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PoliticsWatch's Top Under Performers 

(PoliticsWatch Posted 5:30 p.m., June 27, 2007)

Embattled Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor.


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 without results.  

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 stifled. 

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. 

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