Top Under Performers
(PoliticsWatch Posted 5:30 p.m., June 27, 2007)
|Embattled Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor.
TOP UNDER PERFORMERS
1. Gordon O'Connor (Defence Minister)
The list of O'Connor's mistakes this year could take up an entire
feature article. The former general has been considered a dead man
walking in Ottawa for weeks and is the odds on favourite to be
moved out of his job in the next cabinet shuffle.
2. Jim Flaherty (Finance Minister)
From first to second worst. Flaherty topped PoliticsWatch's list
of top cabinet performers in December, but a big-spending budget and his fight
with the banks on ATM fees had some conservatives scratching their
heads. Flaherty's declaration that the budget would end the era of
federal-provincial bickering could go down as one of the worst
political pronouncements in recent Canadian history.
3. The Commons Official Languages Committee
This committee's unanimous decision to investigate the selection of
Team Canada captain Shane Doan angered a nation and gave politicians
of all stripes a bad name with ordinary Canadians.
4. Stephane Dion (Liberal Leader)
The Tories may be stumbling, but Dion isn't setting Ottawa or the
country on fire for that matter. The Conservative missteps have taken
attention away from Dion's rough start and low leadership polling
numbers. Being the opposition leader is one of the hardest jobs in
politics, but after seven months on the job Dion still does not look
totally comfortable in question period and his office has already
seen major personnel changes.
5. Peter MacKay (Foreign Affairs Minister)
"We will not throw a member out of caucus for voting his conscience. There will be no whipping, flipping, hiring or firing on budget votes as we saw with the Liberal
government." MacKay on May 15, 2007.
"There is a Westminster tradition that members who vote against a money bill … can not remain in the
party." MacKay on June 8, 2007, after MP Bill Casey was booted
from the Tory caucus for voting his conscience.
6. Loyola Hearn (Fisheries Minister)
The budget's changes to the Atlantic Accord is having a negative
impact on Tory polling numbers in Atlantic Canada. And no where is
this worse than Hearn's province of Newfoundland and Labrador where
Premier Danny Williams is telling people not to vote Conservative.
Williams' message is getting through as a recent poll showed the
Tories at 17 per cent in the province, down from 49 per cent earlier
this year. As fisheries minister, Hearn has butted heads within
his own caucus, with opposition MPs and with stakeholders all
7. Muzzled Tory MPs
With the exception of a handful of Conservative MPs (two of whom were kicked out of caucus), Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been successful in keeping a lid on his
MPs and making them behave like the trained seals they once
denounced while in opposition. While this has allowed Harper's government to stay on message, Conservative opinions on issues are often absent from news coverage. "This can't go on," an anonymous Tory cabinet minister recently told the Toronto Star. But as long as Harper's MPs continue to learn to stop worrying and
to love the muzzle
and allow themselves to be bullied by unelected staff Conservative opinions will continue to be largely
8. Michael Fortier
The unelected public works minister remains on PoliticsWatch's list
of underachievers. This year, Fortier and his department were the
subject of numerous negative stories. PoliticsWatch reported in June
that in their first year in power the Conservatives increased
government advertising spending by over 70 per cent. Also this
month, a public works audit found how the department had lost
control of a $24 million contract from cost-cutting consultants and
the Ottawa Citizen reported that the number of non-competitive
contracts increased to 26 per cent in the first 15 months of the
Conservative government compared to 14 per cent in the final 15
months of the Liberal government. Fortier was also criticized
earlier in the spring after hiring a former separatist Quebec
cabinet minister to examine the former Liberal government's public
opinion contracting. Liberals accuse the government of launching a
witch hunt to go after the firm Earnscliffe, which used to have
close ties to former prime minister Paul Martin.
9. Parliamentary Press Gallery
The press gallery appears to be losing its battle with the PMO over
media access. Internally, there is a huge rift in the gallery when
it comes to which media outlets are willing to put their names on Harper's list for moderated press conference
questions. The Canadian Press, Toronto Star, English CBC and Globe
and Mail are still holding out, while CTV News, CanWest and most
other wires and outlets (including PoliticsWatch) are putting their
names on Harper's list. However, many are now questioning
whether agreeing to the PMO's terms has had any positive effect.
Access to Harper on the Hill has not improved. Last week's
end-of-session press conference was the first on the Hill with
non-pooled questions in over six months.