Before welcoming in the New Year, I have three things to get off my chest – on softwood lumber, electoral reform and political fundraising – and five Christmas presents to give out (to my picks for the top 5 MPs of 2016).
First, softwood. Cariboo-Prince George MP Todd Doherty says he’s unhappy with the Liberal effort on the softwood lumber file.
Well, I was unhappy with Stephen Harper’s effort on the softwood file: he basically capitulated to the Americans without making a serious effort to get the promised amount of buy-in from Canadian Lumber producers, mainly because he wanted a deal before the 2008 election and wanted to cozy up to former United States President George Bush.
Moreover, despite having a stronger basic legal position than the U.S., the Canadian government handed over $1 billion of the duties collected from Canadian companies – $500 million to the US companies and $450 million to the Bush administration.
No wonder a lot of smaller lumber exporters felt let down, sacrificed by their own government for larger political ends.
So, exactly how have the Liberals fared worse than that?
I’m still waiting to receive any useful instruction from Todd Doherty on how to handle the Softwood file – and see only negative lessons from the record of the previous Conservative government.
Second, electoral reform. I never expected Justin Trudeau to keep his election promise “to make 2015 the last first-past-the-post election in Canadian History.”
Even so, I was appalled that Trudeau and Democratic Reform Minister Maryam Monsef wouldn’t even endorse the idea of a referendum or even a free vote in the House of Commons on proportional representation, just because of the small chance that they might lose control of the agenda and actually be forced to keep the promise that they had so clearly made. Shame on both of them.
Third, political fundraising. On this issue, too, the Liberals were deceptive and hypocritical in the same old ways that they always have been. A Chinese billionaire gets around the $1,500 contribution limit by making donations to Trudeau’s favourite charity (which just happens to be called the Trudeau Foundation) and by offering to pay for the erection of a statue of his father.
But we are supposed to relax because after all it is Justin Trudeau and Liberal Party who are receiving the donation. Tighter controls on financial contributions are now to be considered as unnecessary as electoral reform because it is now the Liberals who are benefitting from the existing rules.
Here are my picks for “Top 5 MPs of the Year” for performance in Parliament in 2016: 1) NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair; 2) Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose; 3) Nathan Cullen, the NDP critic for Environment and Climate Change as well as Democratic Reform; 4) Green Party Leader Elizabeth May; and 5) Liberal Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland.
Mark Crawford teaches political science at Athabasca University.