IN THE NEWS ~ The top seven Parliamentarians of 2012
December 18th, 2012 - 9:39am
The hotshots on Parliament Hill
Chantal Hébert, The Journal-Pioneer (Summerside) Opinion, Page A6; THE CHRONICLE-HERALD, A11
The Green party gave the NDP and the Liberals a neck cramp this fall. But it was not because Elizabeth May forced her opposition rivals to spend a byelection campaign looking over their shoulders in Victoria and Calgary Centre that she was selected by her peers as the 2012 Maclean's/L'Actualite Parliamentarian of the Year.
She may be a one-woman show on the Hill but May's undeniable impact on parliamentary life is a timely reminder that, at the best of times, the House of Commons is more than just the sum of 308 indistinguishable (and sometimes undistinguished) partisan bodies.
Here are six others whose voices made a difference in the past year: Bob Rae: The Liberal interim leader renounced his last shot at becoming prime minister when he took himself out of the leadership lineup last spring. Then he continued to get up every morning to go to work at keeping the third-place Liberal party relevant in the Commons.
The upside of Rae's steadfast performance is that the next Liberal leader will inherit a party that has neither fallen off the parliamentary radar nor ended up all over the legislative map. The downside is that he or she will have an extremely tough act to follow.
Many New Democrats breathed a not-so-quiet sigh of relief when Thomas Mulcair took over the reins from rookie interim leader Nycole Turmel earlier this year. Cold sweat on the Liberal benches is more likely to attend the transition from Rae to a permanent successor to Michael Ignatieff.
Peter Julian: If voters are to come to see the NDP as a government-in-waiting, it will have to showcase a credible cabinet-in-waiting. In his strategic position as energy and natural resources critic, the industrious Julian has a major role in the New Democrat makeover and over the fall session the bilingual MP from Burnaby-New Westminster has more than risen to the challenge.
Alexandre Boulerice: When Liberal strategists worry about the potential staying power of the NDP on their party's former Quebec turf, it is because of recruits such as Boulerice. The only Quebec MP who made the Maclean's/L'Actualite honour list - albeit in the second runner-up spot as most promising rising star - the articulate MP for Rosemont-La Petite Patrie is one of the many keepers in the NDP's 2011 election crop in Quebec.
Gordon O'Connor: When the abortion issue predictably landed on the lap of the first Conservative majority government in two decades, no one expected a 70-something retired general to deliver the most forceful defence of a woman's right to choose to terminate a pregnancy ever put forward by a cabinet minister. Stephen Harper's chief government whip did just that last spring. Little could have made clearer the prime minister's intention to keep the issue off the agenda of Parliament.
Jason Kenney: In the corner opposite to O'Connor on abortion rights, the immigration minister broke ranks with Harper on the issue. That vote firmed up Kenney's status as the leading social conservative in cabinet - a title previously held by former Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day. It also ensured that if Kenney runs as Harper's eventual successor, the abortion debate will be front and centre in the Conservative leadership campaign.
Maxime Bernier: When the MP from Beauce was brought back in the cabinet after the last election, his return was expected to spell an end to his policy excursions off the beaten government path. But when the NDP presented a bill designed to ensure that all future officers of Parliament - from the auditor general to the chief electoral officer - be fluently bilingual, Bernier lined up behind it and the government had to reconsider its opposition to the measure.
Not all of Bernier's Conservative colleagues are grateful for that, but then neither are the Parti Quebecois strategists who are on the lookout for a showdown with the Harper government. The sight of Parliament failing to walk the talk of official bilingualism is never very far from the top of the list of Canada-Quebec irritants. Chantal Hebert is a national affairs writer. Her column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.