Parliamentarian of the year, 2011 (most knowledgeable): Joe Comartin

There's always time to read up on things

Photography: Peter Bregg/Maclean's

Joe Comartin reads for roughly two hours each day—often 10 minutes squeezed “here and there”—but he says he longs to read more. There’s always more to know. “I think I read only about half what I’d like to,” the NDP MP for Windsor-Tecumseh tells Maclean’s. The former criminal lawyer is up by 6 a.m. and on the Hill by 7:30 every morning. “I begin my day with preparatory work,” says Comartin, “and paperwork—which accumulates constantly.” Comartin, an expert on House procedure, intelligence services and criminal law, says he prepares extensively for speeches, debates and procedural motions, but often feels unfulfilled when they’re over. “I never feel comfortable we’ve covered enough,” he says. His love of learning makes him an obvious choice for “Most Knowledgeable MP,” and his perspective isn’t limited to politics.


Comartin is a Margaret Atwood fanatic and counts Saskatchewan-born authors Alistair MacLeod and Guy Vanderhaeghe among his favourites, though he can’t pronounce the latter’s name, he’ll freely admit. And he’s a long-time “military buff,” he says, having spent time in the reserves in his youth. The ancient Romans and Mongols, particularly their wartime tactics, are a favourite area of study. When he’s not working—which is extremely rare, he notes—he likes to spend time with his grandchildren or travelling with his wife, often visiting “historical sites that may show up in a novel or article.”