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Home » David Staples: The best thing about Notley, Smith and other leading politicians … – Edmonton Journal

David Staples: The best thing about Notley, Smith and other leading politicians … – Edmonton Journal

It’s the Christmas season with the new year on its way, a time for celebration and goodwill for all, a sentiment which I will extend just now to our politicians, at least for today.

Here is the very best thing about some of our leading political players:
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NDP MLA David Shepherd. There are many fine speakers in the Alberta legislature but none of them so consistently eloquent as Shepherd.

Edmonton city Coun. Michael Janz. Many folks despise the massive tax increase coming out of city hall but, to his credit, Janz stood up to make a public defence of spending $100 million for bike lanes, a lightning rod policy drawing intense scorn and criticism. Janz pointed out that with rampant inflation, many folks might well try to do with one less car, or without a car at all. That’s only possible if we create a useable bike lane system, Janz said, and he’s right.

NDP MLA Deron Bilous. A sane and reasonable voice in the Alberta legislature, Bilous is retiring from politics and will be greatly missed. He almost always makes the kind of sensible comment that adds to a debate.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith. With one simple statement, “Alberta is only asking for what Quebec is getting,” Smith changed the channel in Canadian politics. She’s getting more folks to focus on a dangerous double standard that sees widespread acceptance for the federal government bowing down to growing demands from Quebec but widespread scorn when other provinces push for their constitutional rights to simply be respected.

Federal Liberal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault. Yes, his anti-nuclear and anti-LNG agenda is a disaster but he’s at least now showing a willingness to budge and work with others, such as at COP 27 when he refused to support the call for a complete phase-out of oil and gas in the final mission statement.

Federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre. Poilievre’s focus on everyday economic issues — such as the lack of affordable housing for young Canadians and the federal policies that drive up inflation — was the most effective political messaging of 2023.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley. The NDP policy book has some ideas and plans that look to me like disasters in the making, but such is the charm, intelligence and warmth of Notley that I think maybe things will be OK if the NDP again takes power.

Former Alberta premier Jason Kenney. The lobbying Kenney did in Washington, D.C., was highly effective, helping to change the language in the discourse about Alberta oil and gas in the most powerful circles of American politics. Many facts pushed hard by Alberta boosters are now also put forward by powerful U.S. leaders like Sen. Joe Manchin.

Edmonton city councillors Tim Cartmell and Sarah Hamilton. Edmonton city council had a ton of turnover, so it’s excellent that Cartmell and Hamilton are still there. They have a solid idea about what does and doesn’t work when it comes to city building.

UCP Health Minister Jason Copping. There’s no more gracious speaker in the legislature than gentleman Copping, who invariably thanks Opposition members for their questions and answers them in substantive, non-partisan fashion.

NDP MLAs Rakhi Pancholi, Kathleen Ganley and Heather Sweet. Perhaps it’s premature to think about who will lead the NDP one day after Notley has had enough, but Pancholi, Ganley and Sweet strike me as solid bets, all of them sharp communicators, all of them with something useful to say in debate.

UCP Finance Minister Travis Toews. Toews comes across as so steady on finances that I not only trust him with the province’s budget, I’d listen to his advice on my own.

NDP MLA Janis Irwin. Irwin stands up like no one else for outsiders, for vulnerable people. And who doesn’t love her nifty dance moves?

UCP Public Safety Minister Mike Ellis. Ellis has been at the centre of a fierce debate — how best to deal with drug addiction — but has carefully advanced a surprisingly but evidently controversial position, that one crucial and humane way to make progress is to get addicts off the street and into drug treatment in the hopes of their recovery.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. My greatest challenge when it comes to my attempt at saying positive things about controversial politicians is Trudeau. I agree with almost none of his policies but have to admit he’s been good for his base. On issue after issue, he’s fired them up and delivered for them, which is why he’s won three straight elections.

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(Editor’s note: This column has been updated to remove reference to David Eggen’s retirement from politics. He is listed as the NDP candidate for Edmonton North West for the upcoming election.)

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