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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.

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 OurCommons.ca)

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.

Quebec

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).

Ontario

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.

Written by Peter Seemann

Photo by Pam Menegakis on Unsplash

A week has passed since the votes were counted and Canadians handed Justin Trudeau a second mandate – albeit a minority with strings attached. Unlike other recent elections, the pollsters and pundits were largely accurate in their result predictions. Much has been written since last week’s votes were tabulated, yet here are a few observations from Grassroots that we feel are important to note.

Minority for 4 years

While the Liberals only managed to win a minority government, it’s not likely to fall any time soon. The Liberals will enjoy the support of the NDP on many issues and given the financial reality both parties face, it is unlikely either will want to trigger an early election. The Fall Economic Statement will likely shed light on early priorities of this government. We anticipate the governing Liberals to move forward as if they have a majority government, at least in the first year or two. With the electorate fed up with the mudslinging and negative politics of this recent campaign, no party wants to be responsible for triggering another vote anytime soon.

Climate change only increasing in Canadians’ minds

Protest sign saying "There is no Planet B"
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Regardless of what you believe is the truth and what you believe should be done, Canadians increasingly are looking for government to show leadership in dealing with climate change. The path forward for Prime Minister Trudeau and his government will not be easy. He has repeated his commitment to build the Trans Mountain pipeline which will draw cheers and jeers from opposing sides. At the same time his government implemented a carbon tax and will push forward with other initiatives that will challenge Canada to reach the Paris Climate Agreement. While the federal Conservatives picked up 26 seats and won the popular vote, they were widely criticized for not properly communicating or putting forward a strong enough environmental plan. Environmental concerns have risen before and are routinely overshadowed by economic concerns when times get tough. Most Canadians have enjoyed a long period of prosperity. It will be interesting to watch how this government balances the environment and economics if and when a long overdue recession finally comes.

New faces mean continued lobbying required

In total there were 91 rookie MPs elected across all party lines. There were also 7 MPs elected that have previously served in government but did not serve in the last 4 year term. A new cabinet will be sworn in by next month and once parliament resumes new committees will be formed. Lots of new faces mean more work to be done on the Hill communicating your message to government.

What’s your plan? Need help? The Grassroots team is ready to assist!

Time is Now for Government to Treat Agri-Food Sector as a National Priority


TORONTO, ON – June 3, 2019 – A new poll by Grassroots Public Affairs finds Canadians hold largely positive views about the current and future state of agriculture and agri-food in Canada. Yet the industry, arguably one of the most significant in our economy, has work to do in telling its story.

The online survey measured awareness, attitudes, and public opinion on a range of agricultural issues and policies. With a federal election less than five months away, the research was conducted to measure how Canadians view the industry in comparison to other leading economic sectors, and how Canadian agriculture is viewed compared to the world.

Some of the more positive survey findings include:

  • Nine-in-ten (89%) Canadians from coast to coast are either very or somewhat confident in the safety of food grown or produced in Canada; less so (64%) with the United States.
  • Six-in-ten (61%) believe agriculture and agri-food has a positive impact on the Canadian environment, compared with construction and infrastructure (42%) and mining and natural resources (24%).
  • A significant plurality (44%) of Canadians believe that our agriculture and agri-food sector is likely to grow over time, while just over one-in-five (23%) believe the sector is likely to shrink.

“These findings confirm that policy makers and industry leaders can build on the agriculture sector’s positive reputation as clean, green and on the cutting edge of technology and innovation.  Few other industries are viewed as positively by Canadians.  This is a sector with enormous potential,” says Peter Seemann, Principal & Sr. Consultant at Grassroots Public Affairs.

Despite the generally positive findings, the results also highlight several areas where the sector needs to enhance its public opinion. Examples include:

  • Only one-in-three (32%) Canadians are likely to recommend a career in agriculture and agri-food.
  • Canadians hold conflicting views on agriculture’s environmental history. 36% say agricultural practices and methods have become less harmful to the environment over time, while 34% indicate practices have become more harmful. 

“As Canada’s population has over time become more urbanized, the percentage of Canadians and the politicians that represent them, who have direct experience and understanding in agriculture has decreased,” added Seemann.  “The industry needs to do a better job in collaborating and communicating the massive benefits it offers the country as a whole. This poll shows us Canadians already value our agriculture sector.”

Grassroots Public Affairs is currently working with various leading agri-food commodities and general farm organizations in Canada to promote Economic Development, Food Security and Environmental Stewardship within the agri-food sector for the benefit of all Canadians.

Methodology and Sample Size

The Canada-wide survey was conducted via an online panel of 1,002 Canadians aged 18+. Fieldwork for the survey took place between April 29th – May 2nd, and the survey was available in English and French.


For media inquiries, please contact:

Lindsay Yaciuk

Communications, Grassroots Public Affairs

lindsay@grassrootspa.ca

905-715-2788


Read our overview of polling data:

The-Grassroots-Greenhouse-Press-Release-formatted_compressed

Footage from Tuesday’s parliamentary proceedings seemed more like a day at the Coliseum than a house of peace, order and good government.

Minister of Finance Bill Morneau attempted to read aloud the 2019 federal budget as he has done for the last three years. In a spectacle like no other, he was met with deafening chants of “COVER UP! COVER UP!” from opposition members. The chanting was so loud that the parliamentary services translator was unable to hear the minister’s speech.

These chants were part of an overall strategy for the Conservatives to delay and obstruct the Liberal budget – retribution for the Liberal majority-ruled Justice Committee and their handling of the SNC-Lavalin Affair early yesterday morning. A number of parliamentary and procedural ruses (“POINT OF ORDER!”) were employed in the house – chanting (“LET HER SPEAK!”) being the most notable (and audible).

Seemingly unphased, Minister Bill Morneau delivered what he believed to be a budget that would invest in the middle class, pledging $22.8 billion in new spending.

While the speech was inaudible in the house, it was available online. Here are some of the major takeaways from Budget 2019:


Home Sweet Home

Budget 2019 pledges to make home ownership within greater reach for young Canadians. The government has promised to make housing more affordable by reducing barriers to homeownership for first-time home buyers, boost supply in Canada’s housing and rental markets as well as increase fairness in the real estate sector.

The Golden Years

The government pledged $1.8 billion over four years to enhance the guaranteed income supplement for low-income seniors. It would appear that the government also took some lessons away from the Sears bankruptcy: the budget will introduce safeguards to protect pensions in the event of company bankruptcies – a consequence largely felt among seniors and older Canadians.

Over the Counter

Although the government did not announce funding for a national pharmacare program, the budget pledged to set aside $35 million to establish a Canadian Drug Agency that will enhance work already done by provinces and territories on bulk drug purchases and negotiate better prices for prescription medicine. The government additionally stated that as of 2022, $1B will be made available to help Canadians with rare diseases access the high-cost drugs they need.

Talking Turkey – The Fiscal Outlook

It appears that the budget did not, in fact, balance itself. A significant promise of the 2015 Liberal campaign was to post annual deficits of no more than $10 billion and to balance by 2019. As of yesterday, the government announced its intention to run $20B deficits for the foreseeable future.  Although the budget is forecasting the deficit will shrink to $9.8 billion by 2023-24, there is little-to-no mention as to when the government intends to balance the budget.  Some experts are saying Budget 2019 may have painted the government into a cornerif a recession hits.

Despite criticism the government may face for their use of deficits, it’s not all bad news for Trudeau. The Ministry of Finance confirms 850,000 more Canadians are employed today than in 2015, and the unemployment rate is near a 40-year low. If the government can maintain this trend, it’ll make for excellent campaign advertising.


Opposition Reaction

It appears Andrew Scheer has been able to consume most of the media’s attention in his response to the government’s budget. On Tuesday, Scheer delivered a speech to his caucus and the media regarding the Liberals’ budget. Jagmeet Singh chose to focus on housing as his major sticking point to the government. Singh mentioned that RRSP measures will have little-to-no impact on millennials given the fact that many millennials’ RRSPs are in fairly precarious positions.

Both opposition leaders, most notably Scheer, are trying to use the SNC-Lavalin Affair as a means to discredit Trudeau’s budget. They’re trying to broadcast the image of a government that will use unethical means to influence policy to help well-connected friends. Their strategy has potential given the fact that one could promise the moon itself, but if there is no credibility, those promises will fall on deaf ears.

It should also be noted that both the NDP and the Tories have a stake in the two demographics most targeted in the budget: millennials and baby-boomers. The Liberal strategy is to grow the tent as much as possible to bring these key voter groups into a winning coalition. However, both opposition parties will do what they can to convince their respective bases that they’re being sold fool’s gold.

Media Reaction

Much of the post-budget reporting highlighted Minister Morneau’s emphasis on the middle class – a focus that was widely anticipated going into budget day. A Globe and Mail opinion piece by Rob Carrick outlined key demographic groups affected by Budget 2019 changes including homebuyers, postsecondary students, low-income seniors, “procrastinating retirees,” and Canadians interested in longevity insurance.

Paul Wells of Maclean’s contended that Budget 2019 is “sprinkled with what money TruMorn could scrape together” with many gestures that are “strikingly modest in scope.”  Wells suggested that, despite clear preoccupation with election-year concerns, the Liberals’ reticence to spend too much money has forced them to come up with novel funding solutions, such as investments by the Canada Infrastructure Bank for universal high-speed internet provision.

Andrew Coyne’s piece in The National Post argued that the Liberals’ deficits are “deficits of choice, rather than necessity,” though he argues that deficits of this size will not ruin us (as the opposition claims), but neither would eliminating them.  In his eyes, the quantity of spending isn’t so much the issue as the quality: in the rush to get all that “revenue-gusher” spending out the door, he argues that little thought has been given to whether the money is being spent in the best way, or whether it should be spent at all.  Coyne also called into question a past Liberal promise that one dollar in three of new spending would go to infrastructure, as he pointed out that the reality is now closer to one in eight.


The View from the Grassroots

This budget is of critical importance for Trudeau. The media beast can only chew on one ankle at a time and right now it’s slowly gnawing at Justin Trudeau and his network of advisors. As a means to reduce the media’s hyper-focus on the ongoing SNC-Lavalin Affair, the Prime Minister needed to announce what exactly his government has accomplished in their past four years and where they intend to take the country in the future. On Tuesday, they needed to let each voter know: “you’re better off today than you were before.” The power of the pulpit allows the Liberals to announce a fully-costed campaign platform that can be repeated in sound bites over time in addition to changing the channel.

It’s not uncommon to see an incumbent government lose support over time. However, Trudeau’s Liberals have experienced quite a notable drop in support and are far from their “sunny ways” narrative when first elected.  2019 has seen support for the Liberal party decrease slightly. The most recent wave of polling from different firms has shown the party obtaining ~30% support. Considering the Liberals obtained 50% support in 2016, Trudeau and the Liberals have their work cut out for them this fall. 

But wait, there’s more.

Whatever electoral impact Justin Trudeau intends to make, he must take the Ontario provincial budget (to be released April 11th) into account. Seeing as the Ford government was not exactly pleased with their federal counterparts, there is a chance that they may use their last word for reprisal. The carbon tax or other environmental policies could well be where that reprisal takes place. Both Trudeau and Ford defined much of their political capital around environmental issues. Whatever the provincial government choses to do with its last word, it will undoubtedly result in discomfort for Trudeau’s Liberals on the hustings.

Despite the media attention the SNC-Lavalin Affair is receiving, there is a chance that the electorate may be SNC-fatigued and are willing to hear what the government has in store for them. Remember: politics is “what have you done for me lately.” 

As of today, it is possible for Trudeau to pull together a winning (albeit minority) government come election day, but it is doubtful as to whether Budget 2019 will make things any easier for the foreseeable future.

Tiberius was on to something when he said that ruling the Roman Empire was like “like holding a wolf by the ears.”

Adrian Macaulay, Director of Research & Polling
and Liz Gross, Campaign Support Specialist