EDMONTON — Finance Minister Travis Toews come on down, you’ve been voted Alberta’s legislature member of the year.
The straight-shooting, low-talking, cowboy-boot-wearin’ member for Grande Prairie-Wapiti was the top choice among his political peers in an informal vote conducted by Speaker Nathan Cooper.
Toews was one of nine award winners in ballots cast over the past week.
“I thought it would be fun,” Cooper said prior to announcing the awards in the chamber Wednesday.
“(It’s) where parliamentarians have the opportunity to put down their tools and just reflect upon what has happened over the year and how individual members have done with respect to serving their constituents or Albertans.”
The most promising newcomer award, essentially rookie of the year, went to Community and Social Services Minister Rajan Sawhney, the first-term member from Calgary-North East.
The most collegial MLA, the legislature’s version of the NHL’s Lady Byng Trophy, was awarded to United Conservative backbencher Martin Long of West Yellowhead.
When it comes to on-the-ground hustle, UCP Drumheller-Stettler legislature member Nate Horner was voted the best representative for his constituents, while NDP deputy whip Janis Irwin of Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood was voted best at community outreach.
Alberta’s hardest working MLA, or the legislature’s Energizer bunny award, went to UCP backbencher Tracy Allard of Grande Prairie.
The legislature’s sharpest tongue honour was captured by Shane Getson. The UCP backbencher from Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland won the title of best debater.
NDP advanced education critic David Eggen of Edmonton-Northwest is the winner of the MLA lifetime achievement award. He is serving his fourth term in the legislature in a political career approaching two decades.
Alberta’s most knowledgeable parliamentarian title, the rules-braniac-wonk award, goes to Deputy Speaker Angela Pitt.
Should Albertans be concerned, Cooper was asked, that the Speaker of the House was not named the most knowledgeable parliamentarian?
Cooper paused, ummed and ahhed, then said he took his name out of the voting.
“I was not eligible to win.”
Cooper said more than half of the 87 MLAs returned the anonymous ballots.
No definitions were attached to the award titles, so voters were free to interpret them as they wished. There was no room for comments and there were no spoiled ballots.
Cooper said this is the first of what will be an annual poll, with modifications to come next time around, such as a committee to put forward nominees in each category.
It’s a legislature that could do with a little fence mending.
The fall sitting has been sluiced with acrimony, as Premier Jason Kenney’s government has overhauled and expunged a raft of rules passed by the former NDP government, while introducing a budget and letters warning that thousands of public sector jobs may have to go over the next three years.
Both sides have already handed out their own dubious superlative “awards.”
Kenney and the UCP have labelled Notley’s NDP “the worst government” in the history of Alberta and former finance minister Joe Ceci “the worst finance minister” in provincial annals.
Notley, in turn, has taken to calling Kenney “the most corrupt premier” in Canadian history for passing legislation to fire an independent elections watchdog who had been investigating — and heavily fining — Kenney’s party for fundraising violations.