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What If the Pandemic Hadn’t Happened? A Review of Liberal Promises

Photo of Chris Gray

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

On October 21st, 2019, the Liberals returned to government with a minority, dropping to 157 seats in the House of Commons. Under Leader Andrew Scheer, the Conservatives picked up most of the seats the Liberals lost. Just three months later, Canada and the world plunged into the COVID-19 pandemic, that we are only now starting to recover from. Prime Minister Trudeau’s new cabinet was sworn in on November 20th, 2019, and mandate letters were released December 13th. As the new year struck, the government began planning for the 2020 federal budget and March 30th was set for then Finance Minster Bill Morneau to deliver the Budget Speech in the House of Commons, laying out the Liberals spending priorities. But by mid-March, it was clear that the pandemic would have a major impact on the Canadian health care system and the economy. Many people started to work remotely, including Members of Parliament. 

But what if the pandemic never happened?

Here’s my analysis on how the Liberal government is doing with their promises as we anticipate the next federal election. Let’s take a closer look at what the Liberals had in their platform and Ministerial mandate letters in 2019, what has been done in some key areas, and what has fallen off the radar. 

Income taxes

During their election campaign, the Liberals pledged to raise the basic personal amount to $15,000 by 2023, for taxpayers whose annual income is less than $147,000. 

Result: One of the first things the Liberals did when they were returned was introduce legislation to raise the basic personal amount to $15,000 by 2023. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has indicated that this move will cost the government $21B over five years, but the government touted that this will leave more money in the hands of Canadians to help stimulate the economy. 

Corporate taxes

The Liberals said they would cut in half the corporate tax paid by companies that develop and manufacture zero-emissions technologies. 

Result: To create jobs and support the growth of clean technology manufacturing in Canada, Budget 2021 reduced — by half — the general corporate and small business income tax rates for businesses that manufacture zero-emission technologies.

Affordable phone bills

The Liberals indicated they would reduce cell phone bills by 25% annually, in part by expanding entry of network operators. 

Result: The Liberals have not succeeded with this one. Canada has the highest mobile-data fees of all G7 countries—by far. In May, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission reversed an old rate reduction, reinstating higher prices.  The only people to benefit so far are shareholders. 

Pharmacare

The Liberals committed to taking the critical next steps to implement National Pharmacare so that all Canadians have access to the drugs they need at an affordable price.

Result:  The Liberals have not moved the ball much on this one. The advisory council called for a $15B universal single payer pharmacare plan, and council Chair, Dr. Eric Hoskins, stated that the national program would save $5B annually on drug costs. But the pandemic was a serious blow to the Liberals spending plans and pharmacare has basically been shelved. 

Net zero emissions

In 2019 the Liberals committed to getting Canada to net-zero emissions by 2050, with legally binding five-year milestones. 

Result: The government introduced and passed (on the last day Parliament was sitting), Bill C-12, the Canada Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act. The goal of this legislation is to meet the objectives under the Paris Agreement and to reduce greenhouse gases in Canada. The Liberals had to do some political wrangling to get this bill passed but were able to get NDP support, while the Conservatives opposed it, as did the Green party, who said it didn’t go far enough. 

Single-use plastics ban

The Liberals committed to taking steps to ban harmful single-use plastics. This builds on their existing ban on products with plastic microbeads, which threaten the health of our lakes, oceans, and wildlife.

Result:  In 2020, the government announced a federal ban of single-use plastic products, with regulations to be finalized by the end of 2021. A key part of the plan focuses on items that are found in the environment, are often not recycled, and have readily available alternatives. Based on this criterion, the six items the Government proposes to ban are: plastic checkout bags, straws, stir sticks, six-pack rings, cutlery, and food ware made from hard-to-recycle plastics. This ban is a step forward in the government’s goal to achieve zero plastic waste by 2030.

Conclusion

Overall, the Liberal government has done about as well as could be expected considering the pandemic health crisis. Providing support for Canadians and Canadian businesses since March 2020, the government coffers are seriously depleted with record breaking deficits that will take many years to replenish. The billions spent on COVID support programs took focus away from other government priorities, and rightly so. 

As we head towards a likely fall election, with COVID seemingly subsiding, expect all parties to start making promises over the summer about how they would continue to help Canadians recover from the pandemic, should they form government.  As for the Liberals, I anticipate they will continue looking at universal basic income, implement a National Pharmacare program, and take more responsibility for long-term care in Canada. 


2017 vs. 2021 – Political & Economic Perspectives in Ontario

Peter Seemann

Author Peter Seemann is the Principal & Sr. Consultant at Grassroots Public Affairs and is based in Toronto. Peter can be contacted at peter@grassrootspa.ca.

After more than a year of tough times dealing with the pandemic, the Ford government at Queen’s Park is looking forward to a return to more normal conditions this fall. With the legislature finally rising for the summer months and the long-awaited cabinet shuffle on June 18th, the government is clearly looking ahead to next spring’s election. A year seems like a long time, but it’s a brief moment in politics, and history has shown that a lot can happen in 12 months. And a lot will undoubtedly happen before voters decide who gets their vote next spring. 

Let’s go back the summer of 2017, one year before the last scheduled provincial election in 2018.

Four years ago this month, the former Liberal government led by Kathleen Wynne was entering its final year of the four-year mandate. The Liberals were approaching almost 14 years of consecutive leadership going back to the 2003 Dalton McGuinty win, and despite a series of controversies (remember gas plants, teacher union payments and e-health?) the Wynne Liberals were rebounding somewhat in the polls that summer. The increase in public support was partly attributed to the generous 2017 spring budget that included plans to increase the minimum wage to $15/hour and allocated billions of dollars towards important issues such as healthcare, affordable housing and infrastructure. Remarkably, after more than a decade of annual deficits the Liberals were even planning for a balanced budget. The PCs were led at the time by current Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, who was doing everything he could to garner attention with his “People’s Guarantee” policy platform. Hard to believe at the time, that Mr. Brown’s leadership aspirations would blow up in such a monumental way 6 months later, and that the Tories would be forced into a leadership vote literally weeks before the election. Safe to say that in the summer of 2017, no one could have anticipated the political drama and election outcome that transpired.

Now, let’s look ahead. 

Premier Ford and his PC government have governed through an incredibly challenging and difficult time during the last 15 months, and fallout from the pandemic is far from over. It is widely known that the government is aiming to enter the fall legislative session with a strong economic plan to lead them into 2022. Look for a detailed Fall Economic Statement by November that should provide insights on what the government will prioritize for next spring’s budget. With a forecasted deficit of over $38B this year and a current unemployment rate of 9.1% (50% higher than 2017), big expensive pre-election promises are not likely to be part of next spring’s budget. Instead, many factors that are out of the government’s control have the potential to greatly impact next year’s electoral prospects. There is a strong possibility Canadians will be voting in a federal election this fall. Ontario businesses and individuals alike could see an end to a range of federal pandemic subsidies that many people have grown accustomed to. While many are predicting a mini economic boom as people come out of COVID lockdowns, no one knows how long it may last and the one common thing incumbent governments fear the most going into an election, is an economic downturn.

PeriodGovernmentDeficitUnemploymentDebt/GDP Ratio
Summer of 2017Liberal$1B6%39.3%
Summer of 2018Liberal/PC$7.4B5.6%39.4%
Summer of 2021PC$38B9.1%48%
Summer of 2022????????????

Here are some quick predictions we believe everyone should be paying attention to:

4th Wave Could Kill Ford’s Chances for Re-Election

After three tiring lockdowns, Ontarians collectively are dealing with massive pandemic fatigue. All indications look positive in terms of our economy opening up in the coming weeks, yet some medical experts are still raising concern about a possible Delta variant 4th wave of infections. If this happens and the government is forced to once again lock things down and close schools, the Ford government may take a massive hit in popularity. Whether it’s their fault or not, Ontarians will look to blame someone, and the opposition parties will likely stand to benefit.

Expect More Priorities for Cities and Suburban Middle Class

When the Ford government won in 2018, they not only held on to their longstanding rural base, but they also won in many longstanding Liberal-held urban and suburban ridings. If the PCs have any hope of getting re-elected they need to hold on to the majority of these ridings and their importance was reflected in last week’s cabinet shuffle. All five ministers who were demoted came from rural ridings, while virtually all the promotions were given to MPPs from GTA area ridings that the Tories need to retain. Aside from an expanded profile in the more heavily populated regions of the province, look for policy and funding announcements to benefit people in these areas.

More Surprises Will Likely Impact 2021/22

Just like 4 years ago, some things will happen in the coming 12 months that none of us today can predict. Right now, we are all focused on overcoming the pandemic that has had such a massive impact on our economy and day-to-day lifestyle. Despite not knowing what a “return to normal” may look like, be prepared to expect the unexpected. 

All of us at Grassroots will be watching how things unfold provincially with great interest. We hope you are able to take some time to enjoy the summer months and, like government, be ready to hit the ground running with your advocacy plans this September.


Leadership Communication Tidbits

Photo of Ray Pons

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

Bite-sized insights to gain greater clarity and improved leverage, buy-in, when you speak.

In written words and spoken words there appears to be strong truth to the principle that small changes can make a big difference.

This posting will highlight a few examples to help you improve your communication effectiveness and communication execution – as a leader, an influencer – in your business activities as well as in your life.

You have no doubt experienced when a colleague or co-worker [peer, superior or subordinate] is flat-out having a bad day; a day when it is easy to see that something is just not right. At home it can be equally transparent. Anytime something is ‘wrong’ it is so darned easy to jump in with: ‘What’s wrong?’ or the more accusatory version: ‘What’s wrong with you?’ Notice how the addition of ‘with you’, just 2 little words, will heighten the tension.

Try this on for size: ‘What’s troubling you?’

Related add-on tidbit: a common ‘rule’ of lawyering is to avoid questions which you do not truly want answered.

‘Why are you angry?’ [frustrated, annoyed, bothered, bewildered, etc.]. Do you really want to know the root cause of the negative emotion?

We recommend you stay away from the path of ‘blaming’ – in the mind of the listener – by avoiding enquiry about the problem. Focus instead on the desired solution.

Try this on for size: ‘What will it take to make you happy?’ [calm, pleased, contented, clear-headed].

Finally: ‘Team meeting tomorrow – don’t be late!’

Try this on for size: ‘Team meeting tomorrow – please turn up on time.’

And throw in a benefit of some sort, an added bonus if you like, when they comply with what you expect: And I commit to you that we will get right to it and finish on time.’ Or perhaps ‘That way you won’t miss the good news I’ll be sharing.’

Communication is simple. It is far from easy.

Look for the simple, small changes you can make, which will make a big difference to your effectiveness as a communicator, and a corresponding increase in your personal/professional image as an influential leader.   


GRPA Team Updates

Photo of Lindsay Yaciuk

Author Lindsay Yaciuk is a Communications Specialist at Grassroots Public Affairs and is based in Toronto. Lindsay can be contacted at lindsay@grassrootspa.ca.

Notwithstanding all the changes and overall strangeness of living through a pandemic, 2021 has been an exciting year for Grassroots Public Affairs…

Congratulations Liz Gross!

Photo of Liz Gross

Formerly known as our (amazing!) Campaign Support Specialist, Liz has been a valued member of the Grassroots team for the past three years and was recently promoted to the position of Research Associate.  In this new role, Liz oversees the details of our client research projects and advises the team on scholarly communication and best practices. 

This well-deserved shift in responsibilities aligns with Liz’s academic achievements, professional experience and natural talents – congratulations from the team! 

Read Liz’s recent article about the foundational importance of research to effective government relations strategies.

Welcome Michelle Silva!

Photo of Michelle Silva

At a time when many businesses are suffering due to pandemic realities, Grassroots is grateful to be expanding the team – and thrilled to welcome Michelle!

A recent graduate of Humber College’s Public Relations Certificate Program, Michelle is turning theory into practice as our Campaign Support Intern, and since day one has been doing a terrific job.

Michelle’s professionalism and interest in strategic communications are a natural fit with Grassroots’ advocacy services – it’s great to have you with us Michelle! 


#ICYMI

June 16th Webinar – Post-Pandemic Predictions

Special thanks to Paul Smetanin, president of the Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis (CANCEA) who joined Grassroots for a webinar discussion of post-covid predictions, as they apply to mental healthworking remotely, and latent financial distress.

Traditional socio-economic analysis tends to treat people as averages of groups, but CANCEA’s approach is unique in that it models people and firms as distinct individuals.  All results shared were derived from updated 2020 simulations of actual client projects, and Paul’s intriguing findings included:

  • The prevalence of mental illness in Ontario is at risk of increasing by almost 1 million people (38% increase)
  • Work-from-home expectations are 50% higher than pre-pandemic levels
  • Business and consumer insolvencies have dropped during the pandemic, but latent financial distressis expected in most sectors – especially in hospitality and food services, manufacturing and construction  

Watch the webinar recording:


The Grassroots Greenhouse 2021

Grassroots-Greenhouse-2021-Final-Report-compressed

As enthusiastic advocates for the Canadian Agri-Food sector, Grassroots Public Affairs released our third annual agriculture and food research public opinion poll in April.

Our approach for 2021 included COVID-19 pandemic-related food questions, as well as repeat questions from past years so we can measure any change in public opinion.

Key findings for this year’s research included:

  • 91% of Canadians are ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ confident in the food grown or produced domestically.
  • 70% of Canadians have never visited an operational or commercial farm.
  • 59% of Canadians are not interested in trying ‘lab grown meat’ if deemed safe to eat by the federal government.
  • 47% of Canadians frequently check the labelling of a food item to inspect the ingredients or nutritional information.
  • 24% of Canadians have a food allergy or food sensitivity.

The Greenhouse received media attention from local and national publications, including:

Special thanks to Food Banks Canada and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture for their participation.

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:

Chris Gray

Grassroots Public Affairs is excited to welcome Senior Consultant Chris Gray to the team, effective immediately.

Located in Ottawa, Chris will head up federal advocacy for Grassroots’ clientele.

Recognized by The Hill Times as one of the top 100 lobbyists in Canada, Chris has worked in government and public affairs for 20 years.  His career started on Parliament Hill working for MPs and a Cabinet Minister, before moving to the private sector with organizations including The Greater Toronto Airports Authority, The Canadian Chamber of Commerce and The Heart & Stroke Foundation. Chris has a proven track record of successfully advocating for changes to legislation and policy, and securing funding for organizations.

Chris is a native of Prince Edward Island and a graduate of Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick. Chris currently serves on the board of the Vimy Foundation.

Contact Chris: