Top 5 political blunders of 2015
Harper government's focus on niqab, identity politics and Trudeau's embrace of Eve Adams make the list
There were many political achievements in 2015, from a high level of engagement during the election campaign to one of the best voter turnouts in a generation — but there was no shortage of moments that our politicians would surely like to forget.
- Top 5 political stories: Crushing defeat, terrorism and the Senate
- Top 5 political newsmakers: Elder statesmen, disgraced senator and a premier
Before we repress those memories once and for all, we've rounded up the biggest missteps of the year.
Watch the video montages below and play our full Top 5 episode in the player above.
1. Identity politics
The niqab — a religious face-covering garment worn by some devout Muslim women — became a hot-button election issue thanks to the Federal Court, but also because of politicking by the Conservative government.
Stephen Harper was resolute in the face of a ruling that overturned his government's ban on the wearing of face coverings, such as the niqab, at citizenship ceremonies, calling the garment "offensive" and "not how we do things here." Harper painted the niqab as a threat to women's equality; others saw it as a "wedge" issue to court disaffected Tory voters.
The issue took on more heat after Harper said he would "look at" a Quebec bill that would extend the niqab ban to frontline public servants.
A smattering of violence directed at a veiled Muslim woman in Montreal and another woman in a Toronto mall added fuel to the fire. Justin Trudeau seized on the incidents to accuse Harper of playing identity politics.
"I think it's obvious that he's playing very reckless and dangerous games, pitting Canadians against one another for a narrow political goal," Trudeau said.
The Conservatives faced more criticism later in the campaign, when candidates Kellie Leitch and Chris Alexander held a press conference to tout a "tipline" for the reporting of "barbaric cultural practices."
2. Chris Alexander on refugees
In the middle of the election campaign, photos surfaced of three-year-old Alan Kurdi's lifeless body on a Turkish beach. The Kurdi family, which had ties to Canada, were trying to flee their war-torn country when Alan drowned.
The Canadian connection brought the Harper government's policies on refugee resettlement into the spotlight.
Harper argued his pledge, made at the outset of the campaign, to bring 10,000 more Syrians to Canada was a reasonable plan. The opposition accused the Conservatives of being heartless and they targeted one man in particular: Immigration Minister Chris Alexander.
Alexander fought back in the face of tough questions on Power & Politics and sparked an online backlash when he accused the media of ignoring the crisis and only honing in on it after Kurdi's photo emerged.
3. Candidate vetting
Imagine catching a man in your employ peeing in one of your coffee mugs rather than walk 15 feet to use the washroom. An investigation by CBC News Marketplace revealed one repairman doing just that while fixing a homeowner's appliance.
The incident happened years before Jerry Bance was selected as the Conservative candidate for the riding of Scarborough–Rouge Park. And yet the party's vetting process — once known for its thoroughness — missed the incident entirely. This led to great embarrassment when CBC News unearthed the video and aired it during the election campaign. Bance was quickly turfed.
But he wasn't the only candidate who cleared the vetting process only to be tripped up by social media.
A Conservative candidate in Toronto, who years earlier posted YouTube videos in which he mocked people with disabilities and faked an orgasm during a prank call with a female customer service rep, was dumped too. Nasty Twitter exchanges came back to haunt a Liberal candidate in Calgary. An NDP candidate was forced to resign over Facebook comments he made about Israel.
4. Eve Adams crosses the floor
On an early morning in February, reporters in the parliamentary press gallery were left speechless — aside from audible gasps — as long-time Conservative MP Eve Adams walked into the National Press Theatre alongside Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.
Adams had been a loyal Tory since her teenage years, and was considered one of the fiercest partisans in the Conservative caucus. She regularly went on the offensive in her role as parliamentary secretary, slagging the opposition and the then-third party Liberals for not backing the government's policies.
Her partner, Dimitri Soudas, was considered one of Harper's closest confidants. Soudas worked out of the party's communications shop on a number of national campaigns, going on to become Harper's director of communications. He finished his tenure in the lofty position of executive director of the party, before he was forced out for helping Adams in her riding nomination battle.
All of that came to an end the day Adams announced she was crossing the floor to join the Liberal Party. Trudeau readily embraced Adams, much to chagrin of some longtime Liberals, who bristled at the idea of welcoming her into the fold; they also questioned his judgment.
One provincial Liberal MPP said if Adams became the federal Liberal candidate in her chosen riding of Eglinton-Lawrence, it would be "over my dead body."
Ultimately, Adams lost the Liberal nomination in the Toronto riding to Crown prosecutor Marco Mendicino, who unseated Conservative Joe Oliver in the election.
5. Elizabeth May's awkward press gallery speech
There is perhaps nothing more daunting for a party leader than delivering an address at the annual press gallery dinner. Historically, these speeches have been a chance to poke fun at themselves and the media. For years, the entire event was off the record. That's since changed.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May's speech was particularly curious. She wrapped up her rambling remarks with a shout-out to Omar Khadr, who had just been freed on bail pending an appeal of his U.S. conviction on terrorism charges.
"Omar Khadr, you've got more class than the whole f--king cabinet," May said, referring to the Conservative Party, as Transport Minister Lisa Raitt tried to usher her off the stage.
Raitt intervened multiple times in an attempt to persuade May to end her speech. Instead, May played a recording of Welcome Back, Kotter, the theme song from a 1970s sitcom.
"I'm not going to deny for a moment that I would rather that I had Saturday night to do over," May told CBC News after the event. May said she should have realized she was "too sleep deprived" to pull off what she intended to be an "edgy" attempt at humour.