The Backbench Top Ten


Our weekly, and wholly arbitrary, ranking of the ten most worthy, or at least entertaining, MPs, excluding the Prime Minister, cabinet members and party leaders. A celebration of all that is great and ridiculous about the House of Commons. Last week’s rankings appear in parentheses.

1. Jack Harris (1)
2. Michael Chong (3)
Maxime Bernier (2)
4. Bob Rae (-)
Mr. Rae seems to think we should be able to discuss coalition and co-operative government without hyperventilating one way or the other. It’s like he thinks we should be acting like adults and Canadians should be spoken to as if they were something more than children. Crazy stuff.
5. Michelle Simson (4)

6. Shelly Glover (8)
She’s not alleging Toronto police chief Bill Blair has somehow abused his authority, she’s just saying police chiefs “like” Bill Blair have somehow abused their authority. Positively Kenneyesque.
Pat Martin (5)
Referencing the Shamwow guy in mocking Tony Clement was far too easy. You’re better than that, Mr. Martin. The moment demanded a more knowing name-drop: something like Tony Little or Dr. Ho or the Magic Bullet.
8. Francine Lalonde (6)
9. Helena Guergis (7)
If it is my only option … yes, I will run as an independent.
10. Daniel Paille (9)

Previous rankings: March 12March 19April 3April 10April 25May 1May 9May 16. May 23.


The Backbench Top Ten

  1. Bob Rae's foray this week was more than educating Canadians about the coalition being a legitimate political option. It was also about undercutting Iggy on the prospects of a Liberal-NDP coalition and planting the seeds on who would look just perfect heading such a coalition, none other than a fellow named, you guessed it,

    Bob Rae.

    I get the distinct sense that Bob Rae is no longer content with the backbench. He wants the poll position

  2. For those of you in the dark about Rae's comments this week, here's a veteran of the parliamentary press gallery, Stephen Maher, of the Halifax Chronicle-Herald:

    "This week, the Liberals sort of said no: "Liberals will campaign to form a Liberal government," they said in a memo to MPs. "We aren't interested in coalitions."

    Rae, however, put a more defiant message on his website in an essay on the 25th anniversary of a 1985 NDP-Liberal deal in Ontario.

    "In a parliamentary system, elections produce a Parliament, and Parliament makes a government. That was the lesson learned in 1985. Prattle about ‘winning a mandate' with less than a majority in Parliament is just that — partisan spin, all sound and fury, signifying nothing. It is a lesson worth remembering."

    This undercut Ignatieff's position, perhaps because Rae is sure he — a talented career politician — would do better than the professor, and he would like a chance to demonstrate that before he is too old. Rae, perhaps with Chretien's help, seems to be subtly undermining Ignatieff, …"

    • I wish people generally, of any political stripe, could be a bit more critical of marketing hyperbole. Ignatieff was promoted as the next "philosopher-king" for the Liberal party, and the Liberal Party swallowed that line in apparent desperation. Dion came up as the compromise candidate after Kennedy released his delegates after the third round of voting, in accordance with his agreement with Rae. Ultimately, compromise candidates don't please anyone, do they? And I think Rae has been unfairly saddled with the Ontario deficit and recession, and totally undermined by the unions at that time (who did they think would give them a BETTER deal?)

      "Rae-days" were probably preferable to wholescale layoffs, but the unions didn't, apparently, think so. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face! Furthermore, despite the rhetoric, the unions have NEVER been able to "deliver the vote" reliably to the NDP, and I don't blame Bob Rae at all for jumping to the federal LIberals.

      • I've been saying the same thing about Rae-days for years. I believe in syndicalism, but clearly Ontario's public sector/teacher/etc unions of the day did not, and their complete failure to practice what they preach (i.e. solidarity and social democracy) in tough times meant they deserved every kick Mike Harris' government gave them afterwards.

        I'll never understand why (temporary) increases in leave aren't bargained-for more often when pay increases are off the table due to fiscal constraints. I know that I'd accept a legislated wage freeze far more readily if it came with an extra week off for the length of the contract, and my productivity would not suffer an iota for it.

        • Some public sector union leaders have become so entitled they have become Conservatives.

    • I think Bob Rae should be given a chance. He IS talented, and I think he would be better at recognizing and recruiting other talent. I also think he would bring a better team to the table, and would be less likely to surround himself with sycophantic "yes-people" and would therefore be better prepared to deal with emergent issues. He's also better versed in the workings of government in practice, not just theory. I think he's a better campaigner, too; he's certainly a more engaging speaker.

      • I can't disagree with any of your statements. Bob Rae was the best possible candidate in Montreal in 2006.

        A lot of Liberals, like Steve V. over at the Far and Wide Blog to use but one example, think it wouldn't be a good time to change leaders. It does tend to be a messy business. I doubt however that Iggy has that many backers left in the party. Basically he has a good chunk of the Martinites following him but many have come to the conclusion that he lacks the political royal gelly.

  3. Shouldn't Liberal MP Anita Neville be on the Top Ten list, following her notorious 180-degree turn regarding Senator Nancy Ruth?

    After Nancy Ruth made her much-ballyhooed "STFU" comment, Anita Neville was anything but offended–instead, she spoke quite fondly of the Conservative senator. Shortly thereafter, Anita Neville was debriefed by the OLO, where she learned that Liberal strategists intended to seize a golden opportunity to score political points by distorting the "STFU" comment.

    In a betrayal worthy of a Shakespearian tragedy, mere hours after she had praised Nancy Ruth, Anita Neville issued a statement viciously accusing Nancy Ruth of "threatening" and "blackmailing":

    Sending Conservative Senator Nancy Ruth to threaten and blackmail Canada's foreign aid community is the most extreme example yet of how this deceitful and intolerant Prime Minister operates.

    The statement was repeated in a Liberal press release, and for good measure, Liberal guru Warren Kinsella called Nancy Ruth a "disgrace" and demanded that she either resign or be booted out of caucus by the Prime Minister.

    Susan Delacourt, who broke the "STFU" story in the Toronto Star, reported on Anita Neville's shameful about-face:

    The Liberals' status of women critic, Anita Neville, was initially quite charitable about Senator Ruth's intervention at the aid-experts' meeting yesterday. She was in the room and prefaced her remarks about her fondness for Nancy Ruth. But by late in the day, Neville was quoted in a Liberal news release condemning the "bullying." Why the change of heart? I'm discouraged to report that it's because the Liberals saw a chance to score some points, even if it meant twisting Neville's more nuanced understanding of what happened yesterday.

    • "I'm discouraged to report that it's because the Liberals saw a chance to score some points,…"

      Scoring cheap, and often dishonest political points. That's been the Liberal Party of Canada's modus operandi almost without fail in the last number of years, I'd say certainly since 1997 onwards. No wonder Susan Delacourt is looking so discouraged these days.

      Neville learned her trade by first being elected in 2000, and then going on to win in 2004 and 2006 and 2008 although her last win was by a sqeaker, a little over 2,000 votes. People will recall that those were elections where the Liberals put forward dishonest, odious negative advertising.

      I think I'm with Aaron on this one, nothing particularly remarkable to see in this displace, rather par for the course.

      • oops "nothing to see in this DISPLAY"

  4. Rob Oliphant (Liberal – Don Valley West) decided to voluntarily disclose his MP expenses on his website this week joining his fellow caucus members Michelle Simson and Marlene Jennings. This, despite Michael Ignatieff's directive that none of his MPs were to post their expenses. I think he's completely lost control of his caucus.

    Kudos to Mr. Oliphant.


    • You're assuming that he had control of his caucus. Before long, Chretien will be the new old new leader of the Liberals..

    • Not sure why keeping control of one's caucus is so important. This is a democracy. Dissenting voices are needed from time to time.

      I'd rather have occasional insubordinations than MPs who recite talking points like drones and only open their mouths when told to. If we want puppets in our government, it's better to get them from the late Jim Henson's workshop – they'd at least be more entertaining.

      • An Iggy defender, nice to know there's still a few of you out there. He's a decent guy, would make a fine GG but should not, I repeat, should not be leading a major political party. He's completely ill-suited to the task. He will be a happier man once he leaves politics, or at the very least, the leadership.

      • Got to agree with that thought.

        Caucus solidarity (or whatever its private sector equivalent would be called) might be relevant in the private sector. But in this case we are talking about the public business and I want as much public business done out in the open where the public can see whats going on. I want to know what my MP is thinking, why he agrees with the party line or why he is taking a slightly different tack or even the opposite position. I am a tiny bit (but only a tiny bit) more sympathetic to cabinet solidarity.

        This toeing the party line policy goes against the best aspect of a representative democracy.

        Btw, are you really defending Ignatieff as jarrid presumes?

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