The three big political stars of 2018

by Jim Warren

This year was a noteworthy one in politics both local and internationally.

American President Donald Trump continues to dominate the political agenda. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau managed to finalize a renegotiation of NAFTA despite the critics and naysayers. Elections in Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick saw a sea of change.

There were winners and losers. In the spirit of Hockey Night in Canada, here are the political three stars of 2018.

The First Star – Ontario Premier Doug Ford

Love him or hate him, Doug Ford has a truly remarkable year in 2018. It was a meteoric rise to become Premier of Canada’s most populous province.

Before the Patrick Brown scandal hit the headlines, Ford was planning a re-match with Toronto Mayor John Tory to become a candidate for mayor in the October 2018 municipal election.

It is easy to forget how hard it was for Ford to win the leadership. Brown re-entered the race only to quit again. Veteran MPP Vic Fedeli was almost appointed the leader for the election campaign. Christine Elliot was convinced to run again and actually won the most votes and ridings in the leadership race. It was only by using a new system of weighted points allocation that Ford barely won the PC leadership race.

He took his narrow victory and parlayed it into a provincial blue tide that swept him to a majority government in June and the rookie MPP became the Premier of Ontario in under six months.

Ford will be hard-pressed to remain in the top three stars in 2019, but he is definitely a man on a mission when it comes to Trudeau and the carbon tax and will remain in the headlines both nationally and provincially.

The Second Star – The Honourable Bill Blair

Another rookie politician, former Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair was overlooked for cabinet in 2015 when he first became a Member of Parliament for Scarborough Southwest.

Trudeau gave him the difficult task of handling the marijuana file and without the resources of being a cabinet minister. Blair was a true political superstar in handling the file.

This year Trudeau rewarded Blair by making him the Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction and bringing him to the cabinet table. Handling the government’s most contentious files, Blair continues to outshine his cabinet colleagues and will play an important role in Trudeau’s 2019 re-election plans.

The Third Star – His Worship Jim Watson Mayor of Ottawa

This time last year Mayor Jim Watson was in the hospital recovering from surgery and dealing with some minor complications. It wasn’t the first time Mayor Watson was in hospital during his term of office, as a broken pelvis during a snowmobile mishap in 2015 landed him in the ER and under the knife.

Both of Watson’s parents, his mom Frances and his dad Beverley, passed away during his last term.

Despite all of these personal challenges Watson is the master constituency politician. The energizer bunny of community events is anywhere and everywhere. He parlayed his community work into a third consecutive term of office and will now oversee the completion of the light rail transit system in Ottawa.

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman, Toronto Mayor John Tory and Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie also won re-election in some of Canada’s biggest cities and deserve honourable mentions. They will work with Watson to make sure cities play an important role in the 2019 federal election.

Biggest Loss

The biggest political loss in 2018 for me was the passing of the late Gord Brown. Brown was the MP for Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes. An amazing father, husband and brother, Brown was taken from us suddenly last May.

Beloved by people on both sides of the house, Gord was a friend and an amazing person. He was a great person and is sadly missed by many.

Jim Warren is a Liberal strategist who has worked for Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.

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