View From the Hill by Keith Beardsley – The End of Year Approaches December 13, 2013

Dr. EvilCFN – Our MPs finally stopped squabbling long enough to agree to depart from Ottawa for their home constituencies. I doubt too many Canadians will miss Question Period or for that matter the attacks and counter-attacks that have become the daily pattern when the House of Commons is sitting.

Other than the Senate scandal, Ottawa politics probably won’t receive much discussion over the next few weeks as Canadians pay attention to what is important, namely family and friends.

Looking back over the last few months, we have seen some indication that political junkies will get their fill as we begin to move into the pre-election stage in our political cycle.

Justin Trudeau has done well and he is clearly improving both in the House and outside. He has demonstrated that he has staying power. I am reminded of Brian Mulroney’s comment (while the Conservatives were running ads belittling Trudeau) that “Anybody who … treats Justin Trudeau with scorn or derision or underestimates him, does so at his own peril.” That was a very astute observation on Mulroney’s part.

Right now the focus is on Trudeau’s attendance in Question Period. Really, do Canadians care if he is up on his feet slinging mud every day? I doubt it. As the Leader of the third party, he and his party get so few questions that his time is better spent doing fundraising, organizing and interviewing potential candidates. Showing up a couple of days a week will still get him some television coverage but also separates him from much of the nastiness we see every day.  If you want to be the anti-Harper you don’t need to be on the attack in Question Period. Let your designated attack dogs do that and keep your hands clean. Trudeau isn’t without flaws and he is still vulnerable on a number of fronts, but he will make the next election very interesting.

We have also seen Thomas Mulcair begin to shine. The Senate scandal has been the gift that keeps on giving for him. He finally tossed away that silly little lectern that he used to read his questions from and which left him looking far too pompous. We now see a man who knows his files and who has become an excellent questioner without reading his notes- something that I had been suggestion he do since elected leader. He still comes across as too angry all the time, which is something he will have to work on. He also needs to designate one or two attack dogs to help him out. It will be fun watching Mulcair and Trudeau with very opposite styles, fight for the anti-Harper vote.

The Prime Minister has survived a little battered and bruised but for now still in the game. Only the hardcore partisans can think that he hasn’t been damaged by the Senate scandal.  He has been, but providing no new information emerges that links him directly to the scandal he still has time to recover. The last cabinet shuffle and prorogation were to help restart the Conservative agenda, but as usual, the whiff of scandal can derail even the best made plans.

He does need to think about who stands in for him in Question Period.  Paul Calandra started off well in that slot, but quickly deteriorated to the point of embarrassment with his answers to legitimate questions.

In the coming months, Harper will have plenty of caucus issues to deal with. Quite a few members of the Conservative caucus have qualified for their pension. How many knowing that the next election will be a tough one will decide it’s time to go? That is the unknown question and once an MP decides to leave, the question becomes when to leave and what is their legacy going to be in the history books? It will be interesting to see which MPs begin introducing Private Members Bills that might ensure their legacy, but not mesh with the views of the Prime Minister.

Add in Michael Chong’s Private Members Bill suggesting ways to reduce a leader’s powers, the first rumours of a change in leadership and a large number of backbenchers facing the decision of whether to run again or pack it in and Harper will have his hands full managing his caucus while dealing with the Trudeau-Mulcair threat.

2013 is almost done. Canadians and their political leaders will hopefully find the time to enjoy their families. Maybe they will return in a better frame of mind in the New Year, but then again do we really think that is possible?

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. To sponsor this column please  email!

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  1. Industry Minister James Moore is sure ending the year on a high note. Imagine having to apologize for simply expressing the view (and policy) of his party.

  2. No matter the context Furtz, the message would come out wrong. Really though, do governments not provide enough funding already to food banks, associations and the like? There are plenty of safety nets available, so I for one, will not canvass my neighbours to see if I need to feed them, we have our own to care for. Help out on a fundraiser? Sure. Offer a kind ear? Yes.
    The government levels take enough from us already to provide for others, it just needs to spent better!

  3. @ Eric. There is no shortage of money. We spend untold billions on asinine circuses like the Olympic games and Pan-Am games etc, while Canada is the only country in the “developed” world that doesn’t have a national housing policy.

  4. Thanks for the validation of my statement “The government levels take enough from us already to provide for others, it just needs to be spent better!”

    May not have a national housing policy, (one did not go through in 2012) but we sure spend enough on homelessness from each level for the estimated 300,000 homeless. So, where does the money come from for this? Which other envelope does it come from? Multiculturalism/immigration? French services? Salaries/benefits of government workers? Higher tax to pay for programs stopping people from providing their own home? Or one of the other ministries even just to scare people into not doing anything.

    Certainly other issues need to be dealt with for these people, mental health, youth, abuse etc. We are a compassionate people, however sooner or later the people providing the tax to pay for others receiving it, has to run out, or their patience……

  5. @ Eric. We’ll have to agree to disagree. In one of the richest countries of the world, it seems to me that having about ten percent of the population living in poverty without adequate food and housing, inexcusable. But I’m not a conservative/Conservative, so what would I know?

  6. Edit… “is inexcusable”

  7. Nothing to disagree about, I think we are both saying government is not spending the money they get from us properly. That is not federal Conservative or Ontario (OMG another billion dollar boondoggle) Liberal thing. All levels play with handouts to programs to get reelected. The federal NDP would be worse and the Ontario NDP are allowing the liberals to continue!
    I would like to see people that need help get help. How much more can the workers give though when we read about waste, crazy electricity prices and manufacturing jobs leaving?

    I think back to a 24 case of beer at 8 dollars, minimum wages about 2 dollars, life was better than now making much more money and we had fewer programs to help.

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