, 12.28.2020 04:15 PM

My latest in Sun Media: the best and worst public figures in 2020

Here’s my list of public figures, from worst to best, in 2020:

Ranking the worst

1. Justin Trudeau: Did OK at start of pandemic. CERB was a good program. But blew any goodwill with WE scandal. Oozes insincerity. Will probably win again.

2. Erin O’Toole: Smarter than Andrew Scheer, which isn’t hard. Ran as a social conservative, won leadership, executed a whiplash-inducing about-face. Became a progressive conservative. Set self back months with idiotic claim that genocidal residential schools were for “education.”

3. Jagmeet Singh: Shovels Trudeau’s driveway, washes Trudeau’s car, jumps off any bridge Trudeau tells him to. Not a party leader as much as a Liberal Party staffer.

4. Elizabeth May: Who? What? More importantly, why?

5. Maxime Bernier: See Elizabeth May, above.

6. Patty Hajdu: Alleged to be federal Minister of Health. Told us all to stay at home, flew hither and yon at taxpayers’ expense. Told us all to wear masks, didn’t herself when on aforementioned taxpayer-subsidized trips. Other than that stuff, doing great.

7. Derek Sloan: If knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing cavemen are your choice, Tory MP Sloan is your guy. Otherwise an ongoing embarrassment to his riding, his party, and the nation.

8. Bill Morneau: It’s not nice to pick on the politically dead, but no one ever said we were nice. Forgotten French villas! Unbalanced budgets! WE scandal! Multiple ethics probes! This former finance minister did ‘em all. Then he took the fall.

9. Lynn Beyak: There are lots of things for which Stephen Harper shouldn’t get the blame. For his Senate appointee Beyak, he deserves blame, big time. An unelected nobody who became a somebody for promoting racism, Beyak remains on the public teat. She deserves defeat.

10. The Troughers: You know why most newbie MPs fear another election, don’t you? They need six years of “service” to get their gold-plated MP pension. Until they reach that milestone, an election remains highly unlikely.

Ranking the best

1. Premiers, generally: They hail from different regions, they belong to different parties. But our Preems have been the pre-eminent pandemic politicos. They’ve made some mistakes, sure – how would you strike the health/life vs. economy/jobs balance? – but have generally done well.

2. Brian Pallister, specifically: Ditching the script, Manitoba’s Premier made an emotional on-camera plea for people to wear masks and safely distance, and won acclaim from everyone from political opponents to members of KISS. Shout it out loud.

3. Doug Ford, specifically: My firm did work for Ford’s government once in the past, but that hasn’t coloured my judgment: during the pandemic, a new Doug Ford has been revealed, and voters like it. Kinder and gentler sits well on his shoulders. Keep at it.

4. Chrystia Freeland: The erstwhile feminist Deputy Prime Minister isn’t Superwoman – her silence during the savaging of Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott was one major lapse – but she is clearly smart and capable. Unlike her boss.

5. Annamie Paul: The newly-minted Green Party leader is unknown to many Canadians – but all Canadians should be happy to see a black, Jewish woman smash several glass ceilings and win. Next, a seat in the Commons!

6. John Horgan: B.C.’s premier deserved condemnation for calling an unnecessary election during the pandemic. But he won a majority because he’s done a good job during the selfsame pandemic.

7. Provincial public health officers: Unlike their federal counterpart, the various provincial/municipal public health bosses have been pretty outstanding. Deena Hinshaw in Alberta, Bonnie Henry in B.C., Horacio Arruda in Quebec, Eileen de Villa in Toronto and others – they communicate, they’re coherent, and they’re clear. (Not the one in Ottawa, however.)

8. The Mayors: Full disclosure – I’ve volunteered for Toronto’s John Tory and Ottawa’s Jim Watson in the past. But those two – along with Calgary’s Naheed Nenshi, Edmonton’s Don Iveson, Mississauga’s Bonnie Crombie, Vancouver’s Kennedy Stewart, and others – have not hesitated to burn political capital to push unpopular public health measures. Gutsy.

9. CERB bureaucrats: The Canadian Emergency Response Benefit literally saved millions of Canadians from hunger and worse during the pandemic. Thank the nameless officials in the Privy Council Office, Revenue Canada and Employment and Social Development who came up with the CERB. Not politicians who later claimed credit.

10. The other unseen leaders: The pandemic has been the biggest political disruption of our lifetimes. We have held it together, mostly, thanks to the selfless efforts of thousands of anonymous public servants everywhere. We owe them thanks, and a (hopefully) better New Year.

Warren Kinsella is a former Special Assistant to Jean Chretien.


  1. Pedant says:

    I’d have to think the recent news (ignored by the CBC, natch) that Trudeau invited the Chinese government to infiltrate Canada’s armed forces should count for a few points down in the polls. No? Am I too optimistic about the intellect of the average voter?

    I would have added Pierre Poilièvre to your Best list.

    Of course, the high standing of healthcare workers goes without saying.

    • It been discussed here where it was pointed out that the program to work with the Chinese military started under the Harper government.

      • Pedant says:

        Correct but that was well before China kidnapped two Canadian citizens and before the recent highly aggressive actions of the CCP in Hong Kong. The Harper government was actually considered anti-China for the first few years (for which he faced considerable spit-flecked fury from the largely pro-CCP Canadian media at the time) and later attempted to be more conciliatory, hence this bizarre military exchange. Canada was not offside its closest allies (US, UK, Australia, New Zealand) the way it is now.

    • Pedant,

      Yes, it was beyond stupid, one of this Prime Minister’s specialties…but given the fact that the PROC could take the Canadian Forces in a New York minute, I’m not that concerned. However, you can bet that Trump and Biden will both give Canada a far greater intelligence and national security wide berth going forward. They simply can’t trust the PM’s so-called judgment in the future.

      • Well, in light of the program’s origins, under vastly different political circumstances, I guess that means that I’ll nevertheless still have to end up eating at least some crow. LOL.

  2. Douglas W says:

    Solid list: best and worst.

    Agreed: Justin will win; he’ll cruise to a majority government, IMHO.

    Agreed: O’Toole’s residential schools’ comment — bonehead. But far from crippling. Didn’t resonate with any political junkies I know, regardless of their political stripe.

    Big-time props to Brian Pallister: rose to the occasion.

    A Happy New Year to you, and to all.

  3. faithless elector says:

    Someone in Justin’s office is whispering to him that its really popular right now to get hammered, paint yourself in Bills colors, tear your shirt off and jump through a table.

    • faithless elector says:

      this just in…. very close to zero percent of the electorate has the knowledge to form a valid opinion about Coronavirus or the response. Precisely zero percent make up their minds about voting before week three of an election.

    • Nasty Bob says:

      Yep – can’t speak for other provinces but vehemently disagree with point 1 of the best as far as AB goes. Kenny started out well but has been a total goof since. Seems more interested in preventing a hemorrhage of support to the wexit loonies and keeping the right united than either health or economic concerns . Hence in 30 days we have more deaths than the first 9 months combined. Vaccinated rate is 20 percent of what was planned/promised . 20 % is an “F” in any test .

      • Steve Maudsley says:

        If he concerned about losing support to Wexit supporters, he is doing a poor job. I voted UCP because I wanted someone who would stand up to the Alberta hating Federal government. I have not seen that. The people to whom I speak are also sharing a similar disappointment. I will still vote UCP next election to prevent an NDP victory, however, that will be the extent of my support unless something changes.

        Also, the people support Wexit are tired of being treated poorly by the rest of Canada and see little reason to stay a part of Canada. The rest of Canada has no problems with accepting our wealth but still hate us.

        • Steve,

          I’ve always been big on separatist movements as a fundamental constitutional right but am, at best, lukewarm in practice. But hey, this whole thing stems from a lot of jealousy that other regions had when AB was high on the hog and mighty cocky. But that’s no excuse for how AB is treated these days. But like I said a million times, why did AB royally shit so fiercely on the late Prentice when he dared to speak about the absolute need for economic diversification? Seems to me that was a no-brainer and yet I see very few signs of attempts at credible diversification under Kenney, or anyone else. Sure, fossil fuels’ days are numbered but Albertans still have to live and eat on that kind of a pay cheque for at least another thirty years, so by golly, Ottawa should be doing something way more substantial about it. Make no mistake, there’s no magic CPC miracle on pipelines in the offing but at least O’Toole will at least try to do right by AB. But again, diversification needs to come pronto, and is already long overdue. That’s what’s in AB’s long-term economic interest.

        • It says a lot about Wexit that the Liberal mediocre-by-international-standards climate strategy is considered an attack on Alberta.

          • Steve Maudsley says:

            Darwin, you seem to ignore the numerous attempts to prevent new pipelines from being built, such as Northern Gateway (nearly all native bands along the pipeline route supported it) and Energy East (stopped because Quebec does not want our dirty oil but they sure like our money). Those are an attack on Alberta as far as I am concerned. Also, Trudeau has made remarks about he wants to see Alberta’s oil industry shut down (he has later said that he misspoke but the distrust still remains with most Albertans).

            Compared with 30 years ago, Alberta has diversified its economy and is less dependent upon the oil industry. I think what most people don’t realize is that the oil industry pays extremely well (it is quite common for people to be paid over $100,000 annually). These good paying jobs generate a lot of tax revenues that benefit other Canadians.

          • Ronald O'Dowd says:


            The problem with being a federation and no longer a confederation is that each of its constituent parts are equal in law with the possible exception of the territories which are still to some extent creatures of the federal government. So, pipeline change can only come in one of two ways: either in the ballot box where governments are replaced in some provinces by pro-pipeline parties, or more realistically, by stakeholders, especially pipeline companies using the old bean: you know by re-routing either through the territories to the Pacific or re-routing through the Northern Tier American states and then into the Maritimes, or to the Pacific, if people in those jurisdictions are at least open to such a possibility, not to mention governments.

            And ironically, imposing pipelines on provinces would be the reverse: an attack on those sovereign provinces who do not favour pipeline construction. So, politically, in the end, it’s damned if you do and damned if you don’t, depending on where you live and what your fellow residents think about pipelines.

        • Nasty Bob says:

          So Steve you’re going to support the government of “significant errors in judgment “ ( or enormous goofs as some would say) over the NDP, who actually increased our pipeline capacity ( despite all the hostility against added lines) Exactly how many more barrels per day has the UCP added since being elected?. They’ve met hostility against our oil with hostility against the TROC . Sure , that gets the folks here all riled up to support them but does nothing to help put bread on my table !
          On top of that they want to take over my pension – despite their significant errors in judgement that lost 2.1 billion in risky investments last year .
          Despite significant errors in judgement that has mortgaged our future by doubling down on investment in an industry that’s in the last decades of viability ( and cut funds meant to attract high tech , etc. to fill all the vacant square feet in YYC)
          Despite the “significant errors in judgement” involved in the holiday plans of the minister- who’s DM is running our failing vaccine program.
          But , yeah , I guess weekly “ significant errors in judgement” are far better than socialism!!

          • Steve Maudsley says:

            Nasty Bob,
            I doubt that it would be the current government that would lead any separatist movement. Jason Kenney has too much vested in remaining in Canada. So I do not know the group that would lead a separatist movement.

            I do know one thing: If someone comes along with a credible plan to secede from Canada, then most Albertans will support it. I also think that most people within Saskatchewan and the BC interior would be receptive to leaving Canada.

          • Ronald O'Dowd says:


            Sure, AB may leave Canada one day and that’s fine in my book. It’s called democratic self-determination. But if I was of that political bent, I would far prefer to join the States than become part of my own relatively insignificant country in relation to the rest of the developed world. AB would garner far more benefit from joining the United States than it could ever realistically hope for on its own and I suspect that most Albertans already know that. Question is, if a plurality of Albertans are already of the mindset to forsake Canada because they can’t have Canada on their own terms, will they really have the guts to vote separatist, in one form or another? I’ll honestly believe that one when I see it. And if I see it, it goes without saying that I will respect their choice and so should the federal government.

          • Ronald O'Dowd says:

            It’s also so incredibly ironic what with the previous heated debate over 50% +1 as it relates to Quebec independence. As I recall, our host and yours truly were on different sides of that debate. I wonder if Warren would take the same view if his own province chose to go that way? For my part, Alberta is no more divisible under the metrics of that debate than Quebec is. In both cases, we’re not talking territorial divisibility as in the legitimate case of The Czech Republic and Slovakia.

          • With the Democrats in power in the US most of the time, joining them wouldn’t do much to solve thier pipeline or oil industry problems, and then they would have to deal with the numerous other problem the US has.

          • Nasty Bob says:

            Alberta separating whilst on the verge of being a have not province is like investing your life savings in Blockbuster Video ….because streaming; don’t you have to wear hip waders to do that ?

  4. Lawrence Barry says:

    Sorry WK – but I’d argue that Patty Hajdu should be battling for 1st place on that list – a good day for her is when she is only thought of as incompetent.

  5. Lukas Klein says:

    Yeah, Brian Pallister has done great!

  6. Gilbert says:

    It’s far too early to say the prime minister will win a majority. Erin O’Toole will gain seats in Ontario, and his French is quite good. I like his chances.

  7. Phil in London says:

    Great list based on the past 24 hours I am guessing we can remove the top 10 bad politicians
    Worst Rod Phillips
    2nd worse Rod Phillips
    3rd worse Rod Phillips
    4th – 8th worse Rod Philllips
    9th worse Randy Hiller and Sam Oosterhoff
    10th worse Rod Phillips

  8. Vote Quimby says:

    Ford for Prime Minister?
    He really has showed himself as a human.

    • Ronald O'Dowd says:


      IMHO, the mentality in this country is already far too balkanized for a premier to be elected at the national level and later serve as prime minister.

  9. Andy Kaut says:

    Vis a vis your comment on Kenney’s being good at his job…the times they have a-changed.

    We have been in an effective lockdown in Alberta for two months, with travel down (nationally) 90% over the last 10. We have asked, well, the politicians have asked, all Albertans to stop ‘non-essential travel’. Mrs. Allard’s sun vacay (and at least 3 other government members’ travel) clearly fits inside of this criterion. At its base, then, the overseas jaunt screams, “Good for Thee, but not for Me.” Add to this two things.

    1. Kenney refuses to bring them in line. There are lots of options for him to show that the behavior that puts individual happiness in front of the collective safety (i.e. ‘public health’) is unacceptable. He’s going to draw the Thick Blue Line, and like his snake-oil past, he’ll protect these 4 from public wrath. From the wrath of the Boss that elected them. This is despicable. He has admitted fault but no responsibility. Because taking responsibility for his underlings’ actions means taking care of the problem. The reason that the UCP exists is that the NDP got protest-elected. Albertans were sick of Stelmach’s dithering and Redford’s perks. And when you jackoffs rained down supreme shit for the pictures that surfaced of Notley’s junior MLA up to no good, promoting weed and flipping off the Canadian flag, you called for her head. She was sanctioned and benched. Read all that again- the NDP were better at taking care of business than Snake Oil Kenney.

    2. At least 2 of these elected officials recorded Christmas messages to be played during the holidays. This is misleading at best, and outright implied mistruth at worst. Horse shit, utter and complete. If I want to stand before a judge and claim that publishing a video of me doing what I’m supposed to be doing while I’m actually doing what I’ve forbidden isn’t misleading, she’d throw the argument out and judge accordingly. Only problem is that the Albertans have clearly judged, and here stands Kenney, a lone bulwark in the interests of politicians against the raging sea of actual public opinion.

    Which brings me to the final deal with this entire pandemic.
    “Why do we issue smoking advisories while collecting government taxes on the sale of cigarettes? Because there is a limit to government involvement in our lives and the freedom to make our own decisions.” – Random Armchair Politico, in Kenney’s defence.

    Right now there is no limit to government involvement. The government has told us what is acceptable to work at by shutting down certain businesses for a year. They have told us what is ok for recreation by shutting down everything that isn’t. They’ve told us which gods to worship by shutting some communal religions down while leaving others to scrape along. They’ve told us, if you will by your example, which cigarette companies make healthier cigarettes, so you don’t have to be as worried about dying. In the name of ‘duty’ and ‘public health’, we’ve been expected to toe the line while the guards keep us there. No hockey or we’ll tase your ass. Masks on airlines, or we’ll boot your ass. Vaccines NOW or we’ll fire your ass.

    The problem isn’t that Allard et al have exercised their ‘rights’. The problem is that the rest of Alberta, 5 million-odd people, haven’t had any rights for a great long while. And this has shown how frustrating that can be. They didn’t break the law, and most of us aren’t. But we sure look down our noses at those who aren’t wearing their masks properly. Or speaking out against government overreach.

    “Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” – Martin Niemoller.

  10. Reza says:

    You should include Kenney, next to Trudeau. His performance has been abysmal throughout the year and has proven to be a giant hypocrite and quite out of touch with his populace, especially those in urban areas of Alberta.

    Kenney’s strategy has been just trying to appease his rural supporters and occasionally throwing a grenade at Trudeau while targeting health workers and teachers in the middle of a pandemic.

    He has arguably been a disasterous premier. His handling of the doctor’s negotiations during a pandemic has been terrible. His decision to open up Alberta rockies to coal mining in 2020 just seems out of this world. His decision to give away a huge corporate tax cut in the start of the pandemic created a $6B hole in Alberta’s already terrible fiscal situation. He had the worst return to school plan of any province and Alberta’s covid numbers are quite terrible during the 2nd wave of Covid. All of that is now topped with his team ignoring their own health policies and travel to Hawaii, Arizona, Mexico, and Vegas in the middle of the pandemic.

    All said and done, he is one premier that has really done incredibly poorly and one hopes, that he is gone by 2023.

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