Parliamentarians of the Year (best rookie): Chris Alexander

Chris Alexander landed in Ottawa last spring carrying a burden of expectations matched by few rookie MPs

Peter Bregg/Maclean's

For most rookie MPs, the move to Parliament Hill marks the most exciting job they’ve ever had, and the most media attention they’ve ever drawn. Not Chris Alexander. Before running for the Conservatives in Ajax-Pickering, just east of Toronto, Alexander was Canada’s most celebrated diplomat of recent times—the country’s first resident ambassador in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban, then a special UN representative in Kabul. Six high-profile years in the war-torn country ended in 2009, when he came home and soon announced he was entering politics as a Tory.

Expectations were high for the star recruit; a stumble wouldn’t have been a surprise. But Alexander, 43, has proven a solid performer. He had expected to be working largely on his own as a backbench MP, but has been surprised by “the intensity of the teamwork” on the Hill. As parliamentary secretary to Defence Minister Peter MacKay, he’s been specializing in issues that play to his international experience. They are often far from glamorous. This month, for instance, he spearheaded the government’s push to pass a measure to boost the independence of military judges.


When that legislation was debated in the House, Alexander took pains to credit NDP and Liberal MPs who had co-operated on the bill. It was a small example of his concern about the broader question of House decorum. He blames the strains of recent political history for creating a testy atmosphere. Minority government polarized and charged things, he says. “We’re trying to change that now.”

Alexander lives in Ajax, near the shore of Lake Ontario, with his Danish wife, Hedvig Christine Alexander, who worked for seven years on development projects in Afghanistan, and now runs a company that imports fine crafts from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbeckistan. They have a two-year-old daughter and another born on Oct. 11. They’ve been pleasantly surprised, Alexander says, to find that Ajax has a sizable Afghan-Canadian community. Some aspects of his storied previous career seem destined to follow him.


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