December 09, 2009

The Aboriginal Sarah Palin?

Leona Aglukkaq:  Canada’s First Inuk Prime Minister?

By Adam Brickley[L]et me introduce you to the woman who I think should one day succeed Harper--Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, Conservative Member of Parliament from the Territory of Nunavut.

Aglukkaq first arrived in Parliament last November after scoring the first-ever Conservative victory in Nunavut, and Harper shocked the nation by immediately installing his star rookie as the head of nation’s powerful Health Ministry. At the time, it looked like an affirmative-action appointment designed to increase the number of women and minorities in the Cabinet (Aglukkaq is Inuk [or Eskimo] and hence an ”Aboriginal Canadian”). While it was not abnormal to see a few newcomers in the Cabinet, and Aglukkaq had previously served as Nunavut’s Health Minister, it seemed like Harper was taking a huge gamble by putting a neophyte in charge of Canada’s massive socialized medical system. Then the swine flu pandemic hit and Harper’s gamble paid off.

Aglukkaq rose to the occasion by rolling out one of most organized responses in the world, far outshining the bumbling of the Obama Administration down South. Under her leadership, Health Canada distributed millions of doses of vaccine around the country, developed guidelines as to who should be vaccinated, and handled the various crises associated with producing and distributing tens of millions of doses of swine flu vaccine. And when Canadians rushed to get the new vaccine and found themselves confronting shortages and long lines, Aglukkaq was the calm, steady voice on TV telling them to be patient and explaining that it takes time to distribute so much medicine.

Even the opposition Liberals praised Aglukkaq as she managed the largest immunization campaign in Canadian history. The star rookie is performing better than anyone could have imagined, and the woman once pilloried as an affirmative-action pick has become one of the strongest ministers in the entire Cabinet. My only question to the Conservatives is this: have you yet realized that this is the woman is not just an over-performer, but the future of your entire party?
Brickley denies that Aglukkaq is the Aboriginal Sarah Palin:Now, before you accuse me of going down this road only because I have an odd obsession with female politicians from very cold places--let me point out that the only personal qualities Leona Aglukkaq shares with Sarah Palin are a Northern heritage and a penchant for designer eyewear. Beyond that, they could not be more different. In fact, I like to call Aglukkaq “the anti-Palin” (similar life story, radically different style). Where Palin is outspoken, roguish, and charismatic--Aglukkaq is reserved, wonkish, and steady. However, that quiet confidence--and coolness under pressure--could be very marketable. Think of the slogan, “Less talk, more action--Re-elect Prime Minister Aglukkaq.”But another article notes more similarities:

Rookie Health Minister fulfils her dream--and then some

The child of a hunter and a respected teacher, Nunavut's Leona Aglukkaq always sought top government work

By Jane Taber
“Leona is very highly driven. Very ambitious,” says Jim Bell, the editor of the Nunatsiaq News, a weekly newspaper in Nunavut and Northern Quebec.

And Mr. Bell knows of what he speaks: He was one of her professors at the Arctic College in Iqaluit, and she was one of his best students.

“She was bright, diligent, hard-working, well-dressed and well-prepared,” he said. “I don't think she was more than 20 or 21 … very ambitious … working on a diploma in management studies.”

And so he asked her what she wanted to do when she graduated; she told him she wanted to make it in the world by becoming the deputy minister.

Ms. Aglukkaq (pronounced Ah-GLOO-cawk), 41, would not be interviewed for this profile.

She is married to Robbie MacNeil, a mental-health counsellor from Cape Breton, N.S., who is referred to in Nunavut as a “southerner.” The couple have a four-month-old boy, Cooper. And like Sarah Palin to the west of her, Ms. Aglukkaq, sticking with the narrative that she is an ambitious and tough woman (also like Sarah Palin), brought her baby to work just after he was born. She was then the Minister of Health in Nunavut and did not want to miss a thing.

First elected to the Nunavut Legislative Assembly in 2004, Ms. Aglukkaq also served as finance minister and House leader. And she was one of only two women in the 19-member assembly. She knows how to work in a male world, which will stand her in good stead in the testosterone-heavy House of Commons.
Comment:  The similarities go further than Brickley has noted. Aglukkaq is young (for a politician) and attractive. She got started in local politics. She's confident and ambitious. She seems to be a moderate and a reformer; so did Palin, until she swerved hard-right to boost her political prospects.

The major difference seems to be that Aglukkaq cares about health and women's services and government in general. She's in it to serve others, not to serve herself. This is a marked contrast with Palin, who cares only about fame and glory.

For more on Aglukkaq, see Body Bags Sent as Flu Assistance. For more on Palin, see The 2008 Presidential Campaign.


dmarks said...

"She's in it to serve others, not to serve herself. This is a marked contrast with Palin, who cares only about fame and glory."

Here's some good evidenece that Palin was in office to serve others, not to enrich herself:

"Palin won't accept raise".

That was a refreshing attitude in this era when government officials are way overpaid and keep digging their hand into the cookie jar.

(Kudos to Barack Obama: While researching this, I found his 2005 voting record in which he voted to "adopt an amendment that denies members of Congress, for FY 2006, the annual cost-of-living pay increase that would otherwise be granted.")

Rob said...

Quitting in the middle of her term to milk a $7 million book deal is better evidence of her attitude than turning down a $25,000 pay raise. Real government servants don't quit the job they campaigned to get and pledged to do.

dmarks said...

I cringe at the quitting too.

However, the way you worded it ("Real government servants don't quit the job they campaigned to get and pledged to do.") applies to our current President, who quit his Senate job. And a lot of other politicians, besides.

Rob said...

Quitting to run for higher office still falls into the category of government service. Quitting to enrich oneself doesn't.

dmarks said...

There is a certain amount of quitting when someone campaigns hard for a certain office, making all kinds of promises to serve the people of the district/etc and then they bail out pretty early into it.

It's a lot more clear in the carpetbagging/resume-knotching Senate career of Hillary Clinton. This is different from Obama: I'd be pretty sure he took his Senate campaign and seat seriously.