Sunday, December 22, 2013

Top 5 MPs of 2013

{Below is a version of column I submitted to several B.C. Interior newspapers in late December 2013.--MC}

Allow me to start the New Year  on a positive note by presenting my choices for the Top Five MPs thus far in Canada’s 41st Parliament. If  a majority of MPs were anything like these people, our democracy would be experiencing a renaissance.

1.      Michael Chong (Conservative – Wellington Halton Hills). Mr. Chong is not your typical Conservative backbencher.  In November, 2006 he resigned from the Harper Cabinet on a matter of principle—to  protest Prime minister Harper’s motion recognizing Quebec as a nation within Canada. He sensibly supported  the Kyoto Protocol in 2004.  Since then, Chong has also been one of this country’s leading advocates of parliamentary reform: his Private Member’s Bill, entitled The Reform Act, 2013, would restore the historic role of MPs and bring Canada more into line with other parliamentary democracies   by enabling party caucuses  to trigger leadership reviews, make decisions about membership in caucus,   and choose the chairs of party caucuses. The bill would also take away the prime minister’s power to veto riding nominations. 

2.     Thomas Mulcair (NDP—Leader of the Opposition). As a McLean’s Magazine cover story once declared,  “ Stephen Harper has Met his Match”.  When Mulcair demanded answers about the de-regulatory and de-funding decisions taken by the federal government that led up to the Lac Megantic tragedy, the only people who complained were Liberal and Conservative politicians.  But it was his skillful skewering of the prime minister over the Senate Scandal that was his finest hour. According to  CBC’s At Issue panelist Bruce Anderson, “Tom Mulcair has owned Question Period”. Rex Murphy adds that compared to Justin Trudeau, “Mulcair looks like a man ready for a step up.”  I agree.

3.     Elizabeth May ( Leader—Green Party of Canada).  Ms. May has until recently had the  luxury of leading a caucus of one (herself), but she has long tried to facilitate cooperative behavior across party lines, for the sake not only of the environment and climate change, but for the sake of democratic reform as well.  Her MP newsletter makes good reading, because it is not simply toeing a party line or trashing opponents.  Mclean’s Magazine—which asks every MP to vote for their top picks—named her Parliamentarian of the Year in 2012, and Hardest Working MP in 2013. The Hill Times, which uses a survey of political pundits to pick its winners, recently named her runner –up as most Valuable MP.

4.     Craig Scott (NDP—Official Opposition Critic for Democratic and Party Reform).  I knew Mr. Scott when we were both Rhodes Scholars at Oxford University in the mid-1980s.  Since then I have watched him become one of the leading experts of  International Law in Canada, a professor at Osgoode Hall, and then step into Jack Layton’s shoes in Toronto-Danforth. He has been the perfect person to carry the file on parliamentary and electoral reform, which has become an urgent priority because of  the way that our current government has made evasive prorogations, omnibus budgets, suppression of science and taxpayer-funded propaganda all-too routine. 

5.     Stephane Dion (Liberal-St. Laurent Cartierville).  Respect for the Constitution and respect for the Environment  have been the twin hallmarks of Mr. Dion’s parliamentary career.  Like Michael  Chong, he has been a strong opponent of appeasing Quebec separatism, and like Mr. Chong, he has been working hard recently to make up for the democratic shortcomings of his leader. After  Justin Trudeau announced  that he favoured  an electoral reform that would do little to make everyone’s vote count and little to help national unity, Dion went to work behind the scenes to promote a more genuinely democratic alternative. 

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