I just finished watching the At Issue end of year edition, which is always fascinating for the political junkie crowd. Everyone has their opinion, so here are my thoughts on the questions (feel free to add you own):
BEST POLITICAL PLAY
This one is a slam dunk for me, based on sheer ability to wiggle off the hook. When the Speaker ruled on the Afghan detainee file, it appeared a complete and utter rebuke, the Conservatives had lost, Parliament supreme, the opposition position vindicated. However, as we learned the details of the subsequent agreement, we saw that the Conservatives had managed to make lemonade out of lemons. The government found a process which would delay, which would take the issue off the table and basically forgotten. As we sit here seven months later, it requires some impressive spin to argue that the government didn't make the best out of a perceived failure, so much so, it looks like a downright win at this stage. Factor in the stipulation that this "agreement" ceases to exist when this Parliament dissolves and it's hard to think of better political play.
WORST POLITICAL PLAY
Most people probably don't realize that the day before the UN Security Council membership vote, the Conservatives had attack ads in the CAN, ready to spin any failure as Ignatieff's fault. Those ads never actually saw the light of day, a testament to the ridiculous thought process hatched this strategy. The Conservatives did try to blame Ignatieff, but the unrelenting mockery from all quarters forced them to quickly abandon. When the Conservatives finally argued the loss was due to standing up for Israel, taking tough stands (what they should have spun from the outset), only then did they find cover, but in many respects it was to late. That nobody in the PMO waved a red flag on the "blame Ignatieff" strategy is surprising.
MOST UNDER REPORTED ISSUE
Rights And Democracy. Unless you read Paul Wells- who's been on the story throughout- or the occasional poorly read blog post somewhere, you'd be hard pressed to hear anything on this issue. I confess, I wouldn't have a clue what was going on, if not for Wells work. A bit sad isn't it?
MOST SHAMELESSLY EXPLOITED ISSUE
Crime. We are at the point of absurdity, and yet the Justice Minister can still play offence on the crime agenda file. This government has failed to push some of their bills, let them die, prorogued Parliament necessitating "square one", and yet it remains a central thrust in attacking the opposition. The issue is all the more "shameless" when you consider NO factual basis for much of the argument, the government merely playing off the sensationalist fears to manufacture a crisis where none exists. In some ways, the Conservatives deserve praise, but really it all boils down to nonsensical attack lines, in the name of exploitation.
MOST UNDERRATED POLITICIAN
Gregg picked Paul Dewar. A few months ago I pointed to Dewar as the one to watch, so I wholeheartedly agree with this pick. Dewar is quite nimble, he has a wide range, able to tackle many issues with intelligence and an even temperament, that makes him attractive. I think Dewar is the rising star, that increasingly looks like an heir apparent. Dewar represents the new NDP in my view and he is somebody that might have appeal beyond their traditional base.
MOST OVERRATED POLITICIAN
Peter MacKay. The Dubai affair tells us one thing, MacKay isn't as plugged in as we tend to assume. However, I pick MacKay as overrated because when the heat is on, he is anything but impressive. On the detainee file, it was hard to keep up with the evolving rationalizations and admissions, MacKay almost caught daily in "mis-speaks". We are witnessing a bit of the self inflicting wound routine again on the F35 file, MacKay seems to prefer definitive statements, that later bite him and lead to backtracking. For a supposedly seasoned politician, I find MacKay's inability to show nuance when the spotlight comes, a serious flaw. MacKay is affable, but I still see an empty suit for the most part.
"Most shamelessly exploited issue" - I would have to say the long gun registry. Its been shamelessly exploited by people on both sides of the issue.
I have to agree with that one, the truth was lost in the competing spin for sure.
BTW: I know we have locked horns a few times - but your blog does stimulate some good debate. I will lay off you for the next month or so as I take off for the Far East in search of spiritual enlightenment (lol). Hopefully someone else can express the orange perspective in my absence.
Wow, sounds exciting. Hey, I gave Dewar props and I've backed Layton on detainees. It's not kneejerk partisanship here ;) Good luck.
DL – that is seriously cool. Enjoy the far east.
I agree with both of you by the way on the LGR, but I will also offer this as one of the few good political plays by the opposition this year. Finally the Liberals have shown some differentiation from the Conservatives, and managed to defeat a key plank of the Reform movement. I also notice the Harper government not bothering to whip up the flames on this over the past few months since the defeat their faux ‘private members bill’. Also I don’t think Layton and the NDP handled the issue all that badly considering the position it put them in.
Not to take anything for your excellent candidates Steve, but let’s make this our own version of the At Issue panel. As for my list, and I know I’m parroting a few of the events/names from the real Power Panel…
Best political play –
Brad Wall stopping the sale of Potash Corp. I think it was slick how he succeeded in what Danny Williams failed to do, by cobbling together a coalition of premiers (acting and retired) of various political stripes and placing serious public pressure on the Harper government to block the sale.
Worst political play –
Harper’s second prorogation. I know this happened at the very end of 2009, but the blowback all came in 2010. Remember he was sailing at ~40% in the polls at the end of November last year. The PMO’s story for why it was done kept changing everyday, and Harper went from a cushy lead to being tied with the Liberals at around 30% within two months. He’s never been able to manage a significant lead in the polls ever since. The second prorogation effectively killed Pianoman for good.
Most under-reported issue –
Not just in Canada, but worldwide …the global food crisis. This was on the public’s radar in 2008 after riots were sparked in no less than 40 counties due to rapidly escalating food prices (thanks to food commodities being used as investments). But it all dropped away in 2009 ever since the financial crisis hit and the world dealt with a global recession. The problem is this crisis never went away, in fact it has gotten a lot worse since 2008 with no sign of getting better any time soon. This is a ticking timebomb that no one is reporting anymore. Hunger is the #1 reason for wars remember.
Most over reported story –
Helena Guergis …’nuff said.
Most shamelessly exploited issue –
Hands down, crime. In total agreement there Steve.
Most underrated politician –
Again in total agreement on Paul Dewar. He is definitely the best of the NDP, and a serious problem for the future Liberals should he ever become their leader.
Most overrated politician –
Jim Flaherty. I have yet to hear him get anything right as a Finance Minister, in either a provincial or federal capacity; yet he’s still considered the most competent minister in Harper’s cabinet. More proof our entire media establishment needs a giant enema.
I just went back and looked at the graphs for the polls just prior to this year. It's true, Harper was rolling, best numbers since the coalition, and he's never recovered to those levels since prorogation. That's why I literally laughed when Ivison floated Harper was considering proroguing again. Hello?
I missed that, did Ivison seriously suggest it? Well I totally hope the PMO considers his advice.
Of course when we talk about who is "over-rated" or "under-rated" - its partly a function how you think the person is "rated" in the first place. I notice no one says Tony Clement is "over-rated" and I think that's because there is a bit of a consensus that he is rated very low to begin with - so you can't over-rate someone who everyone gives a "D" or an "F" to in the first place.
On the flip side, you can only be "most under-rated" once - then you have a high rating that you have to live up to! This year's most under-rated politician could next next year's most over-rated!
I think Gregg hit the nail on the head with his worst play of the year--long form census. I dont remember exactly what he said but it was something to the effect that the Tory policy convinced educated voters that the government is anti-science and anti-reason and therefore dangerous. I'd already been convinced of that by the governments drug war policy but the LFC issue really brought it home.
I think that issue will haunt them during the campaign as well. It's a great example to highlight the dangers of a majority, especially because their rationale is so flimsy, common sense.
Allan Gregg: First, it was a classic case of providing a solution to which there was no problem. But secondly it took a natural constituency that isn’t particular inclined towards the Conservatives—better educated, urban voters—and convinced them without any question that these guys are anti-science, that they are anti-reason, that they are dangerous, and I think they provided a motivation that that constituency didn’t have previously to work against the Government.
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