Chris Gray

Chris is a Senior Consultant at Grassroots Public Affairs and is based in Ottawa. Chris can be contacted at chris@grassrootspa.ca.


Yesterday, the government laid out its plan to get Canada back on track and move forward from COVID-19. With the Governor General reading the Speech from the Throne, Parliament has now officially reconvened and will begin to sit regularly (using a hybrid model of in-person and virtual sittings) with House of Commons Committees resuming after Thanksgiving.

As an immediate next step, the government will put the speech to a confidence vote where the Liberals will need at least one party to support them to prevent a fall election – with the NDP being most likely supporter based on commitments to climate, child care and pharmacare. It is also anticipated that the government will soon release its Economic Response Plan (mini-budget) to set in motion the new measures announced in the Speech from the Throne.

With the government expected to survive the upcoming confidence vote, they will look to table the next budget early in 2021. During the Prime Minister’s national address last evening, he noted Canadians need to collectively do everything possible to fight COVID-19, with hopes that some normalcy can return around Christmas.

Overview of main themes

1. Fight the pandemic and save lives/protect Canadians from COVID-19.

  • The Government will support provinces in getting access to PPE’s and faster tests, and will create a Federal Testing Assistance Response Team.
  • Government hopes all provinces will adopt the COVID Alert App.
  • The Government will work to target additional supports for businesses that have to shut down due to a local public health decision.

2. Supporting people and businesses through the crisis as long as it lasts.

  • The Government will launch a campaign to create over 1 million jobs, tools such as direct investments in social infrastructure, training to quickly skill up workers, and incentives for employers to hire and retain workers.
  • Government will extend the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy until next summer. Government will scale up the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy to provide more opportunities next year. Over the coming months EI will become the sole system for unemployment benefits.
  • Women have been hit hardest. Government will create an action plan for women in the economy, guided by a task force of experts.
  • The Government will make a significant Canada-wide investment in childcare and build on previous investments. Government will also accelerate the Women’s Entrepreneurship Strategy.
  • The Government will expand the Canada Emergency Business Account to help businesses with fixed costs; improve the Business Credit Availability Program; and introduce further support for industries that have been hardest hit, including travel and tourism, hospitality, and cultural industries.

3. Build back better, to create a stronger and more resilient Canada (continue to strengthen the middle class, create jobs, build safer communities).

  • The Government will work with Parliament on Criminal Code amendments to penalize those that neglect seniors, work with provinces to set national standards for long-term care, and take action to help people stay in their homes longer.
  • Government will bring forward a Disability Inclusion Plan (with a benefit modeled after the Guaranteed Income Supplement), an employment strategy for Canadians with disabilities, and a better program to determine eligibility for programs and benefits.
  • Government will ensure everyone has access to a family doctor/primary care, and continue to expand virtual care.
  • They will continue to address the opioid crisis.
  • The Government remains committed to pharmacare, will accelerate steps such as a rare-disease strategy, national formulary, and working with the provinces.
  • Government will support regional routes for airlines.
  • The Government will move forward with enhancements to the First-Time Home Buyer Incentive, including Canada’s largest cities.
  • The Government will strengthen local food supply chains, and ensure that supply-managed sectors receive compensation.
  • Government will introduce a free, auto tax filing for simple returns.
  • The Government will immediately bring forward a climate change plan to exceed Canada’s 2030 climate goal, and legislate Canada’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, including:
    • Create jobs by retrofitting homes and buildings
    • Invest in reducing the impact of climate-related disasters
    • Help deliver more transit options
    • Make zero-emissions more affordable – launch a new fund to attract investments in making zero-emissions products
    • Moving forward with the Clean Power Fund
    • Support investments in renewable energy and new-generation clean energy
    • Support manufacturing, natural resource and energy sectors as they work to transform to meet a net zero future
    • Recognize farmers, foresters, etc., as key partners in the fight
    • Will continue policy of putting a price on pollution
    • The Government will ban harmful single use plastics next year and modernize Canada’s Environmental Protection Act

4. Stand up for who we are as Canadians (progress on equality, fights discrimination, reconciliation).

  • Move forward on work related to reconciliation, support capacity building, make additional commitments on clean drinking water, introduce legislation to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples before end of year.
  • Take action against online hate, implement an action plan to increase representation in hiring within public service, support contributions of Black Canadians.
  • As part of both the short-term economic recovery and long-term plan for growth, Government will leverage the advantage we have on immigration.

What happens next?

The government does not want to trigger an election with this Speech from Throne, which is why they have leaned to the left on many of their unveiled policies in the hopes that the NDP will provide the support of their 24 MPs and prop up the government for the foreseeable future. However, Jagmeet Singh has stated that the Liberals do not automatically have the NDP’s support; they are still seeking to have the Canada Emergency Response Benefit extended and have paid sick leave offered to every employee across the country.

After some debate in the House of Commons on elements of the Speech from the Throne, the Speaker will call the question of confidence within the next week and a half. The Conservatives have already said that they will vote against the Speech from the Throne. Committees will be re-constituted soon, and the Senate will also open a new session. The Finance Minister is working diligently on a Fall Economic Update that will report on pandemic spending to date and begin to implement the government’s agenda, such as childcare and extending the wage subsidy program. Long term, the government will work towards Budget 2021 to articulate how the government will recover financially from the COVID-19 crisis.

Moving forward there will be opportunities to engage with MPs and government officials to discuss how your organization’s priorities may fit within government (or opposition) priorities. As noted, there will be a Fall Economic Update, a budget in spring 2021, and given that we’re still living with a minority Parliament, an opportunity to influence a party’s platform. The possibility of a federal election sometime in the next 6 months stands, and the team at Grassroots continues to monitor things daily.


If you are interested in discussing your organization’s communication and advocacy plans, please email us at info@grassrootspa.ca.

Ray Pons is a Senior Communications Specialist at Grassroots Public Affairs and is based in Toronto. Ray can be contacted at ray@grassrootspa.ca.


Crisis communications are highly emotional. It is a crisis after all. And if, as is often the case, the communication platform is “public speaking” emotional concerns and flat-out fears kick in big time. Fear of the crisis itself, in combination with an innate fear of public speaking, can create a messy mish-mash of the speaker’s mindset resulting in a confusing, rambling message.

The entire experience often becomes overwhelming. Many noble, well-intentioned and intelligent people lose emotional control and are unable to stay focused. Your passion, rage, fury, fears and frustrations can easily get the better of you and your message becomes incoherent damaging both your professional and personal reputation.

The solution depends on your skill to gain, or re-gain, and then resiliently maintain the first of Grassroots’ 3 C’s: Clarity.

Clarity demands that you narrow the focus of all that’s going on inside your head and your heart.

Quiet the white noise. Become fully aware and determine exactly what you must say. Strategically focus on how best to say it. Calculate where and when the delivery will be presented.  

What follows is a simple (not easy) 3 step process that will give you a “slight-edge principle” to trim-tab and be in better control when you need it most.  

  1. Think.
  2. Focus.
  3. Act.

Think

Emotional acknowledgement is the first stage of emotional management (control of self). Answer these 3 questions in depth and with probative accuracy:

  1. What exactly is your deepest concern?
  2. Why?
  3. What must you do to maintain control of F.U.D.S. (Fears, Uncertainties, Doubts, Suspicions)?

Focus

Identify 2 polar-opposite possible outcomes:

  1. What is the worst that can happen?
  2. What is the best that can happen?

Strategically focus on the negatives which must be avoided or diminished, as well as the positives you wish to bring about.

With the very best and the very worst, properly established in your mindset you are better equipped to accurately determine the attributes you must manifest to handle your present crisis. Many strong leaders find it helpful to role-model crisis leaders whom they consider impressive. For me, those leaders include Winston Churchill, WWII; Ghandi, emancipation of India; JFK, Cuban missile crisis. Or business crisis leaders; the likes of Lee Iacocca, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Who are the powerhouse people you admire? Study them, emulate their characteristics of communications to keep you on track, maintain focus.

Act

Think some, focus some, but then by God do something! Execute! 

Crisis tends to get worse not better under dithering leadership. For certain it is valid that analytical thinking, and pondering the enormously wide range of possibilities, are essential to make prudent decisions. But there is also truth to the saying “paralysis through analysis.”

There is rarely sufficient certainty when dealing with any crisis to identify THE solution, the ONE correct decision. Usually it’s about making A decision and having the strength of will to execute on that decision.

Also, be armed with a readiness to pivot, to adapt and face reality of whether the plan is working or not working. Be empowered to make another decision or decisions as the situation evolves. Be strong. Follow your convictions. Trust your instincts. And ACT.

To your success!     

Peter Seemann is a Senior Consultant and Principal of Grassroots Public Affairs and is based in Toronto. Peter can be contacted at peter@grassrootspa.ca.


It was ironically fitting that after an unprecedentedly long, and disrupted leadership race due to COVID-19, the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) announced their new leader after more than a 6-hour delay due to technical problems counting ballots. Erin O’Toole won the leadership on the 3rd ballot, defeating front runner Peter MacKay by a healthy margin. Third place finisher Leslyn Lewis ran a very solid campaign and raised her profile significantly. Everyone expects Ms. Lewis has an opportunity to play a leading role in the party moving forward, providing she wins a seat in the next election. Fourth place finisher Derek Sloan trailed the others with 14% support on the first ballot but still did better than many expected.

About Erin O’Toole

While not a household name to those outside conservative political circles, Erin O’Toole is no stranger to politics. Elected in a by-election in 2012, O’Toole served as a minister for various portfolios in the Harper government and placed third in the 2017 leadership race behind Andrew Scheer and Maxime Bernier. O’Toole’s father, John O’Toole, was a member of the provincial legislature in Ontario for 20 years and primarily responsible for inspiring his son to enter public office. Prior to politics, O’Toole had a 12-year career in the Royal Canadian Air Force and later worked as a corporate lawyer on Bay Street in Toronto. His varied life experiences and strong leadership skills will undoubtedly benefit him as he seeks to unite the party and sell its brand to Canadians. However, like any newly-elected party leader, he has some significant challenges ahead, and the work involved to unite the party across all regions will be significant.

Challenges ahead

Mr. O’Toole’s first challenge will be to unite the caucus behind him. While he earned the support of 36 of his caucus members, a greater number publicly backed other candidates: 43 supported Peter MacKay and 6 supported Leslyn Lewis. Through the endorsement of Premier Jason Kenney and the absence of any rival candidate from western Canada, O’Toole’s support in caucus was disproportionally from the west while his main rival Peter MacKay’s was from Ontario and Quebec. To the surprise of many O’Toole lead MacKay in Quebec after the first ballot, however membership numbers in Quebec’s 78 ridings were tiny compared to Ontario and the west. That doesn’t matter in Conservative leadership races, where every riding across the country is weighted equally. After Mr. O’Toole unites his party in Ottawa, he and his team will begin the even greater challenge of selling the Conservative Party brand to Canadians that are tired of Trudeau. There will be little time to celebrate as Mr. O’Toole’s team transitions in the office of the Leader of the Opposition. New staff will need to be hired and the party must quickly organize for an election that could be triggered in the coming months.

What’s next?

Liberal strategists will likely be dusting off the same playbook they used after the last Conservative leadership race to remind Canadians of the significant social conservative presence in the party. The Conservative Party of Canada is a very large tent with many different groups who, in some circumstances, have opposing views, so uniting them won’t be easy. Had Peter MacKay won with the backing of more centrist Conservatives from Eastern Canada, he would have had an equally challenging time uniting those Conservative members from Western Canada and rural areas. Somehow, former Prime Minister Stephen Harper found a way to keep the party united and focused on its primary opponent – the Liberals. Now, it’s up to Erin O’Toole to do the same. Unlike his opponents, Mr. O’Toole is already an MP, so his transition to leader will be smoother than if he didn’t have a seat in parliament. Given his work ethic and determination to win, I suspect he and his team are already hard at it.


Peter Seemann & Erin O’Toole at the Albany Club’s 2020 Sir John A MacDonald Dinner.

Chris Gray is a Senior Consultant based in Ottawa who worked on Parliament Hill as a legislative assistant for the Liberals. Chris can be contacted at chris@grassrootspa.ca.


The Prime Minister has decided to prorogue parliament with a new session starting on September 23rd.  There will be a Speech from the Throne, followed by a vote of confidence to be called on the government’s update plan for recovery from the economic devastation of COVID-19. The Liberals are likely to try to appeal to the NDP with the Speech from the Throne, to ensure they hold on to power.

Acting quickly on Bill Morneau’s resignation, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has named Chrystia Freeland the new Minister of Finance (in addition to her current role as Deputy Prime Minister). Dominic Leblanc is the new Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and will continue to hold the role of President of the Queen’s Privy Council. While Morneau and Prime Minister Trudeau had their differences on how best to handle the economy and WE scandal, Freeland and Leblanc are both strong supporters of Mr. Trudeau.

In her historic new post, Freeland will lead the safe restart and recovery of our economy and LeBlanc will work with provinces and territories “to ensure the well-being, health, and safety of Canadians from coast to coast to coast,” according to a statement from the PMO. With the government faced with a $343B deficit this year and expectations that the federal debt load will hit $1.2 trillion in 2020-21, she has her work cut out for her.

Effects of prorogation

The principal effect of ending a session by prorogation is to terminate business. Members are released from their parliamentary duties until parliament is next summoned. All unfinished business is dropped from or “dies” on the order paper and all committees lose their power to transact business, providing a fresh start for the next session. No committee can sit during a prorogation. Bills which have not received Royal Assent before prorogation are “entirely terminated” and, in order to be proceeded with in the new session, must be reintroduced as if they never existed. On occasion, however, bills have been reinstated by a motion at the start of a new session at the same stage they had reached by the end of the previous session; committee work will similarly be revived.

While new laws cannot be made during prorogation, cabinet and bureaucratic business continues, and officials from all parties work out plans for the next session. Whenever the house is not in session, including during prorogation, MPs have a number of other tasks, like connecting with constituents in their home riding. (source: House of Commons Procedure and Practice, edited by Robert Marleau and Camille Montpetit).

Moving forward

The government will hold a cabinet retreat in September and the Speech from the Throne on Sept. 23rd to begin a fresh session of the House of Commons. A budget or economic update is planned shortly thereafter.

Regarding engagement, MPs will still be meeting with constituents in their communities. There is a good chance that the government will hold a new round of consultations this fall leading to an economic update or budget. Officials will still be open to have discussions as well. There is an opportunity to engage the new Finance Minister and her office as well.

We will also be watching to see if Chrystia Freeland’s Chief of Staff Jeremy Broadhurst and other staff follow her to her new post. When parliament does finally resume in October the Conservative Party will have elected a new leader, and depending on who wins, may or may not have their leader in the House of Commons. This fall will undoubtedly be a very interesting time politically.

As always, Grassroots will be here to support your ongoing advocacy priorities.

Chris Gray is a Senior Consultant based in Ottawa who worked on Parliament Hill as a legislative assistant for the Liberals. Chris can be contacted at chris@grassrootspa.ca.


As provinces start to re-open and allow larger gatherings and businesses to resume operations, and Canada’s COVID-19 numbers continue to improve, we are hopeful that parliamentary meetings will also resume in a normal fashion come this fall. After weeks of socially distanced in-person meetings and online communication to conduct parliamentary business, the special COVID-19 Committee will cease to exist. Parliament plans to meet four times over the summer months to ensure MPs have an opportunity to interact with the government regarding Canada’s plan to recover from the pandemic.

In a recent report, the parliamentary budget officer said this year’s federal deficit could hit $256 billion due to COVID-19. The result is the combination of an estimated $169 billion in federal spending on emergency aid and a historic drop in economic output. The budget office estimates the economy could shrink by 6.8 per cent in 2020, the weakest showing since 1981 and double the record of 3.2 per cent shrinkage in 1982. We await the Liberal government’s fiscal “snapshot”, that will be presented to the House of Commons on July 8th, to see what their projections are moving forward after the COVID recovery spending blitz.

With Conservatives on the verge of selecting their new leader, it will be interesting to watch frontrunners Peter MacKay and Erin O’Toole as they turn up the heat and seek support. As the August 21st selection date grows closer, our money is on MacKay for leader. MacKay has backed away from earlier comments that he would try to force a fall election, citing the country’s need to focus on COVID recovery.

2020 Pre-Budget Consultations

The House of Commons Finance Committee has signaled its intention to proceed with 2021 federal budget consultations by inviting stakeholders to submit a brief for consideration by August 7th. This is a good opportunity for organizations to kick off engagement with government officials and MPs. The Finance Committee’s theme this year will be measures to restart the Canadian economy.

Polling

It was just seven short months ago the Liberals held onto power with a minority government. Given how the Prime Minister and the government have responded to the COVID crisis, Canadians are giving them a thumbs up – if an election were held now, polls suggest the Liberals would win a majority with 191 seats in the House of Commons.

338Canada Electoral Projection from June 14, 2020
Source: 338Canada

While we at Grassroots don’t anticipate an election this fall, it’s prudent for organizations to be prepared with a plan, just in case. The opposition parties stated early in the year that a fall election could happen, but COVID restrictions has likely put a hard stop to that. And now with the Liberals riding high in the polls, the other parties, particularly the Conservatives, will want to get back to parliament to hold the government to account for all additional spending commitments. Couple this with the upcoming U.S. election that Canadians will undoubtedly watch very closely, the appetite for a federal election will be low.

The House of Commons will return in September and we expect some semblance of normality in the proceedings, with in-person sittings and committee meetings. Also, pre-budget consultations with the Finance Committee will kick into high gear and many organizations will look to meet with committees, MPs and officials (either in-person or virtually) to advance their priorities with government.

Key Dates to Remember:

  • July 8th – Government presents fiscal update to the House of Commons
  • The House of Commons meets on July 8th, July 22nd, August 12th, August 26th
  • August 7th – Finance Committee pre-budget consultation process closes
  • August 21st – Conservative leadership results announced
  • September 21st – Regular House of Commons sittings resume

Peter Seemann is a Senior Consultant and Principal of Grassroots Public Affairs and is based in Toronto. Peter can be contacted at peter@grassrootspa.ca.


If you thought the last few months of politics at Queen’s Park were a blur, you’re not alone. While the legislature normally breaks for the summer around this time, a revised schedule is now available online for the coming months. Due to time lost during the COVID 19 lockdown, a rotating number of legislators and staff will find themselves sitting for 3 weeks in July. Currently the plan is to be away for August and return to a normal schedule in September.

In the meantime, let’s consider a few government priorities.

COVID-19 Reopening

To say COVID-19 has dominated everyone’s attention since March, remains an understatement. Speaking to numerous government staff over the last few weeks, everyone agrees that besides the massive and ongoing response to tackling the pandemic, little else is getting done. Most major announcements outside of the Ministry of Health all relate to COVID (i.e. Education on school programs, Agriculture on temporary foreign workers, etc.), while Finance and the Treasury Board do their best to get a handle on what the bottom line looks like.

With Toronto and Peel Region finally getting the green light to enter Phase 2 of re-opening, the government is cautiously hoping the infection numbers continue their downward trend. Evident by the massive beach party last weekend in Toronto, Ontarians are eager to get out and celebrate the arrival of summer after 3 months of social isolation.

Yet everyone should be concerned about the possibility of a spike in infections as people let their guard down, and what that might do to our already crippled economy. Suffice to say, there are lots of fingers and toes crossed in and around Queen’s Park these days.

Provincial Budget

Back on March 4th the provincial government announced their annual budget would be presented on March 25th. That date was scuttled when Premier Ford declared a provincial State of Emergency on March 17th. Since then, government expenditures, particularly for healthcare, have skyrocketed and tax revenues have plummeted due to the forced closure of so many businesses and industries. This perfect storm of economic turmoil is causing sizeable uncertainty, but Ontario is not alone and engages daily with their federal counterparts in Ottawa, as governments look to support Canadians during these difficult times.

As of last fall, the projected annual deficit for 2020/21 was estimated at between $6-9B. A report released in May by the Financial Accountability Office suggested Ontario’s annual deficit could balloon to over $40B as a result of the pandemic. This unforeseen economic catastrophe will completely derail the PC government’s plan to balance the provincial budget by 2023. Finance Minister Rod Phillips announced in March that a full budget would not be released until this fall.

Despite the reality of things changing on a daily basis, staff at Finance will be working overtime during the summer months to try and get a handle on things. The legislature is set to resume on September 14th, and we anticipate a budget date during the first full week of October.

Cabinet Shuffle

It’s normal for majority governments to look at shuffling their cabinet around the mid-way point of their term, and in recent days the Premier has fielded questions from reporters on the topic. Expectedly, Ford did not tip his hat on any specific plans but noted he was blessed with a great team and that he had “20 caucus members who could jump into cabinet in a heartbeat and be just as good”. So, let’s speculate on what changes might occur if a shuffle does in fact happen.

First off, the Premier and his government have enjoyed increased public approval in their handling of the pandemic since March. With that in mind, don’t expect any of the prominent faces seen daily with the Premier during his COVID updates to be changing positions. Finance Minister Phillips, Health Minister Elliott, Education Minister Lecce and even Labour Minister McNaughton are all likely to remain in their current positions going forward. However, there may be promotions of some younger and more diverse faces from caucus to full ministerial roles, including:

Photo of MPP Stan Cho

Stan Cho (Willowdale)

Currently the PA for Finance, MPP Cho was previously PA to Treasury Board. Widely recognized as a rising star, he has the added benefit of representing an important Toronto riding, and is the most likely new face to enter cabinet.

Photo of MPP Michael Parsa

Michael Parsa (Aurora–Oak Ridges–Richmond Hill)

MPP Parsa is currently the PA to Treasury Board and was previously the PA for Small Business. A tireless worker, he has an excellent track record of listening to people’s concerns, and his own experience as a successful small business owner puts him in a favourable position with Premier Ford.

Photo of MPP Christine Hogarth

Christine Hogarth (Etobicoke–Lakeshore)

Involved in provincial politics for many years, MPP Hogarth was a staffer during the Mike Harris years.  She understands politics at the grassroots level and has done well in her role of PA to the Solicitor General for Community Safety. Also representing an important riding in Etobicoke, her chances of being promoted to cabinet are good.

Photo of MPP Nina Tangri

Nina Tangri (Mississauga–Streetsville)

Prior to politics, MPP Tangri enjoyed a successful career in the private sector boasting over 30 years’ experience in financial management. Last year she was promoted to PA under the Minister of Economic Development. Given the importance of holding on to GTA area ridings, promoting a capable MPP like Tangri can only help the government with its re-election bid.

Photo of MPP Lindsey Park

Lindsey Park (Durham)

While still relatively unknown, MPP Park is a very capable and competent politician ready to serve in cabinet if asked. A lawyer by trade, she has stayed in the role of PA for the Attorney General under both Ministers Mulroney and now Downey. Ms. Park’s riding has a good mix of rural and urban areas so she could easily step into a variety of roles, especially if the Premier is interested in giving his cabinet a more youthful element.

Fall Session

While MPPs will continue to sit for July, things are far from normal at Queen’s Park. All of us are optimistically looking towards the fall in the hopes that regular face-to-face visits will resume come September. Despite the singular focus on COVID, the government is likely eager to move forward with other priorities, yet no one knows exactly when they will be safe to do that. Post-COVID, government focus will be restarting the economy and priority will be given to any and all advocacy initiatives based around economic growth and job creation.

Many industry groups have been pleading with government for emergency funding, but resources are limited. Therefore, as you look ahead to restarting your advocacy plans this fall, be mindful to highlight what’s in it for the government so they take notice and provide support.


Grassroots will be monitoring government activities throughout the summer months, and is your eyes and ears at Queen’s Park as you need it.

Stay healthy and enjoy the summer!

Photo of Catherine O'Gorman

Grassroots Public Affairs is excited to welcome Catherine O’Gorman to the team as a Campaign Support Specialist, effective immediately.

Catherine is a bilingual public policy and communications professional with an interest in public affairs and the agri-food sector. She has experience working with supranational, national, provincial and municipal governments and organizations including: the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, the United Nations, the House of Commons, the City of Ottawa, and the Québec Public Service.

Catherine holds a Bachelor of Arts in Global Politics with Minors in French and Spanish from Carleton University, a Masters of Public and International Affairs from Glendon College, and a Masters of Public Administration from the University of Strasbourg.

Catherine currently lives in Prince Edward County and works as a Communications and Community Outreach Specialist in the agri-food sector at Sprague Foods, an independent, family-run Canadian cannery.

Contact Catherine:

An annual snapshot of public opinion about Canadian agriculture and food.


As enthusiastic advocates for the Canadian Agri-Food sector, Grassroots Public Affairs is pleased to release our second annual agriculture and food research public opinion poll.

Our approach for 2020 includes COVID-19 pandemic-related food questions, as well as repeated questions from 2019 so we can measure any change in public opinion. Key findings for this year’s research include:

  • 64% of Canadians believe that hunger and food insecurity will worsen in future as a result of COVID-19. –
  • 97% of Canadians trust the quality of food grown or produced domestically – an increase from 2019. –
  • 92% of Canadians endorse government support for the agriculture and agri-food sector. –
  • 62% of Canadians believe that temporary foreign workers should continue to come into Canada. –
  • 87% of Canadians believe that agriculture and agri-food is a leading economic driver in Canada, identifying the sector as the most economically important industry surveyed. –
  • 86% of Canadians believe that agriculture and agri-food plays a key role in Canada’s national security and critical infrastructure, with the sector coming second only to healthcare in terms of importance.

Other key findings include:

  • Across the country more than one-in-six saying they have worked on a farm, in agriculture or in food processing. –
  • Canadians are more likely to grocery shop themselves as opposed to ordering-in, grabbing takeaway or using a grocery delivery service due to COVID-19. –
  • Canadians continue to hold overwhelmingly negative views towards food additives such hormones, pesticides, antibiotics and GMOs. –
  • The future of Canadian agriculture looks positive with a strong plurality believing that the industry is likely to grow as opposed to shrink or stay the same as it is today. –
  • Canadians continue to believe that the federal government should prioritize financial support for grains over livestock but support for proteins has increased in the past year.

Special thanks to Food Banks Canada for their participation.

You can read coverage of our poll findings by Bernard Tobin of Real Agriculture here.

We invite you to download and share the ‘Greenhouse’:

Grassroots-Greenhouse-Agriculture-Poll-Findings-May-1st-compresed

For customized presentations on the findings please contact us by email at info@grassrootspa.ca

Stay safe and healthy,

Peter Seemann, President
905-716-3000

Chris Gray is a Senior Consultant based in Ottawa who worked on Parliament Hill as a legislative assistant for the Liberals. Chris can be contacted at chris@grassrootspa.ca.


With the Prime Minister and government officials providing unprecedented daily updates on the COVID-19 health crisis, communications and advocacy efforts seemingly move at light speed and change on a dime. Grassroots continues to monitor the changing atmosphere, with updates available on our COVID-19 Resources page.

$82B aid package

After some political wrangling with the opposition parties, the government has now passed Bill C-13, the $82-billion aid package to help Canadians struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic — legislation that will improve access to Employment Insurance and other programs that provide money to workers and businesses in need. The crisis continues to have a massive effect on almost all industries.  Moving forward, we can expect other stimulus announcements from the government aimed at helping businesses stay afloat.

The changing advocacy environment

As social distancing is now the norm, advocacy efforts will have to shift towards digital initiatives – email and social media campaigns. In many ways, lobby groups can be useful conduits to the government in terms of relaying what’s happening on the ground per industry.  Moving forward, the legislative workload will get heavier once the government shifts from holding near-daily announcements into “the actual administrative rolling out of funds and programs”.

Looking ahead:

  • House of Commons tentatively set to resume regular sittings on April 20;
  • Federal Budget set for March 30th has been postponed indefinitely;
  • The Conservative leadership race has pushed back the June 27th convention; and
  • Many organizations are communicating with government seeking help – charities, hotel sector, tourism, for instance.

Grassroots can help!

The need for clarity, consistency and collaboration between the private sector and government has never been greater. Let Grassroots Public Affairs help support your critical  communication and advocacy initiatives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chris Gray is a Senior Consultant based in Ottawa who worked on Parliament Hill as a legislative assistant for the Liberals. Chris can be contacted at chris@grassrootspa.ca.

Rail blockades keeping MPs hopping

Parliament resumed sitting this week and had a very busy agenda, with meetings on to address the rail blockades, committee agendas and Chairs established, the new CUSMA trade deal debated and the Finance Committee wrapping up its pre-budget consultations. The House of Commons will now sit for two more weeks before taking another week back in the ridings for March break (week of March 16th). The Prime Minister, who spent 10 days recently with meetings in Africa, has established a team of cabinet members dedicated to finding solutions to the rail blockades. Canadian businesses are calling on the PM to take decisive action to limit the effects of these blockades. As expected, the opposition parties are pressing the government for answers and action.

Other news around Ottawa

With memberships now sorted out for the committees, most of them met this week to elect a Chair and plan committee business. The Finance Committee heard from Minister Bill Morneau (along with departmental officials) on Wednesday as he laid out the government’s fiscal priorities leading up to Budget 2020.  The Trade Committee met a number of times this week to discuss Bill C-4, the new NAFTA implementation legislation with Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland appearing Tuesday. The Health Committee, which has been studying Canada’s response to the coronavirus, met Wednesday afternoon to plan future work.

The Bloc Quebecois flexed its new muscle this week and press the House of Commons to support them as they look for the government to increase employment insurance coverage for people dealing with a serious illness (such as cancer) by extending from the current 15 weeks to 50 weeks. Ideally for the Bloc, this measure would be included in the government’s 2020 Budget expected in the coming weeks.

The NDP are committed to keeping pharmacare on the front-burner in the House of Commons. We are still expecting the party to introduce a private member’s bill soon that would call on the governing Liberals to keep their campaign pledge and extend the existing health care system to include prescription drugs. The private member’s bill, “An Act to implement the Canada Pharmacare Act”, could be introduced as early as this week.

With a few days to go until the private members’ circuit is officially up and running, New Democrat House Leader Peter Julian is set to set to launch a new backbench bid to put national pharmacare — and specifically, the New Democrat call for the federal Liberals to keep their campaign pledge and extend the existing health care system to include prescription drugs — on the House agenda. As per the notice paper, Julian served notice of his intention to introduce a bill to implement the Canada Pharmacare Act, although that’s just the first stage in priming the proposal to make its debut on the House floor.

We expect the next two weeks to be very busy leading up to the March Break. Committees will be busy tacking initial studies and the House agenda will be full and MPs will be pulled in all directions as stakeholders look to establish relationships with new MPs and influence the federal budget, expected in late March or early April.