This was a year of new controversies, like prorogation and WikiLeaks. It was also the year of old battles, in the Middle East, and between the Koreas, and in the grinding and never-ending war against terror.
It was a year of wonderful highs, like the Vancouver Winter Olympics and Sidney Crosby’s gold-plated goal. And many, many lows, as in the economic recovery that never seems to feel like one, or Stephen Harper’s brutalization of the pregnant Helena Guergis, or Maclean’s calling all of Quebec “corrupt,” or the G20 fake lake costing tens of thousands, or … that list could go on. (Sadly.)
There were plenty of political screwups, a few of which are discussed below. It was a year of cover-ups, too, as in the Afghan detainee torture files, and MPs’ expenses. It was the year of a lost UN Security Council seat. But it was also the year of winning outsider mayoralty campaigns in Calgary and Toronto.
So who had the best political move? Who had the worst? Here’s Your Humble Scribe’s take:
Stephen Harper: The piano-playing prime minister’s appointment of the brainy, modest David Johnston as Governor General was a master stroke hailed by all. His hiring of Bay St. whiz-kid Nigel Wright as his chief of staff was smart, too it hopefully signals Harper wants to make Parliament less fractious.
Harper’s best move was plain old survival. Despite many missteps, and his chronic inability to craft a majority, Harper is still here. In politics, survival is always the biggest achievement.
Michael Ignatieff: His summertime bus tour wasn’t about improving his dismal polling numbers it was about getting him ready for an election. Iggy certainly seems more comfortable in his political skin.
His big byelection win in Winnipeg North gave him an MP from Western Canada, a plus. But his best move was the gun-registry vote: On one day, he defeated Harper on a key platform plank and he divided Jack Layton’s NDP caucus. Not bad.
Jack Layton: He doesn’t ever pass laws. He doesn’t influence the nation’s direction much. The NDP leader never seems to actually do anything but the polls tell us he is the best-liked federal leader. He’s famous for doing nothing.
Harper: Prorogation that is, giving Conservative MPs a months’ long paid holiday was a disastrously dumb move. So, too, the mishandling of the communications surrounding the ditching of the long form census Harper’s PMO turned a coma-inducing topic into a burning front-page controversy for weeks.
But his worst move came with the G20: Spending $2 billion for a do-nothing summit enraged his conservative base and turning a blind eye to police thuggery mobilized the political left like no issue has for decades. A debacle.
Ignatieff: His year-end interviews for which his staff purportedly prepared him, and in which he said he hoped to defeat Harper in 2011 and that he and Rob Ford shared like-minded voters were embarrassing. But his worst move, in the view of the majority of card-carrying Liberals and the Grit caucus, was listening to Bob Rae, and going along with extending Canada’s stay in Afghanistan. Many Liberals have long suspected Iggy’s political default position is always (a) to be a closeted conservative and (b) to parrot the White House line. The Afghanistan reversal showed why.
Layton: As noted, the gun registry vote. It shattered Layton’s credibility within his own party, and showed him to be all rhetoric, but no results.
What will 2011 bring? Well, if there is going to be the much-predicted federal election, it has to be before the fall, when a battery of provinces head to the hustings.
And who will win it, if it comes?
No one knows. But, as 2010 limps to an end, it can’t be denied that Harper is looking a lot more festive than any of his competition.
Kinsella is a lawyer, consultant and Liberal Party spin-doctor. He blogs at warrenkinsella.com