Things are slow on the political scene in the great white north. For Kossacks interested in Canadian politics, this is a good time to review some high and low points of 2006 and prognosticate about what lays ahead for 2007.
The Hill Times newspaper conducted an All Politics Poll, rank the most valuable and least valuable politicians for 2006, as well as ranking pols in several other categories. Respondents included "166 Hill staffers, MPs, Senators, lobbyists, strategists, an academic and party members" so the whole political spectrum was included.
Guess who was chosen as 2006's Most Valuable Politician? Stephen Harper, for the second year in a row, with 38% of the vote.
Top choices for Least Valuable Politician included Paul Martin, Joe Volpe and Peter McKay.
I thought the next question was intriguing. Which public figure do you wish had run in the last election? Nineteen per cent of respondents chose Frank McKenna, followed by Ed Broadbent, David Suzuki and Bob Rae.
Favourite Up-and-Comer Politician?
#1. Liberal MP Mark Holland
#2. Conservative MP Michael Chong
#3. Liberal MP Navdeep Bains
Biggest Political Comeback of the Year? Bob Rae was the big winner here with 33% of the vote followed by Stockwell Day and Stephen Harper.
Who is the political figure you'd most like to see make a comeback?
Frank McKenna with 11 per cent of the vote followed by former N.B. Conservative premier Bernard Lord and former Reform Party leader Preston Manning.
What issue have politicians most shamelessly exploited for political gain? Both the Cons and the Opposition accused the other side of exploiting Afghanistan for political gain. Other issues chosen in this category included same-sex marriage and Peter McKay's dog slur against Belinda Stronach.
What is the most important issue facing the country?
What is the most important issue that politicians aren't addressing?
Which political promise is least likely to be kept? First choice winner here was the healthcare wait-times guarantee. The Cons are already trying to sweep this issue under the carpet. Respondents also selected the fiscal imbalance, abolition of the gun registry and tax reductions.
Best Political Book of the Year?
Maclean's columnist Paul Wells won top place with 20 per cent of the vote for his account of the events preceding up to the election of the Harper Conservatives with his frothy Right Side Up: The Fall of Paul Martin and the Rise of Stephen Harper's New Conservatism. Don Martin, columnist for the Calgary Herald, earned second place with his book, Belinda: The Political and Private Life of Belinda Stronach with 14 per cent of the vote. And speaking of frothy, last year's winner, The Secret Mulroney Tapes: Unguarded Confessions of a Prime Minister, by Peter C. Newman won third place with eight per cent of the vote.
Who is your favourite talking head?CTV NewsNet's Mike Duffy, followed by columnist Chantal Hébert.
Which talking head would you most like to silence? I thought this was a little mean-spirited but I guess the folks in Ottawa don't like the way Jane Taber is filling in for Mike Duffy. Second choice was former prime minister Paul Martin's director of communications, Scott Reid.
Which former prime minister do you most admire? This is a no-brainer: Pierre Trudeau. Surprisingly, Jean Chrétien won second place this year with 18 per cent of the vote.
Best Cabinet Minister in 2006?
#1. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty
#2.Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice
Funny. They didn't choose Rona Ambrose.
Weakest Cabinet Minister in 2006?
Oh, here she is: Environment Minister Rona Ambrose
Which Cabinet minister most respects Parliamentary democracy? My answer is, is the Cabinet truly democratic when the boss makes all the decisions and muzzles his Ministers? However the respondents chose Government House Leader and Minister of Democratic Reform Rob Nicholson.
The Most Approachable Member of Cabinet?
Immigration Minister Monte Solberg, left, may have a low profile, but in Conservative circles that didn't stop participants from picking him as the Most Approachable Cabinet Minister in 2006. The smooth-talking and humorous Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl took second place with 12 per cent, closely followed by the more bombastic but scrappy Treasury Board President John Baird at 11 per cent.
What is the biggest problem facing Parliament itself?
Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay's slur against his old girlfriend Liberal MP Belinda Stronach as a "dog," highlighted an atmosphere of mud-slinging in the House and the lack of House decorum was picked as the No. 1 problem facing Parliament. It was picked by 30 per cent of participants. The problem, highlighted by daily scraps in the 45-minute Question Period and subsequent daily points of order, was followed by the actual minority government itself as a problem facing Parliament with 11 per cent and Parliament's irrelevance with five per cent.
You've got to be kidding! Our best political pundits think that MacKay's little snit was biggest problem facing parliament??? Oh, I get it, they mean the rude and unruly atmosphere in the House.
The Biggest Political News Story in 2006?
#1. The election of the Conservative minority government on Jan. 23, 2006.
#2. The Liberal leadership convention earned second place with 15 per cent.
Which House and Senate committee is the best on Parliament Hill?
#1 House. The Public Accounts Committee, led by Grit MP Shawn Murphy
#1 Senate. National Security and Defence Committee, led by Grit Sen. Colin Kenny
Which House and Senate committee is a complete waste of time?
#1 House. Status of Women Committee -- No shit, Sherlock. I think everyone got the message loud and clear that this committee is now irrelevant to the Harpocrites.
#1 Parliament. Joint Standing Committee on the Library of Parliament
Who in the world would you most like to invite to dinner?
#1. Bill Clinton
#2. Nelson Mandela
Well, that was all very interesting. I particularly like to see who gets the nod as a promising up-and-comer because all us folks out here in TV-land might not see much of the rookies.
Now if you have had enough of looking back at 2006, let's look forward to 2007.
The first story of the year is the standing of the major parties in the most recent polls. Why is this important? Because it gives us some idea of the likelihood of an election in the near future.
Is this good news or bad news? The Cons and the Libs are tied in the latest Decima Research poll.
The Decima Research survey conducted December 27-30 and provided exclusively to The Canadian Press, suggests the Conservatives had 34 per cent support nationally, compared with 31 per cent for the Liberals. The difference is within the poll's 3.1-percentage-point margin of error.
The survey also indicated the NDP had 15 per cent support, the Bloc Quebecois 10 per cent and the Green party eight per cent.
We can call this good news because the Cons don't look to be winning a majority any time in the near future but bad news because the Libs aren't strong enough to bring down the government yet so we may be stuck with Harper running the show for a while longer.
Here's another thing that makes a federal election less likely: we could see as many as nine provinces and territories holding elections in 2007. Definites include NWT, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador. Maybes include Alberta, PEI and Nova Scotia. That's a lot of political energy focused on provincial and territorial politics so federal parties may decide to build up their reserves for another year before going back into battle.
It looks like another year of the Harpocrites for Canadians.
This diary is cross-posted in a slightly modified form at The Next Agenda.