They say the sun only shines until supper time: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was voted the most valuable politician in Ottawa but more people would rather dine with former U.S. president Barack Obama, according to this year’s 21st Annual All Politics Poll of politicos and The Hill Times readers who took part in the Forum Research survey.
Although the big man on Sussex Drive has swooned Canadians with flashes of Chewbacca socks, an unmatched selfie game, and unquestionably good looks and great hair, he was no match for Mr. Obama as the top dinner date pick, who has his own smooth charm, sharp intellect, and powerful social conscience.
Some 108 people, including 13 Liberals, 13 Conservatives and four New Democrats participated in the online survey conducted between Nov. 7 and Dec. 1. Results were weighed based on party standing in the House of Commons, where the Grits hold 183 seats, the Tories 97, the NDP 44, the Bloc Quebecois 10, and the Green Party 1.
“The honeymoon’s off a bit after two years. It’s bound to happen,” Lorne Bozinoff, president and CEO of Forum Research, told The Hill Times. “There were some opportunities that the Liberals missed and the whole finance schmozzle really was part of that.”
Rounding out the top-four MVPs are Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, and veteran NDP MP Nathan Cullen. NDP leader Jagmeet Singh didn’t make it onto any best politicians lists in the poll, suggesting for now, the man’s not hot, or at least, off-riding.
“She’s got the free trade and NAFTA file,” Mr. Bozinoff said of Ms. Freeland. “Anyone who has to deal with Trump [has] got their challenges there.”
Taking home the No. 1 Least Valuable Politician category in 2017 is Finance Minister Bill Morneau, probably the most Christmas-ready of all in Ottawa after a fall session marked by opposition jabs on taxes and his own past financial and ethical decisions. It’s unclear if he’s wishing it all never happened this Christmas, like George Bailey did in the movie classic It’s a Wonderful Life, but he definitely could use a guardian angel.
Following Mr. Morneau in the year’s Least Valuable Politician category is the prime minister himself, NDP MP and former leader Tom Mulcair, and Mr. Scheer. Mr. Mulcair’s “fading away,” Mr. Bozinoff aptly said. “He didn’t seem to go out with a bang.”
Topping off the Best Cabinet Minister category is Ms. Freeland, who is leading the way on a NAFTA file that was ranked the most important of all in this poll. Following her are Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna.
Among the ministers receiving Christmas coal from the Liberal Party, if it were up to those polled, Mr. Morneau tops the list as worst-performing cabinet member, followed by Status of Women Minister Maryam Monsef, House Leader Bardish Chagger, and Crown-Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett.
Conservative MP Matt Jeneroux, the party’s science critic, was voted top up-and-comer, edging Liberal MP and Mr. Morneau’s finance undersecretary Joël Lightbound. Mr. Jeneroux, whose strength is outreach with stakeholders, said he was “humbled” but had a few words for Mr. Lightbound, who won in the Rising Star category of Maclean’s 2017 Parliamentarians in November.
“Obviously The Hill Times is way more prestigious than Maclean’s magazine. I’ll have to rub that in Mr. Lightbound’s face,” he told us.
The two had served together on the House Ethics Committee, and Mr. Jeneroux, in Scheer-like fashion, cracked a dad joke: “we thought we were about the same age, but he’s actually ‘Lightbound’ years younger than me.” Mr. Jeneroux is 36 and Mr. Lightbound is 29.
Coming in third and fourth are Tory MPs Pierre Poilievre and Michelle Rempel. It might be a stretch to call them up-and-comers, however, as both held ministerial roles in the previous Conservative government. Ms. Rempel has served in Parliament since 2011, Mr. Poilievre since 2004.
Mr. Scheer made the biggest political comeback of the year, say our readers—no surprise given how he jolted into the Conservative Party leadership in the last round of balloting in May.
Second was Veteran Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan, who has dealt with mental illness and also had to have emergency surgery last month for a gastrointestinal obstruction. But after returning to Ottawa, O’Regan was voted one of Canada’s 150 mental health “Difference Makers” by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Kudos to him.
Some folks on the Hill are still reeling from the breakup former Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose had with federal politics earlier this year, as she was voted the person most would like to see make a comeback. Ms. Ambrose, who departed Ottawa to work at a Washington think-tank, impressed many with her sensibility, intelligence, and generally all-around likability.
Up next in the category is former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has been rather incognito this year minus slipping into the news last month because of a critical memo on NAFTA he penned.
Mr. Goodale keeps things classy, as he was voted as the cabinet member who most respects Parliament. Rounding the list is Ms. McKenna, Ms. Philpott, and Treasury Board President Scott Brison.
Mr. Goodale wrote by email that he first visited the Hill as a high school student in 1966, then returned in 1974 to serve a total of 30 years. “Despite its rough edges and disappointments, the House of Commons is the central institution of our democracy. I try to treat it and its members respectfully,” Mr. Goodale, who served both Trudeau the younger and elder, told The Hill Times.
Mr. Goodale was also ranked the most approachable member of cabinet, followed by Ms. McKenna. The Ottawa-based MP has also kept things classy by donating a Barbie doll to a toy drive after it had been sent to her office shortly after now-former Conservative MP Gerry Ritz and a Rebel Media reporter called her “climate Barbie.”
Disabilities and Sport Minister Kent Hehr cracked third on the list of most approachable cabinet members, although it’s worth mentioning the poll ended on Dec. 1. He promised to be more sensitive when speaking with stakeholders after two Larry David-esqe cringe moments making just about everyone on the Hill face palm. He beat out Mr. Trudeau, who placed fourth.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall was voted the top public figure you’d wish had run in the last election, followed by former Conservative Justice Minister Peter MacKay, who still has some fans on the Hill. Jack-of-many-titles and former Liberal interim leader Bob Rae cracked third place, beating out astronaut Chris Hadfield, who ranked forth.
Taxes was voted the Issue Federal Politicians Most Shamelessly Exploited this year. “Morneau’s had his challenges this year, that’s for sure,” Mr. Bozinoff aptly put it. Next was immigration/refugees/the border, the middle class, and then pot legalization.
Looking ahead to 2018, NAFTA was voted the Most Important Issue facing the country in 2018. Mr. Trump has the potential to throw a really big wrench at Mr. Trudeau with his “Make America Great Again” policies.
Up next were debt/deficit/spending, climate change/environment, and then foreign affairs/international relations excluding trade issues.
It appears voters played it safe in voting for democratic/electoral reform as the Political Promise Least Likely To Be Kept in 2018, as the Liberals already did a 180 turn on the issue last year. Second, was the budget/debt/deficit, as Mr. Morneau has said the Liberal government will continue to run budget deficits despite an election promise to return to balanced budgets by 2019. Next on the list are marijuana legalization, promised by Canada Day, and taxes/tax reform.
Partisan politics/lack of co-operation was voted the Biggest Problem Facing Parliament this year. On that note, it’s always a good time to revisit the late Liberal MP Arnold Chan’s poignant speech made in June about listening to each other and elevating debate. Lack of agenda/not dealing with issues, disrespectful behaviour, and ethics/credibility also topped the list.
It was the year of Mr. Morneau and the finance file, according to our voters, which was tapped as the Biggest Political News Story of the Year. NAFTA and Jagmeet Singh and the NDP leadership race followed.
The media and culture
Rosemary Barton topped the list of Favourite TV Talking Heads. Ms. Barton struck fear into hearts of politicians who tried to hide behind talking points when she hosted CBC’s Power & Politics, and recently moved to co-anchor the network’s flagship news show The National.
Next up is Chantal Hébert, a Toronto Star and The Hill Times columnist and regular TV guest on CBC’s At Issue panel, who’s widely respected for her level-headed takes on Canadian politics. Two Postmedia commentators and on-again off-again TV go-ers Rex Murphy and Andrew Coyne cracked the top four. Despite print being his home-turf, Mr. Coyne recently hosted Power & Politics, and did a pretty good job.
As for the talking head voters most wanted silenced, Rebel Media’s Ezra Levant topped the list. “He’s a little out there for a lot of people,” Mr. Bozinoff mildly puts it. Up next was Ms. Barton and CBC or anyone at the public broadcaster, followed by CBC commentator Susan Smith. Some of our voters clearly have beef with the the network.
The spirit of the ’60s Trudeaumania hasn’t exhausted itself, as Pierre Elliott Trudeau was voted the most admired former prime minister. Up-next is the Lester Pearson, who many say crafted a modern Canada based on multilateralism and a strong social welfare net.
Conservatives Brian Mulroney and Mr. Harper made the list as third and forth. Mr. Bozinoff said Mr. Mulroney, although tarred by the Schreiber-Airbus affair and having left office in 1993 deeply unpopular, seems to be making a legacy “renaissance.”
As for the Best Political Book this Year, voters picked What Happened by Hillary Clinton, followed by Brand Command by Alex Marland. Steve Paikin’s Bill Davis: Nation Builder, and Not So Bland After All cracked number three, followed by Susan Delacourt’s Shopping for Votes.
After Mr. Obama, Mr. Trudeau came in at a distant second for person you’d most like to invite to dinner, followed by Mr. Harper and Mr. Scheer.
“That’s the perfect evening. First, dinner with Obama and then curling up with Hillary’s book,” Mr. Bozinoff jokes. “What does that say about Canadian politics? Is it too bland or boring?”
D’Arcy McGee’s was the favourite watering hole in the Ottawa bubble, with a majority of voters picking it over Brixton’s, an NDP hangout, and the Riviera, a favourite of the Tories. The bar at the eastern end of Sparks Street is a favourite of the Liberals, and also beat out the Metropolitain.
Stumble into D’Arcy McGee’s on a cold night, and you might find a staffer or official who’s had a little too much to drink—oft-begin stories told from the Hill.
The Hill Times