OTTAWA — If a politician shows up at your door next year and asks to have a word, you might want to ask: “Which one?”
The openparliament.ca website keeps a running tally of favourite words of our elected representatives, based on all their utterances into the official record of the Commons — and eliminating, of course, words such as “the” or “and.”
The results are often amusing, and at times, an insight into political fixations.
For years, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s favourite word was “Liberal,” even after his chief political rivals were knocked to third-party status in the House. But as of the end of 2014, Harper’s most-uttered word was “NDP.” Appropriately enough, NDP leader Tom Mulcair’s favourite word was “Conservatives.”
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, meanwhile, favours the word “program,” while Green Party leader Elizabeth May, perhaps befitting her unofficial title as busiest MP in Parliament, likes to use the word “amendment.”
Some cabinet ministers, no surprise, have favourite words to match their portfolios. Human Resources Minister Jason Kenney says “employers” most often; Justice Minister Peter MacKay talks a lot about the “police;” Transport Minister Lisa Raitt frequently puts the word “rail” in her remarks, while Treasury Board President Tony Clement seems to favour the word “departments.”
Funnily enough, Finance Minister Joe Oliver and the Speaker of the House of Commons, Andrew Scheer, share the same favourite word: “chair.”
Heritage Minister Shelly Glover might be expected to favour artsy or broadcasting words, but this is a Conservative government, so her favourite word is “tax.” Defence Minister Rob Nicholson is fond of the word “individuals” and embattled Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino prefers the word “families.”
Industry Minister James Moore has the very same favourite word as his boss: “NDP.”
The favourite-word counter also picks up on verbal tics. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird obviously likes the word “obviously,” for instance.
And what about the MPs who have been at the centre of controversy in the Commons this past year? Dean Del Mastro, the former parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister, who resigned in 2014 after a court found him guilty of election-spending violations, most often said “riding.”
Paul Calandra, the current parliamentary secretary to the PM, most often says “Senate” — which is either a sign of the opposition’s fixation on that chamber or a revealing glimpse into his own ambitions. Even more curiously, “Senate” is also the favourite word of former Liberal leader Stéphane Dion.
The two ousted Liberal MPs in the sexual-harassment controversy have interesting favourite words. For Newfoundland MP Scott Andrews, it’s “commissioner” and for Montreal-area MP Massimo Pacetti, it’s “going.”
Opposition MPs from Toronto have favourite words, by and large, to match their jobs as critics. The Liberal MP for St. Paul’s and the party’s aboriginal-affairs critic, Carolyn Bennett, likes the word “aboriginal;” Toronto-Danforth MP Craig Scott, in keeping with his democratic-reform responsibilities, likes the word “election.”
Toronto Centre MP Chrystia Freeland favours “Ukraine,” while the NDP MP for Davenport, Andrew Cash, says “workers” most often. It’s not entirely clear, however, why “way” would be the favourite word for Adam Vaughan, the former Toronto councillor turned MP for Trinity-Spadina in 2014.
The count is constantly being updated, so the next few months could present some interesting shifts in MPs’ favourite words. If they do correspond to their political fixations, “election” may emerge as a leading contender.