All posts by Jeff Blay

Budget 2017: Ensight’s analysis on the Liberal’s 2017 federal budget

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Ensight’s Don Newman provides his analysis on the 2017 Federal Budget following lockup in Ottawa.

Overview

After plenty of speculation, Finance Minister Bill Morneau tabled his second budget in the House of Commons this afternoon.

It was a budget heavy on details announcing the government’s long anticipated Infrastructure Bank, and with more substantive language surrounding innovation and clean technology.

As we approach the two-year mark of this Liberal government, the realities of deficit and fiscal management have begun to weigh heavily on the government’s ability to introduce new measures and strategies. These economic and fiscal circumstances have left Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet in a difficult position, one which is made even more complex by the expectations the government has set for itself has set with regard to ‘delivering’ for the middle class.’

Still the government’s focus on key areas around skills training, innovation and infrastructure will undoubtedly play well with Canadians. And if you are eager for beneficial and substantive tax changes to policy, many pundits agree you will likely only have to wait until the Finance Minister’s fall Fiscal Update.

Given the uncertainty that exists south of the border, today’s budget marks a conservative, stay-the-course approach that expands on initiatives previously announced, particularly around infrastructure, skills training and innovation. Major changes to tax policy or with regard to the privatization of assets are not off the table, as the government does not want to limit its access to future revenues if necessary. However, Morneau has decided to keep those line items out of this budget, presumably because there will be more to announce in the fall, when there is a clearer sense of the direction the US economy takes.

Key Budget Themes

 

Infrastructure

After announcing that Canada would establish its own Infrastructure Bank in his 2016 fall economic update, Finance Minister Bill Morneau followed through today with the government’s plan to establish the arms’ length bank, which it plans to see begin operations by late 2017. Morneau’s budget announced that the selection of a CEO to run the bank will begin shortly, and confirmed that the bank is expected to invest 35 billion in Canadian infrastructure projects over 11 years. Of that amount, $5 million will be invested in green infrastructure projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving air quality and water systems, and promoting renewable power. Another $5 million will be earmarked for public transit and transportation projects. Morneau also announced that Canada Infrastructure Bank will be data-driven, and create partnerships with provinces, territories, municipalities and Statistics Canada to improve decision-making capacity.

Skills

Budget 2017 introduces the “Innovation and Skills Plan” which is focused on creating centres for innovation and creating good and well-paying jobs that would strengthen the middle class. The plan targets the areas of advanced manufacturing, agri-food, clean technology, digital industries, health/bio-sciences and clean resources. The plan also sets targets to grow Canada’s good and services, increase the clean technology sector, double the number of the high-growth companies in Canada and expand the level of support for job training under the Labour Market Transfer Agreements.

innovation

The Liberal government followed through on its commitment of a $950 million investment in industry-led super clusters in sectors such as manufacturing, agri-food, clean technology, digital technology, health and bio-sciences, infrastructure and transportation.

Government envisions the super clusters as virtual centres of collaboration between researchers and industry in the hopes of boosting capacity for commercialization of new products and services while building Canada’s competitive advantage on a global scale. The government is wagering that the end result will be a more diverse and deep talent pool for Canadian industry, better opportunities to connect from business-to-business, new risk-sharing opportunities and new entryways into global supply chains.

Finally, the Liberal government also announced a new $1.26 billion five-year Strategic Innovation Fund that is intended to consolidate and streamline existing business innovation programming in the aerospace, automotive and technology sectors.

Clean Technologies

Another important element of the Liberal plan related to both climate issues and economic growth was also delivered in Budget 2017. The Liberal government has provided new clarity on how it would deliver support to Canada’s growing clean tech sector, namely through the Business Development Bank of Canada, Export Development Canada and the Department of Natural Resources. That support will include $380 million in equity investments over three years delivered through Business Development Bank of Canada to help firms seeking to scale their technology and business. Another $570 million in working capital was also committed over three years to help clean tech firms looking to make investment in assets, inventory, talent and market expansion. And for “first-of-its-kind, high-capital-intensive, early commercial-scale clean technology,” government has earmarked $450 million for high-capital-intensive clean technology companies. Natural Resources Canada will also gain an added $229 million in 2017-2018 to support R & D initiatives while another $200 million will be entrusted to NRCAN, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Agriculture and Agrifood Canada to invest in clean tech in natural resource sectors.

taxes

Budget 2017 takes measures to ensure that the tax system is fair for all Canadians by closing loopholes, cracking down on evasion and eliminated items that favour the wealthy. The government will invest an additional $523.9 million—over five years—to prevent tax evasion and improve tax compliance. The Government is also committed to undertake a wide-ranging review of tax expenditures and will make changes to simplify the tax system and make existing tax relief for individuals and families more effective and accessible. EI premiums will also increase by about $25 per year for Canadians earning up to $51,300. Finally, the government will take steps to maintain the resiliency of the financial sector.

trade

The Budget takes steps to ensure that products and people move quickly. As announced in the 2016 Fall Economic Statement, the Government is investing $10.1 billion over 11 years in trade and transportation projects. This investment will build stronger, more efficient transportation corridors to international markets and help Canadian businesses compete, grow and create more jobs for Canada’s middle class. A new Trade and Transportation Corridor Initiative will help to improve the quality of trade infrastructure across Canada—from border crossings in the south to airports in the north. This Corridors Initiative will prioritize investments that address congestion and bottlenecks along vital corridors, and around transportation hubs and ports providing access to world markets.

transport

Budget 2017 provides $229 million over four years, starting in 2018-2019 to Natural Resources Canada and Transport Canada for clean transportation innovation and programming.  It also creates a $10.1 billion Trade and Transportation Corridors Initiative that will invest in gateways and ports.  A further $50 million will go to Transportation Canada to enhance the collection and analysis of transportation and trade-related data in order to assist targeted investments, support innovation and track results.

debt

After accounting for Budget 2017 proposals, the budgetary balance is expected to show deficits of $23.0 billion in 2016–17 and $28.5 billion in 2017–18. Over the remainder of the forecast horizon, deficits are expected to decline gradually from $27.4 billion in 2018–19 to $18.8 billion in 2021 –22. The federal debt-to-GDP ratio is projected to decline gradually after 201 8–19 to the end of the fiscal horizon, reaching 30.9 per cent in 2021 –22.

Next Steps

Budget 2017 now sets the stage for the Liberals’ second year in office and as we draw close to the two year anniversary, this is also a Government that needs to build a firm foundation so that they can quickly pivot to ensuring that they are well positioned to win re-election in 2019.

As Ministers and MPs alike fan out across the country to promote this Budget, they will be asking Canadians to trust their stay-the-course budget and hope that they announced enough measures to keep the hungry electorate at bay.

Ensight Hosting U.S. Presidential Inauguration Conference Call

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With the advent of Brexit and a Trump government coming to power in the United States on January 20, the state of play in the global economy is rapidly changing.

Now more than ever, you need to know how these signal shifts in direction will impact Canada’s approach to trade and global affairs and how this will affect our economic outlook in the months and years to come.

Related:

The Art of Dealing with Donald Trump: John Delacourt

Canada’s Trade Future with the EU and UK: Adam Taylor

Trudeau and Trump: Ensight’s John Delacourt on 1310 News

Ensight is hosting a special U.S. Presidential Inauguration Conference Call on Thursday, January 19 at 3:30 p.m. ET, that will provide you with a strategic understanding of what lies ahead. The call will feature leading insights from Don Newman, Deirdre McMurdy, Lindsay Finneran-Gingras, Will Stewart and John Delacourt.

We hope you will be available to join us. If you’re interested in listening in, please email cking@ensightcanada.com.

Breaking Down The Liberal’s Federal Cabinet Shuffle – January 2017

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FEDERAL CABINET SHUFFLE 2017

With its first major cabinet shuffle today, the Trudeau government moved to reposition itself to face the new international implications of a Trump presidency as well as a re-tool during a year of major decisions on the home front.

The most significant move of the shuffle, which promotes former International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland to a new position as Canada’s foreign minister, is as much about rewarding her perceived strong performance as it is about limiting risk. President-elect Donald Trump reached the White House on a tide of populism, anti-elite and anti-intellectual sentiment, and the Trudeau government had an interest in removing Stéphane Dion – a career politician and academic – from a spotlight role managing Canada’s relationship with the Trump team.

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CHRYSTIA FREELAND – MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS

A former journalist, Freeland has experience in front of television cameras and has demonstrated an ability to manage high pressure negotiations, notably in the role she played to salvage crumbling negotiations around Canada’s free trade pact with the European Union last year. She will be called upon to personally manage Canada’s most important diplomatic and trade relationship by dealing directly with members of Trump’s inner circle. Around the world, Freeland will also be charged with reinforcing Canada’s leadership position as a bastion of liberal values.  Freeland has performed well with her staff at International Trade, led by chief of staff Brian Clow, and she is expected to bring most of her personnel to her new portfolio.

FRANCOIS-PHILIPPE CHAMPAGNE – MINISTER OF INTERNATIONAL TRADE

Francois-Philippe Champagne, a rookie Quebec MP who had been serving as Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s Parliamentary Secretary, will replace Freeland as International Trade Minister. Champagne has extensive private sector experience and is considered an expert in international trade matters. During the budget rollout and pre-budget consultation processes he was lauded by caucus, the PMO and the Finance department for his ease in briefings, and his ability to deliver messaging to news media and stakeholders. He worked with Freeland to help sell the budget on the government’s behalf, and the pair showed a strong ability to work together, which they will be called to do in their new duties. His experience working on energy industry matters could prove instrumental in helping Canada forge more robust energy framework agreements with the United States.

STÉPHANE DION – POSSIBLE DIPLOMATIC POSTING

Ending a lengthy career in politics that began under former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, Dion may take on a diplomatic role with the government. Possible positions include Canada’s ambassador to Germany or our ambassador to the European Union. Both posts will be critical in the post-Brexit era as Canada’s free trade deal with the EU is implemented; Dion may take some of his expertise in working within a multilateral context and apply it well in a new, critical role outside of caucus and Cabinet.

JOHN MCCALLUM – AMBASSADOR TO CHINA

Further bolstering the Trudeau government’s diplomatic roster is John McCallum’s move to the ambassadorship of China. McCallum, who managed Canada’s Syrian refugee efforts as Minister of Immigration, will be the point man for the government’s efforts to negotiate a free trade deal with the economic superpower. His work in China and Asia will allow Freeland to focus more squarely on matters in the United States and Europe. McCallum’s Toronto-area riding is home to significant Chinese-Canadian population, and he will use his background as RBC’s chief economist to advance the Trudeau government’s efforts of bolstering economic development through immigration strategies.

The departure of Dion and McCallum and from cabinet represents another generational and demographic shift toward younger, newer politicians and more diversity as a number of rookie ministers gain experience. Both Dion and McCallum were veteran ministers and were considered a stabilizing influence when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his original cabinet.

AHMED HUSSEN – MINISTER OF IMMIGRATION, REFUGEES AND CITIZENSHIP

A young immigration lawyer who came to Canada as a Somali refugee, Ahmed Hussen is a newcomer to cabinet who will help the Trudeau government build on its efforts of bolstering economic development through immigration. A former senior staff member in the Liberal Ontario government of Dalton McGuinty, Hussen was a colleague of the Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary Gerald Butts. He has a strong network within multicultural communities across the country through his past experience as the president of the Canadian Somali Congress. Hussen has a strong grasp of issues facing refugees, and he understands the challenges facing high-density, low-income communities in which the government is aiming to create economic progress.

KARINA GOULD – MINISTER OF DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTIONS

Gould is emblematic of the Trudeau government’s continued generational shift as a 29-year-old minister. She has proven to be one of the strongest Parliamentary Secretaries for the government and a standout MP in her riding work. Her communications abilities will serve her well in a complex and controversial portfolio as the government stickhandles through the implementation of its electoral promises.

PATTY HAJDU – MINISTER OF LABOUR

Patty Hajdu moves from her position as Minister of the Status of Women, a role in which she performed well by most accounts, and takes on her new job as Minister of Labour. Hajdu is a social activist from the left wing of the Liberal party, which should prove beneficial in dealing with labour organizations.  Prior to joining politics, Hajdu was an effective advocate on homelessness issues, and in government she is noted for moving the Women’s Issues portfolio toward a position of advocacy and activism within cabinet.

MARYAM MONSEF – MINISTER OF THE STATUS OF WOMEN

Monsef has faced controversy as the government’s minister responsible for electoral reform, both for her management of the issue, an outburst in the House of Commons, and a complex scandal regarding her birth and background in Iran and Afghanistan. The move is considered a demotion, however Monsef inherits a portfolio that has been free of controversy and she can count on her solid skills in stakeholder relations honed over the course of her cross country consultations on democratic reform to improve her performance with this mandate.

Former Employment Minister MaryAnn Mihychuck has been shuffled out of cabinet, and there has been no information released on future roles beyond her role as a Winnipeg MP. She tweeted a brief message to say she had returned to Winnipeg, to wish Hajdu well in her new role, and said it was an honour to serve Canadians in the Trudeau government. 

Ensight’s Tiffany Gooch joins Ontario Liberal Party Executive Council as Secretary

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Ensight consultant Tiffany Gooch has been acclaimed Secretary of the Ontario Liberal Party’s (OLP) Executive Council at this weekend’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Ottawa.

Gooch brings extensive experience working in the provincial government to her role as Secretary, having previously assumed increasingly integral roles in the OLP Office, Constituency and Queen’s Park MPP’s Offices, Minister’s Offices and the Office of the Premier. More recently, Gooch has been a key member of the government relations team at Ensight and Enterprise

She also previously served on the Executive of the Ontario Women’s Liberal Commission (federal and provincial), on the Board of Governors for the University of Windsor, and currently serves as the Chair of The Reading Partnership Steering Committee.

“I’m thrilled to be taking on this new role and I’m looking forward to working with the everyone the Executive Council team,” Gooch said from the OLP AGM in Ottawa. “It’s a big full-circle moment for me, having started my political career as staff at the Ontario Liberal Party office.”

Gooch officially begins her term as Secretary at the conclusion of the AGM on Nov. 19. The new role also puts her on the OLP Management Committee.

“There is a lot of work ahead and I will be working closely with the campaign team over the next few months as I transition into the role,” Gooch said. “The campaign leadership, caucus members, returning and incoming Executive Council board members have given me a really warm welcome.”

The Secretary position is one of 14 Executive Council positions and 26 Area Coordinator positions that were elected and acclaimed at the 2016 OLP AGM, which took place from Nov. 18-19 at the Shaw Centre in Ottawa.

Election Anniversary: Social Media Watch – Looking Back at @JustinTrudeau’s First Year As Prime Minister

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One year ago, Canadians voted for Justin Trudeau and a Liberal majority government in the 42nd federal election.

Earlier this week, Ensight’s Will Stewart looked back at Ensight’s Post-Election Research and how the results compared with the Liberal’s first year in power. Today, we’re focusing on social media.

A month after the 2015 election, Ensight’s digital team looked at what people were saying and how Trudeau was performing on social media in a post-election edition of Social Media Watch.

At the time, we found the internet was abuzz with optimism for a new Prime Minister, and Trudeau’s use of social media, along with his “star quality”, as many described it, quickly attracted international attention. In one month as PM, Trudeau became the first Canadian politician to surpass one million followers on Twitter.

Since then, Trudeau has continued to gain momentum and dominate the social waves, whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat.

Over the past year, there have been more than 3,000 unique tweets sent from Trudeau’s Twitter account, generating more than one million retweets and 140,000 replies. He’s gained more than 1.3 million followers on Twitter alone, bringing his total follower count to 2.13 million as of Oct. 21, 2016. Social sentiment has also remained fairly consistent, with the net sentiment between October 2015-16 sitting at 21 per cent positive, 62 per cent neutral and 17 per cent negative.

On multiple occasions, Trudeau has ‘broken the internet’ with viral photos and social posts and has often been a trending topic on Twitter. While yoga poses, shirtless selfies, surf sessions, boxing matches, baby pandas and Tragically Hip concerts may come to mind as highlights, the PM has also successfully used his growing influence on social media to drive his political agenda and, most notably, bring attention to important issues.

In Ensight’s Post-Election Research, voters told us they marked their ballots based on Trudeau’s articulation of vision and values rather than specific policies. By voting for ‘Real Change’, they were turfing a leader in Stephen Harper and style of government that they felt did not accurately reflect who we are as a nation and who we aspire to be as Canadians.

This conclusion is evident when we look at some of Trudeau’s top tweets over the past year, which include tweets about Bell Let’s Talk Day and mental health, Syrian Refugees, the Ramadan Attacks in Iraq and the Paris Attacks, and marching in Toronto’s Pride Parade.

His more playful, non-political posts may have garnered significant traction and driven conversations among social media users and the media since the election. But when it comes to his own social accounts, it’s the content that demonstrates the values people view as traditionally defining Canada and Canadian society, including civility, kindness and inclusion – as highlighted in Ensight’s Post-Election Research – that have performed best for Trudeau in his first year as Prime Minister.

– Jeff Blay, Communications and Digital Coordinator,  Enterprise (jblay@enterprisecanada.com,@JeffBlay) and Adam Schwartz, Associate Consultant, Navigator (aschwartz@navltd.com)

Election Anniversary: What’s Next For the Federal NDP?

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Editor’s Note: This week, Ensight is publishing a series of original content articles looking back on the Liberal government’s first year in power and ahead to the rest of its mandate.

Today, Ensight’s Sally Housser, a noted NDP strategist and media commentator, looks at the future of the party following the disappointment of last October.

By: Sally Housser

While the results of the 2015 federal election were crushing for a party that had held so much hope for forming government, chatter about the NDP’s demise is premature. It’s important to remember that the 44 seats the NDP now holds is a long way from the nadir of 9 seats it suffered in the 1993 general election. It is also worth mentioning that, while the road to government for the NDP is very,very long, it currently holds 8 more seats than the Liberals held going into the 2015 election.

The question that will have to be answered for the NDP is will the party continue on the project of forming government, a project that began in earnest with Jack Layton, or are members satisfied with being the “moral conscience” of the House of Commons and sliding back into its perpetual third (or fourth) party status?  While many members and staff who tasted victory in the 2011 election are determined that the 2015 results are merely a setback on the path to NDP governance, there are those within the party membership that believe a perceived move to the centre has caused the party to lose its ideology and moral compass.

The NDP’s federal convention, which took place in Edmonton in April of this year, showed a party with an identity crisis. The stunning defeat of Tom Mulcair in the leadership review, coupled with the deeply divisive introduction of the radically environmentalist “Leap Manifesto” has split the NDP along several lines. East vs. West, urban vs rural, labour vs. environment. One party member described the party as being divided as “Punk rockers vs. Hippies”. 

With Mr. Mulcair’s defeat comes a leadership race, a race yet to begin in earnest. While the contest has been slow to get going (so far there is no declared candidate) there are signs that potential successors are gearing up. Just this morning long time British Columbia Member of Parliament, Peter Julien resigned from his position as NDP House Leader, presumably with the intention of throwing his hat in the ring. The Saskatchewan NDP convention this weekend will be visited by the popular Northern Ontario MP Charlie Angus, Quebec MP Guy Caron as well as Julian. Jagmeet Singh, the Deputy Leader of the Ontario NDP has been popping up at various provincial NDP events in recent months and Niki Ashton, the Manitoba MP who ran unsuccessfully in the 2012 leadership race, has been criss-crossing the country talking to millennials about precarious employment.

Like all party leadership races, the coming months will be an opportunity for candidates to present their vision for a united party and chart their courses for the future. There will be those who will argue the way forward is actually a move back to the NDP’s more socialist roots, those that view a stronger environmental focus as the key to winning back voters, and those with a vision of continuing Jack Layton’s legacy of professionalization and modernization of the party. Ultimately the candidate who is able to convince the membership that pragmatic and progressive are not mutually exclusive terms will be the one who will be most likely to succeed. 

Election Anniversary: Justin Trudeau’s Three Gears on Trade

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Editor’s Note: This week, Ensight is publishing a series of original content articles looking back on the Liberal government’s first year in power and ahead to the rest of its mandate.

Today, Ensight Director and Trade Practice Lead, Adam Taylor looks at the various layers of the Liberal government’s approach to trade policy and free-trade deals, specifically TPP, CETA, and expectations around a deal with China. 

By: Adam Taylor 

During the federal election campaign of last year, international trade was thrust into the spotlight (sort of) when then-Prime Minister Harper announced that negotiations had concluded on the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership.  The Liberal Party walked a fine line neither supporting it like the Tories nor outright opposing like the New Democrats.  Now a year later, we can take a wider measure of how the new government will approach trade issues – especially as these issues are now literally front and centre in politics south of the border and across the Atlantic.

Neutral on TPP

While being careful not to oppose the TPP outright (as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have done), the Liberal position is more nuanced. They support deepening Canada’s trade footprint in Asia, they agree broadly with the negotiated outcomes but aren’t yet ready to sell the deal. Canada’s Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland said explicitly this isn’t her job. Against the backdrop of vehement opposition to TPP playing out in presidential politics, it’s a sound strategic holding pattern.  After all, why sell Harper’s deal and be stuck with it (good and bad) if it’s going to fail in the U.S. and end up going nowhere anyway?  A wait-and-see approach is a pretty safe bet these days, especially until we know who will occupy the White House.

Second gear on trade with China

While the Trudeau Liberals inherited the CETA and TPP deals from the previous government, a reboot of the Canada-China relationship is very much in Justin Trudeau’s wheelhouse.  The previous government was criticized for its scattered positions on China. Like the jerky driver whose foot is constantly shifting from the gas to the brake, the result is and was the farthest thing from a smooth ride. Yet under PM Justin Trudeau, a steady, smooth way forward appears to be the objective and so far so good.  Official engagement at the highest levels is happening regularly, exploratory talks toward a full blown free trade agreement have been launched and there’s clearly positive momentum in the wider relationship for the first time in many years.  While the relationship won’t go to fifth gear anytime soon – there are far too many legitimate barriers for that – a stable march forward is a good thing for Canadian businesses looking to deepen  their footprint in what will soon be the world’s largest economy. 

Fifth gear forward on CETA

Under Justin Trudeau’s leadership, Canada is full steam ahead in trying to get the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) signed and brought into force. Trade Minister Freeland is literally working around the clock to bring reluctant EU countries like Belgium onside so that leaders can officially sign the documents that will bring the agreement one step closer to becoming the law of the land. Put simply, the Trudeau government is doing all it can to save CETA.  They’ve renegotiated controversial chapters (investor dispute provisions); they’ve signed new accompanying declarations affirming its “progressive” nature; and they’ve appointed a new CETA Emissary (former trade minister Pierre Pettigrew) to literally work the rooms in Brussels and beyond. In less than a week we’ll know where this historic agreement stands against the forces of protectionism which have now officially landed on both sides of the Atlantic. 

Political Perspectives – A President’s Executive Decision In The Woods

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By Jesse Robichaud

A few days before police officers in bulletproof vests dragged pipeline protestors out of a the very first National Energy Board consultations on Energy East in a Montreal conference room, a relatively more civil conversation was taking place at a rural gas station cash register in the State of Maine.

“Those aren’t real jobs,” a disgusted customer told the cashier. “Selling firewood or standing behind a counter selling maps isn’t a real job.”

What the man did not need to say, in this part of the country, is that “real jobs” are in the forest sector, in manufacturing, in trucking and working for the suppliers and vendors who form the links of traditional supply chains.

The cashier, who happened to be standing behind a counter, agreed forcefully.

The pair were discussing President Obama’s controversial decision to short circuit many years of contentious debate over the establishment of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. It’s essentially a national park, but Obama couldn’t call it one without the consent of Congress, which he did not have. He did have the land, donated by the family of Burt’s Bees tycoon Roxanne Quimby, and used his executive powers to proclaim it a national monument.

The backlash the proclamation has generated from pro-development voices in the region proves the “not in my backyard” attitudes and values that have paralyzed pipeline projects in British Columbia, gas plants in Oakville and Mississauga, and natural gas development in New Brunswick are not monopolized by environmental activists or those who simply oppose development.

Katahdin is famously immortalized in the works of Thoreau and famous as the Appalachian Trail’s spectacular granite finish line, which breaches the clouds at 5,267 feet of altitude on Baxter Peak. No one on either side of the years-long divisive debate would argue about the region’s natural splendors and pursuits. Where the friction arises is in the ways these treasured lands can or can’t be used within the national monument’s 87,500 acre boundaries. In Millinocket, the town closest to Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, a genuine, uniformed National Parks Service ranger handing out free maps to the new monument immediately rattled off carefully refined talking points about how hunting, fishing, snowmobiles, and all-terrain vehicles would be allowed.

But opponents say the park is a “job killer” that will place the final nails in the region’s embattled forestry industry. Supporters counter by pointing to the potential of hundreds of jobs in tourism, recreation, real estate and other soft benefits. Of course, it is hard to say either side is totally wrong or totally right, and therein lies one of the major challenges facing governments who are left to build public policy amid a fractured landscape of opinion and confrontation that can be enhanced by news media and entrenched interests.

On my own roadtrip to hike Mount Katahdin in the nearby Baxter State Park late last-month, I overheard comments on both sides of the issue. “That’s big business talking, that’s all that is” I heard one man say at a supermarket in Millinocket regarding the philanthropic gift from the Quimby family, which was accompanied by a pledge of $40 million to support the monument’s creation. A park supporter swore the loud opposition is only a vocal minority, and that most people in the region support the move. Maine’s controversial and Trump-supporting Republican governor Paul LePage says the decision was the result of Obama and other Liberal elites overriding the will of the people of his state.

Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument does more than just demonstrate the sliding scale on which political values can diverge on each side of the Canada-U.S. border. It also highlights the growing tensions between the perspectives of urban and rural residents, the power struggle between federal governments and sub-national governments, as well as the difficulty in developing and measuring social license for natural resource development and major projects.

Consultation has become one of the preeminent political buzz words of our time, and for good reason it has become perhaps the chief challenge for those attempting to fulfill expectations of open, responsive government. President Obama and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau both attained power by appealing to the sunny side of the electorate and promising to unite rather than divide.

But on an issue such as the Katahdin Woods and Waters, Obama learned there is a limit to public consultation, particularly when views are so diametrically opposed that one side is not going to like the decision. For him, that limit was the two-term limit on his own presidency. With his time running out, Obama cut through the debate. He made the executive decision.

In Ottawa and in provincial capitals across the country, elected officials and political staff are drawing up consultation schemes and communications strategies around a constellation of hot-button issues related to pipelines, natural resource development, the rights of Indigenous peoples and local landowners, environmental protection and climate policies.

There are more than just two sides at odds in these ongoing debates, and so far Trudeau has deftly catered to most of them. After all, he won big last October as his Conservative and NDP opponents failed to seize on pipeline-related issues in any way that ultimately mattered.

However, Trudeau’s skillful communications tact will, at some point, have to give way to a firm decision. In fact, expectations on most sides of these issues continue to rise, not fall, as regulators continue their work and consultations are deployed. In matters of such high stakes and national importance, there will invariably be winners and losers. The question now is – how long it will take for us to find out who will end up on which side of the Prime Minister’s own executive decision.

Jesse Robichaud is a Consultant at Ensight. He served as an advisor to the Premier of New Brunswick, and worked as political correspondent.

Social Media Watch – Summer’s Almost Gone… How Federal Parties Are Transitioning on Social

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By: Jeff Blay and Adam Schwartz

Shirtless selfies, surfing trips, pride parades and concert-going have dominated social media during the first summer of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government’s leadership. But as the season comes to and end and the House of Commons resumes on Sept. 19, the focus will quickly shift to agenda pushing, debating and policy moving.

While there are still signs of the feel-good, constituency-focused themes of summer across all three federal parties, we’re beginning to see a transition into the more politically-charged issues that will soon rule Ottawa.

With Labour Day passed and only 10 days until the House sits, we decided to take a look at what content each party is focusing on and which party is performing best on social.

The Liberals 

As they did at this time last year leading up to the federal election, the Liberals are once again leading in social activity and engagement. Through the first week of September, the Liberal Party generated 13 million potential impressions on Twitter, with the majority of activity focused on retweeting positive announcements and messages from MPs as they prepare to return to Ottawa. Key issues being pushed on social by Trudeau and the Liberals include the PM’s visit to China, investing in youth and the teacher tax credit.

The Conservatives

The Conservatives, on the other hand, continue to use their official party account far less than the Liberals or NDP and have the lowest potential impressions at 1.7 million. Over the past week, they’ve been openly critical of Trudeau on multiple occasions, which has resulted in negative engagement and backlash from Liberal and NDP supporters. Adding to the Conservative’s lack of positive engagement is the social media firestorm created by leadership candidate Kellie Leitch, who has been met with significant criticism — including from Conservative MP Michelle Rempel —after announcing her immigrant screening proposal. 

The NDP

The NDP have quietly been using social media successfully, leading all parties in total tweets sent from the official party account and generating a total of 18 million potential impressions — more than the Liberals, but likely a result of sending out nearly two-times the amount of tweets. Content has been focused on amplifying positive messages from NDP MPs and retweeting high-profile articles that align with party positions, with organic content focused largely on private health care.

On average, the Liberals have consistently outperformed opposing parties on social media dating back to the October 2015 election. But can they maintain the positive exposure as Trudeau approaches the one-year mark of his leadership? We’ll have the answers in future editions of Social Media Watch.

– Jeff Blay, Communications and Digital Coordinator,  Enterprise (jblay@enterprisecanada.com,@JeffBlay) and Adam Schwartz, Associate Consultant, Navigator (aschwartz@navltd.com)

Social Media Watch – The Tragically Hip Edition

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Legendary Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip played the final show of its Man Machine Poem Tour in Kingston, Ont. this past weekend, captivating audiences across Canada – 11.7 million tuned in to TV, radio and livestream broadcasts, according to CBC.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended the concert, sporting a Tragically Hip t-shirt and jean jacket, to see off the band and frontman Gord Downie, who was recently diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.

A photo of Trudeau embracing Downie went viral on social media and in news stories across the country. Tweets, Instagram and Facebook posts about The Hip received the most traction and engagement of any other posts from Trudeau’s accounts over the past week.

Prior to the show, Trudeau praised the band in an interview with CBC host Ron Maclean, discussing the band’s importance to Canadian music. During the show, Downie mentioned the Prime Minister on more than one occasion, specifically mentioning issues around Indigenous peoples.

Some reports suggested Downie was endorsing Trudeau, while others took it as a challenge for Trudeau and the Liberal government to take greater action to address the issue.

The transcript of Downie’s statement during the show reads:

“He cares about the people way up North, that we were trained our entire lives to ignore, trained our entire lives to hear not a word of what’s going on up there. And what’s going on up there ain’t good. It’s maybe worse than it’s ever been [ … But] we’re going to get it fixed and we got the guy to do it, to start, to help. […] It’s really, really bad, but we’re going to figure it out — you’re going to figure it out.”

Downie received an outpouring of support for using the nationally broadcast show as a platform to bring attention to Indigenous issues, so for this week’s Social Media Watch, we decide to take a look just how big an impact it had.

In addition to multiple trending topics throughout the weekend of the concert, social media posts about The Hip and Downie’s First Nations comments generated roughly 20 million potential impressions across Canada over the past week. Peak activity came on Aug. 21, the day after the show, where there were 38,000 captured posts. From Aug. 19-26, there have been a total of 104,034 social posts related to The Hip.

What’s really telling is that Canada has about 14 million daily Facebook users, so when we look at the impressions generated, we can conclude almost everyone in the country who used the Internet or social media came in contact with the story in some way. 

For the week of August 21, The Hip were among the top image, news, video, and general searches in Canada.

We looked at CTV to demonstrate an example of the impact the story had on news and social exposure for Indigenous issues. CTV tweeted a link to a story about Downie’s call-to-action for Indigenous support in the north following the concert, which generated 69,450 potential impressions. Prior to that, the last time CTV tweeted about an Indigenous story was on May 17 related to First Nation children living in poverty on reserves — a tweet that gained 51,000 potential impressions.

This suggests that the Downie story exposed an additional 18,450 people to the issue or increased support by 34 per cent.

Whether or not The Hip was endorsing Trudeau or calling him out to take action, one thing is certain: people paid attention. People responded. And Indigenous issues are once again at the forefront among Canadians and in Canadian politics.

– Jeff Blay, Communications and Digital Coordinator,  Enterprise (jblay@enterprisecanada.com, @JeffBlay) and Adam Schwartz, Associate Consultant, Navigator (aschwartz@navltd.com)