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

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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