“Lobbyist has become a bit of a dirty word these days,” admits Alberta MP Ted Menzies. But the former president of the Western Canadian Grain Growers is not afraid to acknowledge his past as an L-word. He was elected to the Commons in 2004, at 52, after a dual career as a working farmer and globe-trotting representative of Canadian agriculture. “When I’m sitting in a committee,” he says, “I never forget what it’s like to be there as a witness, on the other side of the table. Not every politician has that experience.”
Menzies has broken Liberal Paul Szabo’s string of three consecutive victories as hardest-working MP in our poll. While Szabo is a detail-oriented bill-drafter and the recognized master of the all-nighter, Menzies dazzles with a masochistic appetite for travel.
Being the member for Macleod means having intimate knowledge of goings-on throughout a riding larger than Haiti. His job as parliamentary secretary to the minister of finance requires him to be ready to rub elbows with politicians at international meetings like last week’s accession conference of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Develoment in Paris. Last summer, he added to his packed schedule by taking charge of the cross-country town halls on the future of Canadian pension arrangements. He does it all while staying well-briefed and, opponents say with grudging admiration, unshakably on-message.
Being a grown-up farm kid, says Menzies, may give him a natural advantage when it comes to work habits. “Living on a farm is like living in the middle of a factory floor,” he says. “When you look out your window there’s always something that needs doing.” If you love it, he adds, it doesn’t feel like work. So far, he feels the same way about politics. “I have no ambition to quit or slow down,” he says. “The time will come when I’ll get tired of flying back and forth, commuting between Ottawa and Claresholm, Alta. But I honestly don’t see that day yet.”