party. Ignatieff played it safe, and he played it very deftly.

    Worst political play. No doubt Harper's attempt to bankrupt ALL the opposition parties. Just can't help himself at times.

    Next election: Fall 2009, if the NDP and BQ cooperate.

    • JPro, with all due respect, but that's why Duceppe should score so high in the most underrated politician catagory, exactly because he plays his cards so well by slipping under the radar most of the time. Unseen and unheard of, he does the most damage, really, not to himself or the BQ but to the other political parties. Just think back to the past election and see how slyly he managed to perform. Letting a bunch of worked-up artist to the trick for him (over a lousy few million bucks, if that????). We all fell for it and Duceppe just stood back and let things come his way. He's a pro!

  21. Most under-rated: Kady, who does good committee work, that is capable of answering sustained and valuable questions but flies under the radar???? please say there is someone!

    Most over-rated: Harper (fall update) and Iggy (trying to be cool relaxed if only PMSH would work with us and tough parole guy at the same time….leading to a series of report that the he doesn't trust and a committee of parliamentarians and their minions).

    Most Shamelessly Exploited Issue: common misunderstandings of how are parliamentary system works

    Most Under-reported story: don't disagree on Parliament; but feel that Khadr got far less consistent coverage than deserved (Maclean's blogs often being an exception).

    Best Political Play: Prob the coalition. It came out of nowhere. Scared the hell out of the other side (was it the first time as PM, SH was forced to climb down on one of his tactical plays? And, it prob spurred more interest and intense engagement among Canadians in politics than anything else since free trade perhaps (as short-lived as that engagement was).

    Worst Play: Fall economic update. the beginning of Harper's end (even if that end takes a while) and the first cracks in a Tory caucus that a lot of people never thought could be controlled at all, let alone to the degree it had impressively been until then.

    Next election: fall 2009

  22. The fact that the Coalition DID collapse on its own shows the GG made the right call. If Dion, Layton & Gilles had returned from the break still united, then Jean would have been hard-pressed not to give them what they wanted.

    Worst political play: Layton not going along with Harper's plan to eliminate the $1.75/vote. Yes, it would have hurt the NDP some, but it would be devastating to the Libs and Bloc. Best chance Jack will ever get to make it to official opposition.

    • Nice reasoning by accurate observation. Jack was looking for a quick fix to get him and his party into power. He could have played his cards much better had he taken the time to think before he had acted. But then, that's Jack.

  23. Yes, the Liberals were very, very weak at the time of the coalition formation. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a weak political party off guard (remember Chretien and Stockwell Day). The Liberal weakness was by their own doing, and for the pundits to feel sorry for them was pathetic. Politics is politics, and when a party is as weak as the Liberals were at the time, such responsibility of weakness should not be shoved over to the other side.

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