This liberal deputy has great parliamentary power

Karina Gould knows how to pack a political punch, and she often does it with a smile.

Just six months into his role as leader of the Government House, Gould has redefined what it means to be a prime minister’s top attack dog.

During a fall parliamentary session that often seemed out of control, political experts say Gould was a thorn in the side of her opponents: calm and curt at the same time.

He is credited with revitalizing the Liberal caucus after the party’s poll numbers plummeted last year, while the opposition Conservatives enjoyed their own gains.

“For the last year, it seemed like the Conservatives were the only party competing,” said Fred DeLorey, former national campaign director for the Conservative Party of Canada.

“It wasn’t clear what the liberals were doing, whether they were looking for a narrative or whether they didn’t understand that they needed one. But it seems like in the last month, especially, something is brewing there, and their attacks are getting sharper.”

Gould is leading that charge, DeLorey said.

She is the youngest woman to have served as a federal cabinet minister and the first federal minister to give birth while in office.

Their second child will be born this month.

This liberal mom who breaks the glass ceiling seeks to give conservatives a break. #CDNPoli #KarinaGould

Just before Gould went on maternity leave in mid-December and the House adjourned for vacation, she delivered a final message to Pierre Poilievre and his conservative party that greatly affected her identity as a mother.

He had just removed an agenda item from the House order paper after the Conservatives attempted, for the second time that month, to delay government work and keep MPs working late before Christmas.

“Instead of dwelling on his tantrum, I’m going to suggest that he take a little time,” he said of Poilievre outside the House of Commons.

He stopped short of equating the behavior of Conservative MPs with that of children. That would be too insulting to Canadian children, she said.

In a year-end interview with The Canadian Press, Gould said he is the same person when the cameras roll on Parliament Hill as he is when he is at home in Burlington, Ont., the region he represents located halfway between Toronto and the Falls. of Niagara.

“There’s no acting for me. I’m just telling them how things are and how I see things,” Gould said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed her to lead the Liberals’ agenda in the House of Commons in July after serving as Minister of Families, Children and Social Development for nearly two years.

In that role, he dealt with a backlog of passport applications that caused significant delays and political conflicts. He also helped oversee the Liberal government’s $10-a-day child care plan, which included finalizing an agreement with Ontario.

In previous parliamentary sessions, Gould also served as Minister of International Development and Minister of Democratic Institutions.

The prime minister is clearly satisfied with her performance in the new role.

In a speech at a Liberal caucus party in December, Trudeau spent a full two minutes praising Gould’s achievements. She was the only minister whose name he mentioned.

“We’re lucky to have you, as a team and as a country,” Trudeau said, and Gould received a prolonged ovation.

She admits there was no shortage of crises and challenges in the fall session.

Former president Anthony Rota, a Liberal MP, resigned from office amid controversy in September. During a visit by the President of Ukraine to the Canadian Parliament, he honored a Ukrainian Canadian veteran who fought for a Nazi unit in World War II.

“As someone whose family suffered immensely at the hands of the Nazis, it was a very difficult personal time,” Gould said.

Questions were later raised about the new president’s conduct after Greg Fergus, another Liberal MP, filmed a video that was shown at a party event.

“Part of your job as a leader is to be able to find a path forward,” he said during difficult times.

“I think that’s something I managed to do over the last few months.”

As House leader, he helped the minority Liberal government gain unanimous support to fast-track a bail reform bill in September, which became law last month. He also pushed a bill that sought to address the affordability crisis by creating a tax break for new rental developments and updated competition laws.

Greg MacEachern, a Liberal strategist and founder of KAN Strategies, said Gould managed to portray “calm competence” throughout.

“Karina Gould’s style is that of someone who is able to remain calm while the temperature rises in the House,” MacEachern said.

“No liberal has any doubts about how he handled things, and they tend to like the contrast between the way he continues to speak at a very modulated level, pointing out the facts, punching a hole in the conservative argument, but doing so without appearing to break a sweat.”

DeLorey said Gould has proven to be a strong communicator capable of pointing out conservative weaknesses.

“Conservatives need to ensure they can counter this effectively and push back where warranted,” he said.

But at this point, he noted, the Conservatives have yet to directly challenge Gould, proving that she was the right choice to deliver Trudeau’s jabs.

“She’s been landing them and it hasn’t been something we’ve seen in a while,” he said.

When the House resumes sessions in late January after a winter break, Gould will not be on the front bench while she takes maternity leave.

Government leader Steve MacKinnon will become acting leader of the House, and Gould said he plans to vote on bills virtually and attend cabinet and caucus meetings by phone and video.

It’s a decision she made after pushing herself too hard after having her first child in 2018 and taking only a nine-week break, which she says didn’t give her enough time to recover physically and mentally.

“I was very focused on two things: doing my job as then Minister of Democratic Institutions and MP for Burlington, and being a mother,” she said.

“I didn’t have room for anything else in my life, including the fact that right before I gave birth, I lost my mother very suddenly to cancer, and there was a lot going on.”

Since then, the creation of a hybrid Parliament in which MPs can vote virtually has given her (and others like NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh) the opportunity to take parental leave while still fulfilling some of her obligations. .

That’s something she strongly advocated for, explaining that she sees it as part of her modus operandi to help break down barriers for women in politics.

Even if he may be less visible for a while, Gould said he has no intention of stopping fighting.

“At the end of the day, it is an incredible privilege and honor to serve in any seat in that House, and I want Canadians to be proud of their democratic institutions,” he said.

“And I want them to be proud of the people who serve there.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 4, 2024.

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