New Democrats say the promotion of Tory MP Pierre Poilievre to cabinet is a sad reflection of what it takes to get ahead in the Harper government.
The controversial MP with a reputation as a Conservative attack dog was named Minister of State for Democratic Reform this week.
An NDP media release on Tuesday took direct aim at the ambitious, 34-year-old Tory, who rose frequently in the House last parliamentary session to defend the government in the midst of the Wright-Duffy scandal.
"Forget about competence or working with other parties –- to become a minister for Stephen Harper, you must leave the truth behind and embrace mean-spirited attacks," it reads.
The release catalogued Poilievre’s "gaffes and low-ball attacks" since he first won the Ottawa-area riding of Nepean-Carlton in 2004 and even included a link to a YouTube clip from several years ago that appears to show the MP swearing during a committee meeting.
The NDP also resurfaced two other embarrassing incidents from Poilievre’s past.
In 2008, Poilievre apologized in the House of Commons for telling an Ottawa radio station that former residential school students needed a stronger work ethic.
"My view is that we need to engender the values of hard work and independence and self-reliance," he said. "That's the solution in the long run — more money will not solve it."
His remarks came just hours before Harper made an emotional apology to victims of the residential school program.
The NDP did not include the moment in 2009 when Poilievre used the term "tar baby" during question period. Poilievre was mocking what he saw as then-Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff’s attempts to distance himself from the carbon tax policy promoted by Stéphane Dion.
Poilievre said he was unaware about the racial undertones of the term, and knew it only as a difficult problem or issue that sticks.
While an opposition party going after a junior minister so directly may seem odd, they weren’t alone in their criticism.
Sun News' Warren Kinsella lambasted Poilievre as a "pipsqueak" unworthy of cabinet in a column on Monday. Kinsella called Poilievre a "disgrace to Parliament" and said his promotion cheapened the entire shuffle.
"Pipsqueak, who Harper actually named minister of state for democratic reform, is in fact one of the most despicable, loathsome politicians to ever grace the national stage," wrote Kinsella. "He is a pestilence made flesh."
HuffPost Canada was first to report on Sunday that Poilievre, who apparently responds to the nickname "Skippy," had earned a spot in Harper’s inner circle.
University of Ottawa political scientist Robert Asselin, an advisor to Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, told HuffPost the promotion was the worst thing Harper could do. He called Poilievre someone who "spins and has no views of his own."
Poilievre told the Ottawa Citizen on Tuesday that making changes in the scandal-plagued Senate will be a top priority in his new portfolio.
"People are demanding action on this because they’re angry with the current Senate," he said. "Hopefully we can find a way to make some changes so that this kind of outrage that we’ve witnessed won’t happen again."
Do you think Poilievre may be successful in this role or do you agree with the NDP and Kinsella that he isn’t cabinet material? Tell us in the comments below.
Related on HuffPost:
James Moore Is On The Move
James Moore was expected to land a promotion with this shuffle and he scored a doozy, moving from Heritage to Industry. The B.C. MP, who is 37, replaces Christian Paradis, who was seen as a disappointment with the role. A potential Tory leadership contender, Moore will now have a key economic portfolio on his resumé. (Paradis also lost his title as minister responsible for Quebec, handing that responsibility over to colleague Denis Lebel).
Jason Kenney's New Gig
Jason Kenney, the Minister of Immigration and Citizenship since 2008, was moved to Human Resources and Skills Development which was re-branded as Employment and Social Development. There, Kenney, who harbours leadership ambitions, will be focused on fixing Canada’s skills gap. Government sources say more than 250,000 Canadians can’t find work, while Canadian employers are turning to temporary foreign workers and we should expect this to be a key feature of the prime minister’s new economic agenda in the fall. Kenney will ensure that the previously announced Canada Jobs Grant are successfully implemented with the provinces. Kenney might be happy that the government is relying so heavily on him and is spinning his job as an economic position, but it is believed the minister was eyeing National Defence, Public Safety or Foreign Affairs. Former diplomat Chris Alexander, who will replace Kenney at Citizenship and Immigration, scored a huge promotion in his first cabinet portfolio. Kenney’s secondary role as Minister of Multiculturalism was handed over to Minister of State Tim Uppal.
Chris Alexander's Big Step Forward
Former diplomat Chris Alexander was in line for a big promotion Monday but his new post as Minister of Citizenship and Immigration — rather than to a junior ministry — was something of a surprise. With Harper focused on projecting youth and energy, it’s clear the 44-year-old Ontario MP is seen as a rising star
Shelly Glover's BIG Jump
Manitoba MP Shelly Glover was rewarded with a full ministry rather than a junior role. The fluently bilingual former police officer was named minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages. Her promotion comes just weeks after it was confirmed she violated election-spending rules in 2011.
MacKay Doesn't Get His Way
Peter MacKay made no secret of his desire to stay in national defence, where he has served since 2007. But the Nova Scotia MP instead swapped chairs with Rob Nicholson, who was moved from Justice to Defence. A former Crown prosecutor, MacKay will now serve as Attorney General of Canada. MacKay’s time in defence may best be remembered for the troubled F-35 jet purchase and controversial use of a military search-and-rescue helicopter during a 2010 fishing trip.
Alberta MP Rona Ambrose was sent from Public Works to Health in a move that some interpret as a demotion. Ambrose was praised for her efforts at Public Works, overseeing the multi-billion shipbuilding contracts and the National Fighter Procurement Secretariat, which is reviewing the government’s decision to purchase F-35 fighter jets. She will now be replaced by Diane Finley.
Peter Van Loan Stays Put
Some believed (perhaps had hoped?) that Government House Leader Peter Van Loan would be shuffled out of that role or turfed from cabinet. Instead, Harper left his aggressive House Leader right where he was. A divisive figure, Van Loan clashed with opposition MPs as well as many Conservative backbenchers who believed he had to go.
Kellie Leitch Makes A Splash
It is not at all surprising that Kellie Leitch was rewarded with a large promotion Monday. The Ontario MP has had a meteoric rise since first winning in 2011. She was named Minister of Labour and Minister of Status of Women. The 42-year-old pediatric surgeon, who is known as an ambitious workaholic, is exactly the kind of fresh face Harper wants to project as his team moves toward 2015. Her communication skills are lacking, and she has a hard time in French but she’s great at rallying support with stakeholders.
Michelle Rempel's Junior Role
Alberta MP Michelle Rempel, who at just 33 is the youngest member of the Tory caucus, was predicted to land a spot in cabinet. However, her role of Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification is more junior than some had anticipated.
Tory MP and frequent attack dog Pierre Poilievre has cracked cabinet, as first reported over the weekend on HuffPost Canada. Poilievre, 34, will serve as Minister of State for Democratic Reform, which means he will field plenty of questions about the robocalls investigation and the Senate expense scandal.
Lisa Raitt's Fitting Shift
Labour Minister Lisa Raitt, dropped into the role of Transport Minister, is the first woman to serve in the position. As a lawyer with a background in economics, Raitt isn't a surprising pick for transport. She served as the president and CEO of the Toronto Port Authority before being elected as an MP in 2008, and is currently the vice-chair of the cabinet economic committee. Raitt has also waded through several crises, both during her time at the Port Authority and as an MP, a skill she'll have to employ while dealing with the fallout from the Lac-Megantic disaster.
And, with rumours that Harper could step down before the 2015 election, we want to know who you think could replace him. Be sure to take our survey below.