, 12.20.2018 10:12 AM

Kinsella’s year-end Hill Times’ political winners and losers

The year-end political winners and losers column is as clichéd, hackneyed and overdone as it gets.

But no one ever accused this writer of being, you know, original.

So, heretofore and herewith, 2018’s political winners and losers, all jumbled together. Some are found in both categories, so pay attention, Virginia.

Justin Trudeau: winner and loser. Canadians still like him (see: polls) but aren’t sure he’s a grown-up yet (see: India). Also: just when you think he’s weak internationally (see: India), along comes Trump et al. to make him look like a genius. Just when you think he’s weak domestically (see: no pipeline, no electoral reform, no First Nation empowerment, no big legislative achievements), along comes Messrs. Scheer and Singh to make him look like a Parliamentary giant. Just when you think he’s weak ethically (Aga Khan, the grope thing, etc.), along comes serial scandals elsewhere – mainly from the U.S. – that make him look like a saint. The Ronald Reagan of Canadian politics: you know he’s repeating someone else’s talking points when he’s talking to you, but he does it so well, you don’t care.

Andrew Scheer: winner and loser. Like Trudeau, the Conservative leader’s got pluses and minuses. Positive stuff: the economy is faltering, voters are moving right, Trudeau is less popular, and Scheer’s strong on fundraising and GOTV. Negative stuff: Mad Max splits the conservative vote, NDP are cratering, provincial conservative friendly fire, Andy’s still Blandy.

Jagmeet Singh: loser. Ran an amazing leadership campaign. Was impressive as deputy leader of the Ontario NDP. And then…what happened? His caucus distrust/dislike him, his party’s members are dispirited, and he’s about to lead the New Democratic Party to disaster. If Singh loses that Burnaby by-election, no amount of flattering GQ profiles will save him. Worst federal party leader since Stockwell Day, hands down.

Jane Philpott: winner. Considered by Canada’s indigenous leaders to be sincere, effective and focussed.

Carolyn Bennett, er. Um, considered not to be Jane Philpott. Remind us again why we need two ministers for one department?

Doug Ford: winner. About a year ago, the party he leads was leaderless, riven by division, and mired in a #MeToo scandal. About 140 days after that, Ford was elected Premier of Canada’s largest province with a massive majority. Like him or not, Ford is a winner, and he and his capable team have upended the electoral formula in Canada. The Barney Rubble of political Canada, and that’s a complement, Wilma.

Dominic LeBlanc: winner. The best communicator in Justin Trudeau’s cabinet. Likeable and liked. Vulnerable on patronage, but remains the guy to see if your cousin needs a fishing licence without filling out lots of forms and whatnot.

Melanie Joly, loser. The worst cabinet minister in the history of Confederation: rendered our 150th anniversary celebration a debacle; her Netflix deal was a fiasco; and she forgot to mention “Jews” on the side of the new Holocaust Museum. After her historically-bad run in Heritage – where she made Bev Oda look like Margaret Thatcher, and Stockwell Day seem positively Churchillian – Trudeau tried to hide his friend in Tourism, where she would be kept away from sharp objects and hard surfaces. Her presence in cabinet is an ongoing source of rage on the Liberal backbenches. Super-duper loser.

Jason Kenney: winner and loser. He was a gay-hating, abortion-loathing social conservative mouth-breather, but now he wants Albertans to believe he’s become a SNAG, sensitive new-age guy. No one believes it for a minute, but he’s going to win anyway.

John Tory, winner. Toronto’s mayor – on whose 2018 campaign, full disclosure, this writer toiled – won 65 per cent of the vote against a tough and credible opponent. That’s a feat no federal leader has achieved, ever. As mayor of Canada’s biggest city, he has more clout than any MP and any minister. Likes me, which is a major plus, though puzzling.

Francois Legault, loser. How does one lose by winning? By willingly and needlessly becoming an anti-Muslim, anti-anglophone bigot the day after the election, that’s how. This guy is going single-handedly revive separatism – the desire for the rest of Canada to separate from an increasingly-intolerant Quebec, that is.

Pablo Rodriguez, winner. Smart, charming, affable and a welcome antidote to the calamitous Joly era. Winning praise from Heritage stakeholders for his deft handling of cultural issues in an era when culture has become a major hot button. One to watch.

Svend Robinson, winner. And he doesn’t even have a seat yet! Still remembered as the most effective Parliamentarian in generations. Will he return from Europe to run in this writer’s old stomping grounds, in Burnaby North Seymour? Hope so. His party, and Canada, could benefit from Svend’s svengali touch. The Socialist Family Robinson say: Svend, come home!

Trudeau’s backbench, winners and losers: There is a lot of talent behind the Liberal leader, dutifully (but morosely) clapping every time Trudeau repeats Butts/Telford talking points. But their talents go unrewarded. Some are reaching the conclusion that they will never get into cabinet, and are getting decidedly restless. Watch for more floor-crossings and acts of rebellion in the New Year. Could get bouncy.

We could go on, but editor Kate Malloy (another winner) says the Hill Times (in its 20th winning winning year!) doesn’t have the space.

So, to our winning readers and subscribers, we say thank you – and happy holidays!


  1. Matt says:

    Regarding Trudeau’s backbench: I don’t know about the dutifully clapping every time Trudeau speaks. I watch specifically to see the Liberal bench reactions to Trudeau’s statements in the HOC. There is a lot less clapping now. Half the time they don’t even look up from their smart phones.

  2. Ever so slightly acquainted with Pablo. Glad he made it in. If the PMO doesn’t blow it, Rodriguez will be on the fast-track for cabinet promotion. No question.

  3. Gord Tulk says:

    I will say just one thing on the above list:

    Watching Jason Kenney – the hardest working politician in Canada, the Ken Hitchcock of Canadian politics – lead me (and others?) to think that his ambitions do not stop at being the leader of the Alberta legislature.

  4. Canada can’t unilaterally divorce itself from one of its constituent parts. But you are on the right track, only in reverse: Trudeau will give Legault the same constitutional treatment he gave Couillard.

    That’s when Legault will “rediscover” his sovereignist frenzy, and the rest as they say, will be history.

  5. doconnor says:

    “he and his capable team have upended the electoral formula in Canada.”

    Winning against an long-in-the-tooth, unpopular government is the oldest formula in the book.

  6. the salamander says:

    .. have some truly minor quibbles
    Barring a meteor strike..
    think you’re batting 995.00

  7. Christian says:

    I’d say Ford fits the ‘winner/loser’ category. winner as per your points above but loser b/c every policy file he’s touched so far has turned into a dumpster fire. The OPP mess, the francophone/language rights debacle, the downgrading of Ontario’s credit rating because of his fiscal policies, sex-ed, his amateurish performance at the First Minister’s meeting, and now the recent and out of the blue cuts in the education budget. I expect more of the same or worse in 2019

  8. Robert White says:

    As the political neophyte that I am in comparison with mostly everyone on this website I, for one, cannot fathom having a list a political winners with first including Minister Kristia Freeland, the dynamo of Canadian politics.

    This is a watershed year for gender parity in politics in CANADA. Freeland is the rockstar politician IMHO.


    • Robert White says:

      Edit: ‘…winners with first’ should read ‘..winners without first’

      sorry bout that.

      • Mark says:

        I agree completely. Freeland is likely the reason we didn’t fare worse with the US Marine Corps trade deal. BTW, Scheer’s sheer nonsense that he could have got a better deal speaks volumes about his judgment.

        I would, however, put Freeland in the winner and loser categories, as her Saudi tweet has had repercussions far beyond what she envisioned.

    • Ronald O'Dowd says:


      Guess who my choice is for the next LPC leader?

      To ask the question, is to answer it. BINGO!

  9. Dork in East York says:

    Yep, I’ve been hearing the same about some frustrated Liberal MPs. Some were ‘hand picked’ star candidates in 2015 but have been collecting dust in the back benches. Others have big egos and aren’t satisfied with their Parliamentary Secretary roles. A certain bespectacled Toronto MP and veteran Durham MP come to mind.

  10. Fred from BC says:

    And yet, if an election were held today he would still win it, wouldn’t he?

    • Michael says:

      That is to be determined. His party leads the polls, but not by much. But the first 6 months of a majority mandate are not when a party should drop 5% in the polls.

      Ford’s chickens are going to come home to roost over the next year. Voters are going to realize that Ford does not have magic pixie dust to give out tax cuts, improve services, and balance the budget like he promised during the election. Add that to the PC panache for scoring goals on their own net, and I think you will see him continue his drop in the polls.

  11. Voice O'Reason says:

    If JK is gay-hating then he’s self-hating…

  12. Will Posthumous says:

    Not according to any polls I’ve seen. Doug’s personal popularity is also tanking too.


  13. Michael says:

    That is to be determined. His party leads the polls, but not by much. But the first 6 months of a majority mandate are not when a party should drop 5% in the polls.

    Ford’s chickens are going to come home to roost over the next year. Voters are going to realize that Ford does not have magic pixie dust to give out tax cuts, improve services, and balance the budget like he promised during the election. Add that to the PC panache for scoring goals on their own net, and I think you will see him continue his drop in the polls.

  14. Ned Ludd says:

    Jagmeet Singh has to be the biggest disappointment in Canadian politics since the Liberal’s annointing of Michael Ignatieff. When the immolation of his party is complete, perhaps Nathan Cullen(the real leader of the party) will be able to rise from the ashes, and bring his party back to respectability. Note to Dippers…the other parties went to a points system when they brought in one person/one vote to elect their leaders. You might consider it for next time. Thanks again to Mr. Kinsella for allowing us armchair observers an august forum to rage, vent, and pontificate on the issues of the day. Happy Holidays to you and your family.

    • doconnor says:

      Singh mostly won because the media hyped him, the same way Layton won. People forget the years of slow growth under him.

      One difference is Singh took over after the NDP’s third best result. Makes it harder to improve from that.

      • Fred from BC says:

        Yeah, that ‘third best result’ was almost entirely due to the collapse of the BQ and was clearly a protest vote, not a sudden huge surge in popularity for the NDP (as they so desperately tried to spin it). Ask Rachael Notley about it after the next Alberta election.

        • doconnor says:

          Your confusing the 2011 Orange Crush election under Layton which was, of course, the NDPs best election. The gains where not just in Quebec. Even if you exclude Quebec, the NDP still won more seats then ever.

          The NDP’s second best election in terms of seat percentage is the 1988 Free Trade election.

          The NDP’s third best election was the most recent 2015 election, but was still considered a significant letdown from 2011.

          • Fred from BC says:

            You’re right, I don’t know much about the federal NDP and don’t really keep track of their winning and losing. What I do know, though, is that they will never, ever win a federal election and form government. Canadians just won’t allow that to happen, thankfully.

          • doconnor says:

            People need do better at understanding that others can have different opinion then them.

  15. Beth Higginson says:

    I agree – there are only two policies that Doug Ford is implementing that I like – school teachers taking math tests and having retail cannibis stores.

    There will be blowback from Doug Ford that will help the Federal Liberals such as the following.

    How did he ever think that he could make his friend the OPP Commission – that issues is not going away.


  16. Beth Higginson says:

    Preferred Prime Minister – Nanos tracking has Trudeau as the preferred choice as PM at 39.3 per cent of Canadians followed by Scheer (23.5%), Singh (6.5%), May (5.4%) and Bernier (3.9%). Twenty per cent of Canadians were unsure whom they preferred.

    Qualities of a Good Political Leader – More than half of Canadians (56.6%) believe Trudeau has the qualities of a good political leader while 43.6 per cent believe Scheer has the qualities of a good political leader. Close to three in ten (29.0%) say Jagmeet Singh has the qualities of a good political leader, while 37.9 per cent believe the same about May. One in five (18.8%) believe Bernier has the qualities of a good political leader 20.2 per cent said Beaulieu has the qualities of a good political leader (QC only).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *