Chris Gray

Chris Gray is an Associate Senior Consultant based in Ottawa who worked on Parliament Hill as a legislative assistant for the Liberals. Chris can be reached at

With the January 20th inauguration date on the horizon, Grassroots connected with two key business influencers in Ottawa to get their perspectives on what Canada’s business environment could look like moving forward, with a Democrat back in the White House.

What does the Democrat win mean for our economy? Biden’s trade plans include bringing back critical supply chains so the U.S. are not dependent on other nations during a crisis, and promising to tighten domestic content rules, which may have implications for some closely linked Canadian manufacturing sectors. Some irritants will remain even under Biden. For instance, Biden promises more ‘Buy American’ policies, and perennial disputes like softwood lumber will not disappear.

Perrin Beatty

“From a Canadian business perspective, it will be good when we have greater clarity, not only about the Presidency, but also about Congress,” noted Perrin Beatty, President & CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

“When a President is faced with a Congress where one or both houses are controlled by another party, it becomes even more important for Canada to be present, not just in the White House, but also on the Hill,” Beatty continued.

From an industry specific perspective, President & CEO of the Forest Products Association of Canada Derek Nighbor had this to say about the Biden victory: “Historically, the softwood lumber file has been challenging for Canadian producers under both a Democratic and Republican administration. This trade dispute doesn’t only hurt Canadian workers, but it also hurts American families – driving up the cost of lumber that they need and driving up the cost of housing. At the best of times, Americans can only satisfy 75% of domestic demand for softwood lumber. They need Canadian lumber.”

Derek Nighbor

Beatty continued: “We can expect to see fewer capricious trade actions against Canadian products, but we should not assume that, just because the current President has embraced protectionism, having a different party in the White House would mean that the U.S. once again embraces open trade. Both parties have supported Buy American policies, and they will be a continuing concern for Canada.”

“We remain hopeful that the federal government can advance a more productive dialogue under the Biden-Harris administration. More broadly, while we expect there will continue to be protectionist winds out of the U.S., we are hopeful that President-elect Biden’s commitment to dialogue and multi-literalism will help tone down some of the unhelpful rhetoric and bring thoughtful discussion and less unpredictability to Canada-U.S. relations,” Nighbor noted in relation to the natural resources sector.

“The Canadian business community believes it’s important to restore the special relationship with our closest friend and most important customer. We hope that we will see the United States resume its leadership role in the world, including in international bodies like the World Trade Organization. While there are always challenges in our bilateral relationship, they can be overcome if both nations treat each other with respect and understanding. We should never forget that other countries throughout the world envy what Canada and the U.S. have built together,” Beatty concluded.

Prime Minister Trudeau has congratulated President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris, setting the stage for positive relations moving forward, and Members of Parliament from all political stripes passed a motion unanimously on Monday calling on the government to invite them to visit Canada, post-pandemic.  The next two months will be interesting, given President Trump’s embattled position on the 2020 election results, amid the national transition to a different administration.

Chris Gray

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

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

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

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

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

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.


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

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

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

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.

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

Speech from the Throne

Last week, the Governor General opened the 43rd Parliament with the reading of the Speech from the Throne. The speech largely re-iterated many priorities that the governing Liberals laid out in their election platform – addressing climate change will remain a top priority, increasing the personal income tax exemption to $15,000 will be one of the first bills introduced in the House, finding a workable solution to pharmacare and working to improve gun control measures.

With a minority Parliament and a brand new Speaker (Liberal MP Anthony Rota) the government will need to find concessions with the other parties on an issue-by-issue basis – however, no party truly wants to throw the country back into an election and the Liberals only need the backing of one of the parties to hold the confidence of the House. Both the NDP and the Conservatives have said that they will not support the government’s Throne Speech – however, the Bloc will support it, giving the Liberals the necessary votes in the House of Commons to pass.

Meet the new Ministers

On November 20th, the government’s gender balanced cabinet ministers were sworn in at Rideau Hall. Below are some new Ministers or those with a new portfolio:

Jonathan Wilkinson (North Vancouver) was promoted to Minister of Environment after serving as Parliamentary Secretary to Environment and Minister of Fisheries in the last Parliament. He takes over a tough and demanding portfolio from Catherine McKenna and will be front and centre leading the government’s agenda to tackle climate change. The Chief of Staff to Minister Wilkinson is Marlo Reynolds. (Image retrieved from

Steven Guilbeault (Laurier-Sainte Marie) is one of Trudeau’s “star” new MPs from the island of Montréal. A founding member of Équiterre, a Quebec environmental organization, he was also director and campaign manager for the Greenpeace Quebec chapter for ten years. His Chief of Staff is Mathieu Bouchard. (Image retrieved from the Government of Canada)

Mona Fortier (Ottawa-Vanier) is now in her second term and has been rewarded with her first cabinet position. Prior to being elected, Minister Fortier worked as the Chief Director of Communications and Market Development at Collège La Cité and managed her own strategic communications consulting firm. (Image retrieved from the Government of Canada)

Looking ahead – next steps

The House of Commons will now sit for the next week to largely debate the various elements of the Throne Speech. Once the House rises on December 13th (if not earlier) MPs will resume their regular schedule of a lengthy winter break to work in their constituencies. Parliament will resume on January 27th. Committees will be set soon so stakeholders will want to engage with these MPs on their specific issues. Meetings in the ridings in January are often a good idea to plant seeds with MPs on your issues. The government will soon be thinking about the 2020 federal budget. Ministers will have an opportunity to provide input into the Finance Minister and his office on their priority issues. The House of Commons Finance Committee will hold pre-budget consultations in the New Year and invite stakeholders to present before the committee. The Finance Committee’s report must be tabled in the House of Commons by February 28th, 2020.

If you are considering making a pre-budget submission and engaging with government to try to get a line in the budget, now is the time to think about meeting with MPs, staff and Ministers to discuss your ideas and requests. Grassroots Public Affairs can help you along the way – feel free to reach out and ask our advice!

Written by Chris Gray, Senior Consultant

As promised, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduced his new gender-balanced cabinet yesterday afternoon. There are now 36 cabinet ministers with 10 of those coming from Quebec, despite only having elected 35 Liberal MPs from the province in last month’s election. The Prime Minister has assembled a strong team to govern during this minority Parliament, rewarding those ministers who have been solid performers by keeping many in their same portfolios for stability and bringing in some new faces with diverse backgrounds.

There were some notable promotions, with Chrystia Freeland moving from Foreign Affairs to become the Deputy Prime Minister and François-Philippe Champagne moving to Foreign Affairs. Approximately half of the cabinet members from the previous parliamentary session have held onto their portfolios: Bill Morneau remains at Finance; Navdeep Bains stays at Innovation, Science, and Industry; Marie-Claude Bibeau holds onto Agriculture and Agri-Food; Marc Garneau stays at Transport; and David Lametti remains the Minister of Justice and Attorney General.

Notable deletions from cabinet include Ginette Petitpas-Taylor, who was the Health Minister and Kirsty Duncan who was the Minister of Science.

Some key shifts:

Notable new faces in Trudeau’s cabinet this time around, including seven rookies:

  • Rookie Oakville MP Anita Anand is the Minister of Public Services and Procurement;
  • Manitoba MP Dan Vandal is the Minister of Northern Affairs;
  • Toronto MP Marco Mendocino becomes the Minister of Immigration;
  • Rookie Montreal MP Stephen Guilbeault is the new Minister of Canadian Heritage.

So what about western representation? The Prime Minister was stuck between a rock and a hard place with no MPs in either Saskatchewan or Alberta. He has appointed Winnipeg MP Jim Carr, the former Natural Resources Minister, as the government’s special representative in the Prairies. Presumably his role will include regular liaison with western MPs of all stripes and provincial governments to ensure the government is listening to their priorities.

The government will be focused on continuing to tackle climate change and ensure the country’s economic growth by investing further in Canada’s natural resources, particularly in the west with pipelines and oil. And of course, ratification of the USMCA trade deal between Canada/U.S./Mexico is still to be completed.

We anticipate that this minority government will be in place anywhere from 18 months to two years. It will be important for stakeholders to connect with MPs, ministers and their staff in the early days of the new government to establish relationships and put issues on the table. And we must remember that with a minority Parliament, opposition MPs and critics can play an important role in the House of Commons and in Committees.

The Governor General will read the Speech from the Throne on Thursday, December 5th and Parliament will sit for the next week to take care of house keeping items before breaking for Christmas and returning on January 27th. Over the next week, stakeholders can anticipate the release of the Minister’s mandate letters and the announcement of Parliamentary Secretaries to support the Ministers.

Grassroots is ready to assist your organization in Ottawa with any federal engagement or strategic advice you may require as you plan your advocacy efforts.

The members of the cabinet are:

Written by Chris Gray

Canadian Parliament buildings
Photo by James Beheshti on Unsplash

When the Prime Minister visits the Governor General on November 20th to unveil his new cabinet, we can expect significant changes. Reduced from 177 seats to 157, including losing a high-profile Minister in Ralph Goodale, there are some holes. Over the next few weeks, we will hear many rumours as the vetting process begins and MPs start to field calls to gauge their interest in serving in cabinet. The Prime Minister, who has once again committed to a gender balanced cabinet, will also have to factor in rewarding long-serving MPs, keeping some current core cabinet ministers and rewarding key high-profile rookies who knocked off key opposition MPs. And of course, the Prime Minster will have to figure out how best to serve Western Canada’s interest in cabinet with no MPs in Alberta or Saskatchewan. So, let’s take a closer look.

Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba

The West is a mess for the Prime Minister. With no seats in either Alberta or Saskatchewan, he may be forced to do something unconventional to ensure they are represented around the cabinet table. Since a cabinet minister does not have to be a sitting MP, the Prime Minister could look to appoint a Senator or two from those provinces, which is not unprecedented. Rumours continue that there are ongoing discussions with Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi. Trudeau could also designate a minister from B.C. or Manitoba to cover off Alberta and Saskatchewan. This will be one of the most important early decisions for this minority government. Reduced to only four seats in Manitoba, it’s quite possible that two of the four will be awarded a cabinet seat. With Jim Carr’s recent cancer diagnosis, it would be very surprising to see him return to cabinet, where he serves as the Minister of International Trade Diversification. That leaves Dan Vandal (Saint Boniface-Saint Vital), Terry Duguid (Winnipeg South) and Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North) with a very good chance to be promoted.

British Columbia

In British Columbia, Harjit Sajjan (Vancouver South) and Carla Qualtrough (Delta) both performed well in their roles at Defence and Public Services respectively – they should be a lock to return. We don’t expect a lot of changes to the BC representatives in cabinet – Joyce Murray could also return; she served as the Minister of Digital Government and Treasury Board last Parliament. If the Prime Minister wants to have a northern representative, his choice will be between Larry Bagnell (Yukon) and Michael McLeod (Northwest Territories).

The Maritimes

Looking to the Maritimes, it’s a safe bet that Seamus O’Regan (St. John’s South-Mt. Pearl) will return to cabinet, as well as Bernadette Jordan (South Shore-St. Margarets) who easily won her seat over the Conservative challenger. Watch for newcomers Lenore Zann (Cumberland-Colchester) and Jaime Battiste (Sydney-Victoria) to get some consideration. Zann served the last 10 years as an NDP MLA, and Battiste is a lawyer by training and a member of the Potlotek First Nation. And with PEI returning all four of its Liberal MPs, we can once again anticipate that either Lawrence MacAulay (Cardigan) or Wayne Easter (Malpeque) will come back to cabinet. MacAulay, the dean of the House having been an MP since 1988, served as the Veterans Affairs Minister last Parliament, while Easter was the Finance Committee Chair. In New Brunswick, look for both Dominic Leblanc (Beausejour) and Ginette Petitpas-Taylor (Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe) to have a seat at the table again. Last Parliament, Leblanc served as Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Petitpas-Taylor was the Health Minister.


In Quebec, we won’t be surprised to see former cabinet members Marc Garneau (Notre-Dame-de-Grace-Westmount), Francois-Phillipe Champagne (Saint-Maurice-Champlain), Melanie Joly (Ahunistic-Cartierville) and David Lametti (Lasalle-Emard-Verdun) all returned. We don’t expect to See Diane Lebouthiller (Gaspésie—Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine) come back given the fact that she struggled at times at the Canada Revenue Agency. Look for a newcomer to take her place, possibly Rachel Bendayan (Outremont).


Seat-rich Ontario will be a tough balancing act once again for Trudeau. The GTA was well represented last Parliament and you can expect more of the same this time around. Bill Morneau (Toronto Centre), Chrystia Freeland (University Rosedale), Kirsty Duncan (Etobicoke North), Karina Gould (Burlington) should be locks to get back in. Around the province, Catherine McKenna (Ottawa Centre) will be back, but anticipate a change from Environment for her. Karen McCrimmon (Kanata-Carleton) is worthy of consideration, possibly for Veterans Affairs given her military background and having defeated a high-profile Conservative candidate. Adam van Koeverden (Milton) beat long-time Conservative Lisa Raitt and will surely get a look for a portfolio like Sport. Another name to watch for possible cabinet from Ontario – Irek Kusmierczyk (Windsor-Tecumseh) who won in an NDP stronghold, taking the riding for the Liberals for the first time since 2000.