On Nov. 15, Maclean’s celebrated the best of Ottawa with the ninth edition of our Parliamentarians of the Year awards, which were handed out based on the results of a secret-ballot survey of their peers in the House of Commons. Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux was honoured as the most knowledgeable MP in 2016. View the full list of award winners.
Kevin Lamoureux calls them his “cheat notes.” It’s a series of folders stuffed with factoids on all sorts of public policy issues and tucked into his desk in the House of Commons. Together, they give Lamoureux the informational backbone to riff on virtually any topic that lands on the floor of the House. “Generally speaking, a 20-minute speech is pretty easy, but it depends a lot on the subject matter,” he says. “You want me to talk about the budget? Twenty minutes is a cake-walk. You want to talk about one aspect, something really small, 20 minutes can be a challenge.”
The Winnipeg North Liberal MP has a folder keeping track of the positions and machinations of each of the three major parties on various files, and a series of issue folders filled with tidbits, notes and references he jots down as they surface on topics such as trade, Indigenous peoples, seniors, health or poverty. It’s one of the reasons he’s often held the title of most loquacious parliamentarian since he was elected in a 2010 by-election, and why his colleagues consider him a burbling font of political and legislative knowledge. “I love debate,” he says. “If it were up to me, you wouldn’t be able to read speeches inside the chamber. I like it when people just say what they really think.”
His love of debate took root around the family dinner table in the early 1970s, when a 10-year-old Lamoureux became a fan of Pierre Trudeau, in part because the then-prime minister was a distinct underdog in the Prairies where Lamoureux grew up. An uncle he loved enjoyed knocking the stuffing out of the PM and watching his young nephew gamely defend the leader he thought deserved more respect.
Later, once he became a Manitoba MLA in 1988, Lamoureux was determined that his tiny, decimated Liberal caucus would function like a party, so he ramped up his self-debriefing tactics to be able to speak to any issue or bill. Over his 20 years in provincial politics, Lamoureux held virtually every critic portfolio, and he brought that appetite for wonkery to Ottawa when he was elected federally. “Year after year, that’s all I would do, and the real interesting stuff would stick,” he says. Then he chuckles and adds with a touch of self-mockery: “Many would suggest I had a pretty boring life; my life revolved around politics.”
Now, as parliamentary secretary to the government’s House leader, Lamoureux feels lucky to have a role that makes good use of his penchant for research and debate. “I had no problems during the boring times,” he notes.
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