Parliament SPUTTERING TO A CLOSE – View From the Hill by Keith Beardsley – December 16, 2010

Cornwall ON – The House will shut down today and MPs will return to their ridings for the Christmas break. Hopefully they will all have a chance to rejuvenate and return with fresh ideas and a little more common sense.

The Conservative front bench needs a shake up and with three or four ministers rumoured to not run again, it’s a good opportunity for Harper to bring in some fresh new talent. There are several MPs and Parliamentary Secretaries who can step up and bring new ideas to the cabinet table. Crime bill after crime bill serves a purpose (most could have been put into one omnibus bill), but lets see some new ideas. As polls repeatedly show, the Conservatives have been unable to expand their appeal since 2006 as they remain locked between 31 and 37% in the polls. Some new initiatives perhaps in the area of the environment or on consumer issues might help them to broaden their base.

The new Chief of Staff will also be taking over January 1st. He has quite the task ahead of him, not least of which is repairing the low morale in minister’s offices. It will also be interesting to see how he “recalibrates” PMO and if he devolves some of PMO’s control back to minister’s offices where it belongs.

The Liberals still appear to be lost. Their performance is very uneven and one gets the sense that they are waiting for something to happen. At the rate they are going they could wait a long time. One positive item is that Ignatieff is finally learning how to ask a question. While this aspect of his performance has improved, it hasn’t paid off in positive media coverage. Their critics seem almost uninterested and the Question Period strategy still leaves one wondering if they are seeing the same media stories as the rest of us. Often the Leaders questions and the follow-up ones are completely unconnected and other than Bob Rae who has performed well, it is hard to identify another critic who stands out from the crowd. There is a lot of talent on that side of the House, but if it’s not being used properly then someone has to be held accountable and changes made.

The NDP remain a bit of a mystery. It is almost as if they have lost their way. Over the years, whether you agreed with their policies or not, the NDP could always be counted on to ask solid, well researched questions. For decades their MPs were a force to be reckoned with in the House. Today they appear to be drifting, their questions lack vigour, their policies appear stale; critics seem to be marking time instead of making their mark in the house. I get the sense that they are deflated, perhaps they have recognized that their antics to form a coalition and somehow get into government at any cost have severely backfired. Their constant stance that the Opposition should unite and vote the government down on issue after issue is at odds with them looking for the government to throw them a bone if it wishes to stay alive.

I expect next year we will see more pre-election manoeuvring from the Liberals and NDP as each tries to prove they are the only voice for “progressive voters.”  I recall similar destructive behaviour on the right from 1993 to 2003. All in all it will play out to the Conservatives benefit as it is always a good thing when your opponents expend time and ammunition firing at each other and not at you.

Keith Beardsley is a senior strategist for True North Public Affairs in Ottawa, as well as a blogger and political analyst. He can often be found running or cycling on his favorite bike trails.

Best WesternEOTB


  1. Great article Keith.

  2. “Sputtering” says it. With Harper showing the way, Canada’s Parliament has become trivial pursuit.

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