All posts by Shane Mackenzie

Trudeau Targets Indigenous, Veterans Files And Promotes Talent From Within

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Ensight’s Cabinet Shuffle Political Update

Trudeau Retools Cabinet In Advance Of Fall Parliamentary Session

With the next federal election about to be closer than the last one that brought the Liberals to power‎, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has shuffled his Cabinet to focus on the unfinished items on the Liberal agenda and fight off attacks from two new opposition party leaders.

Trudeau orchestrated a shuffle early this year in order to recalibrate and position the Cabinet to manage Canada’s relationship with the Trump administration, but this latest shuffle represents something different. This is, in fact, a proactive shift introduced by the Prime Minister to put his government in the best position to deliver on specific priorities he deems critical to the next election, including Indigenous Affairs and Veterans Affairs. It should be noted this won’t be the last Cabinet shuffle before the next election, as a number of veteran Liberal ministers are expected to step aside in advance of the campaign.

At the centre of this shuffle is Minister Jane Philpott, a position she finds herself in for all the right reasons considering her stellar track record at Health Canada. From her deft and swift handling of the opioids crisis to making Health Accord deals with all provinces and territories, her work and activism have been effective and popular. However, industry has been consulted less vigorously under her leadership than in previous governments. Her personal passion for the Indigenous health file has been something she has spoken on many times, and she put her passion to work in partnering with Justice on the physician-assisted death and cannabis files. Her ability to partner with fellow ministers bodes well as she prepares to begin her mandate as it relates to the altered role of Dr. Carolyn Bennett as Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Minister.

Bennett is a 20-year veteran Parliamentarian whose important role will get an expanded support team within Cabinet. She has a personal passion for her work, built on some strong partnerships she has made over the years with First Nations, Métis and Inuit groups across the country. While Bennett’s retirement may yet come – for now, she will continue to advance this key portfolio for the Prime Minister.

Seamus O’Regan, who has been preparing to host Cabinet at a retreat in his riding of St. John’s South—Mount Pearl next month, is another major player today as a new entrant to the Cabinet table. Well-known as a CTV broadcaster, O’Regan is one of the Prime Minister’s best friends, a groomsmen at his wedding, and a close personal confidant. His ability to communicate will be critical in his new role as Veterans Affairs Minister and Associate Minister of National Defence, which was a portfolio that created a plethora of problems for the Harper government. Putting a renewed vigour into the veterans file will strongly signal that Liberals remain committed to the “sacred obligation” promises they included in their last platform. O’Regan’s strengths as a communicator will also help take some of the burden off Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, who has been embroiled in controversy at moments. O’Regan’s public effort to overcome alcohol dependency has transformed him into a comeback story, and he has worked closely with the PMO to help organize the Irish Prime Minister’s visit to Canada.

Another new member of Cabinet is Ginette Petitpas Taylor. Having already served as the Deputy Government Whip and then as Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance, Bill Morneau – Petitpas Taylor will be seen as a solid choice to expand the Cabinet. In the Atlantic provinces, Liberals currently have all the seats, and adding Ministers to give further recognition to that fact is something that Atlantic MPs will be pleased to see. The Health Minister role has a particularly high bar to meet following on the heels of Philpott’s tenure. She has succeeded in these two previous roles, yet this will bring the stakes to a higher level for her political future.

Meanwhile, former Paralympian and human rights lawyer Minister Qualtrough will be moving within Cabinet to take over as Minister of Public Services and Procurement. In her current portfolio as Minister of Sport & Persons with Disabilities, she has been busy traveling across the country for consultations on services for persons with disabilities, has been involved with the B.C. wildfire response effort, and has been working to develop a Canadians with Disabilities Act. She will now turn her proactive work ethic toward the challenges existing at Public Services and Procurement, including the embattled Phoenix pay system and procurement of replacement fighter jets. With a new NDP-Green provincial government and some polls showing federal Liberal slippage in British Columbia, keeping a tough riding like Delta is an electoral priority to show strength in the lower mainland’s outskirts.

Finally, Minister Kent Hehr will vacate his portfolio as Veterans Affairs Minister and Associate Minister of Defence to make way for O’Regan. However, the move to Minister of Sport & Persons with Disabilities comes with its benefits for Hehr, who was a noted athlete who remains passionate about sport. His new role may also provide him with more time to focus on getting re-elected in Calgary in 2019. He is the first Liberal Calgary MP since the 1970s.

New ministers will receive mandate letters, signalling updated priorities, from the Prime Minister in the weeks ahead.

Insights and Biographical Notes

Hon. Seamus O’Regan, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister to National Defence


  • O’Regan’s appointment ensures Newfoundland and Labrador retains a voice at the Cabinet table in the wake of Judy Foote’s resignation from her post at Public Services and Procurement.
  • The former broadcaster is a close personal friend of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who notably made a public show of support for O’Regan in 2015 when he announced he would seek help for alcohol dependence.
  • Veterans Affairs Canada’s headquarters are located in Charlottetown PEI, and several Atlantic Canadian politicians have been called on to lead the department in the past, such as Greg Thompson, Doug Young and Gerald Merrithew.

Biographical Notes

O’Regan is well known to Canadians as the long-time host of CTV’s Canada AM and as a national reporter for the network.

Born in St. John’s and raised in Labrador, O’Regan worked for the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador as an advisor to the Premier and to the Minister of Justice. He also served as Executive Vice President, Communications, at The Stronach Group of Companies, and was noted for his role of Ambassador for Bell’s Let’s Talk mental health awareness campaign.

As MP for St. John’s South—Mount Pearl (Newfoundland and Labrador), O’Regan has been a member of the House of Commons’ Canadian Heritage committee and he is a members of the Canada-Ireland Interparliamentary Group.

O’Regan made headlines when he proactively sought treatment for alcohol dependence shortly after he was elected in 2015, and he was also named in the scandal surrounding Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Christmas vacation on the private island of the Aga Khan.

Hon. Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Health


  • Petitpas Taylor is a gifted communicator in French and English, and she put those skills to great use as Parliamentary Secretary to Finance Minister Bill Morneau. She was notably instrumental in various consultations across the country, including those held for Budget 2017.
  • Petitpas Taylor is a noted advocate on women’s issues whose ability to connect with her own community in Southeastern New Brunswick has translated well to the federal political scene. Her riding is adjacent to the Beausejour riding of Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc, with whom she has a productive working dynamic.
  • A noted community volunteer and advocate, Petitpas Taylor burst into federal politics when she shocked local Liberals and defeated former Moncton mayor George LeBlanc to win the Liberal nomination and help lead the red wave that covered every corner of Atlantic Canada in 2015.

Biographical Notes

Ginette Petitpas Taylor’s background in social work led her to a 23-year career as an RCMP Victim Services Coordinator where she provided crisis and domestic violence counselling. She is a noted volunteer with the Coalition Against Abuse in Relationships, the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Suicide Prevention Committee, she served on the City of Moncton’s Public Safety Advisory Committee, and she has been chair of the New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women.

Hon. Jane Philpott, Minister of Indigenous Services


  • Philpott has been one of the Prime Minister’s most competent and trusted ministers, and her shift in responsibilities reflects the continued importance the government is placing on Indigenous Affairs.
  • A medical doctor, Philpott has been noted as an activist minister at the helm of Health Canada.
  • Philpott has led a number of pan-Canadian consultation processes, and has worked closely with provinces and fellow ministers on a number of high-stakes issues like the opioid crisis, physician-assisted death and the development of a legal cannabis regime.

Biographical Notes

Prior to her career in politics, Dr. Philpott has been an accomplished medical physician with many accomplishments in the fields of family medicine, public health, medical education and advocacy for HIV/AIDS.
She worked in Niger from 1989 to 1998 where she practiced medicine and established a medical training program. Back in Canada, she founded Give a Day to World AIDS in 2004, a charity which has raised over $4 million.

Hon. Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Public Services and Procurement


  • Qualtrough’s success as Minister of Sport & Persons with Disabilities has put her in position to take on this new challenge with added responsibilities.
  • Qualtrough’s promotion is a nod to the importance of her riding in the West Coast election strategy of the Liberal party. Delta is an important British Columbia riding for a Liberal government that is hoping to hold on to its recent electoral breakthrough in the next general election.
  • She bolstered the Prime Minister’s confidence in her abilities by showing great poise and competence during the recent wildfires in British Columbia.
    Biographical Notes

Biographical Notes

The MP for Delta led a successful human rights law career in British Columbia in addition to her athletic career and volunteer advocacy initiatives. Qualtrough has been visually impaired since birth, a challenge that did not prevent her from becoming a successful Paralympic swimmer. That success paved the way for her involvement with the Toronto 2015 Pan and Parapan American Games, and her former role as president of the Canadian Paralympic Committee and Chair of the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada.

Hon. Kent Hehr, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities


  • Hehr is the first Liberal from Calgary to sit in Cabinet since 1972.
  • The minister’s successful career in provincial politics has helped to prepare his path to the Trudeau Cabinet.
  • In his new role, Hehr can draw on his personal experience as a Canadian living with a disability caused by a spinal cord injury.

Biographical Notes

Hehr practiced law at a well-known national firm, worked with the United Way and led the Alberta branch of the Canadian Paraplegic Association. He was known as a hard-working Alberta MLA where his priorities revolved around the management of the province’s budget, natural resources, public education and LGBTQ issues.

Hon. Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs


  • Contrary to speculation, her inclusion in this shuffle would indicate that she is not resigning anytime soon.
  • Carolyn has a solid relationship with her department, and firm relationships with Chiefs across the country, which is a testament to her work when she was the Liberal critic.
  • Her experience as a doctor will pair well with Dr. Philipott and signals a continued focus on historically underserved communities.

Biographical Notes

Carolyn Bennett was first elected in 1997 and prior to her election she was a family physician and a founding partner of Bedford Medical Associates in Toronto.
In 2003 Prime Minister Paul Martin appointed Bennett as the first ever Minister of State for Public Health, a role in which she set up the Public Health Agency of Canada, appointed the first Chief Public Health Officer for Canada, and established the Public Health Network.

Don Newman In Conversation On NAFTA

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Members of the Standing Committee on International Trade sat down at the table today with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland for an open discussion on Canada’s objectives and approach to NAFTA negotiations. When the meeting ended, MPs spoke with Ensight’s Don Newman about what they heard and what it means for Canadian businesses as they await the start of negotiations Wednesday in Washington.

Watch the clips:

1. Hon. Andrew Leslie, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs (Canada-U.S. Relations), Liberal MP for Orléans

2. Hon. Gerry Ritz, Conservative Trade Critic, International Trade Committee Member, Conservative MP for Battlefords—Lloydminster

3. Kyle Peterson, International Trade Committee Member, Liberal MP for Newmarket—Aurora

Stay tuned for more this week from Ensight as NAFTA negotiations unfold!

Political Perspectives: Five things to watch as Parliament resumes

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Today (Jan. 22) marks 80 days in power for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. As the 42nd session of Parliament returns on Monday, and we approach the “First 100 Days” milestone, here’s a quick list of five things to watch for this session.

Budget 2016 and the deficit: Finance Minister Bill Morneau just wrapped up his cross-country pre-budget consultations. The first budget is widely speculated to be end of March. The size of the deficit is the item to watch for as oil prices continue to decline and the dollar has dipped to its lowest point since 2003.

Opposition and the Progressive Opposition: The Conservative Party is holding true to #NewYearNewYou with a leadership election announced for May 27, 2017. Expect them and the repositioned ‘Progressive Opposition’ NDP to continue to push on issues such as electoral reform, while aiming to portray the Trudeau government’s fiscal plans as irresponsible.

Big agenda items: The government will be moving forward on some of its significant Throne Speech items. The clock is ticking for the government fulfill its promise on electoral reform within 18 months of coming to power, including a commitment that the 2015 election will be the last conducted according to first-past-the-post. In the wake of COP 21 and Canada’s commitments in Paris, government actions to curb climate change and address environmental issues will be watched closely. Infrastructure spending is a hot topic for provincial partners and municipalities who have a lengthy list of to-dos and high expectations. Legislating and regulating marijuana will also be high on the minds of many Canadians.

Items added to their agenda: The Supreme Court has given Ottawa a four-month extension to pass a bill legalizing physician-assisted suicide. This is something to keep an eye on in the next several months as provinces and territories work with the federal government to come to a consensus on this emotional and contentious issue.

Senate Reform: With a new process and advisory board in place for appointing senators to the upper house, it’s expected that five of the 22 vacancies could be filled early in the new year, with two from Ontario, two from Manitoba and one from Quebec, to restore regional balance. There are big questions about exactly how the new Senate will work, given that the Liberals promised to make the Upper House of Parliament more independent and non-partisan. Could government legislation be blocked by the newly independent senate?

As Ministers return to question period briefed up, staffed up, and hopefully rested up from the holiday, we will see a more comfortable team working to deliver on the government priorities set out in their platform and throne speech: growing the economy for the middle class, providing Canadians with open and transparent government, and fighting climate change.


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The final days of an election can often bring out the worst of desperate campaign tactics. Suffering from lack of sleep and with no runway room left to correct the record, campaigns plot regrettable moves that don’t always reflect where the party leaders would have envisioned their campaign was headed, 76 days ago.

Even though the final week is a tough time for the campaigners, it’s also when voter interest reaches its peak. As proof, this past Thanksgiving weekend we saw record numbers come out to cast their ballot in the advance polls.

Regardless of the long lines and delays, a record number, 3.6 million voters across Canada turned out to vote at the advance polls — a 71 per cent increase from the 2.1 million who voted in advance in the 2011 general election according to Elections Canada. British Columbia was the province with the largest increase in voter turnout at an increase of 95 per cent over 2011. And the Ontario riding of Ottawa Centre had 18,751 advance votes cast, the most of any riding in Canada.

Voters managed to make taking a selfie cool again– as long as it was outside of the polling station. So many voting selfies appeared on social media channels that it prompted Elections Canada to have to remind voters you can’t take photos inside a polling station. Buzzfeed, Huffington Post and CBC shared stories of the voting selfie, capturing social media images of proud voters, including this idyllic family photo of parents taking their daughter to vote for the first time.

High voter turnout can be attributed to a combination a tighter race, a long campaign, relatively good weather, the extra day of the long weekend, and political passions flaring as families assembled for Thanksgiving.

On Monday, 25.8 million eligible voters will get their opportunity to cast their ballot. Once they are counted, may this positive story outshine the negative ads and dirty campaign tactics that usually result in voter apathy. And so long as you do it outside the polling station, feel free to take a selfie.


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By: Lindsay Maskell

Advance polls open this morning across Canada and political parties are working to lock down support by urging voters to cast early ballots this Thanksgiving weekend. Persuasive campaign events were essential this week to shape opinion as families gather to tuck in to turkey and talk politics at a key decision-making time.

Electors in advance polls make up a huge number of votes, and they could sway results in a tight campaign. In the last Federal election in 2011, more than 2.1 million Canadians cast a ballot in an advance poll — that’s about 14 per cent of the total number of voters. This week we saw two different approaches to sway last minute support captured in our images of the week.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau held a rally in Brampton in a hockey arena boasting 7000 attendees. Introduced by his wife and endorsed by many in a slick video, the campaign’s goal was to drive the message of momentum for the Liberals to sway support. The energy and strong visuals filled a quiet news day last Sunday as TPP announcements were delayed until Monday.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper made an election pitch straight at young families Wednesday, proposing changes to the employment insurance system that would extend maternity and parental leave benefits to eighteen months. The Conservative campaign made a strategic reach to a demographic that needed to see a softer side of Stephen Harper. The campaign shared this compelling image on Instagram of Harper chatting with a little girl. The endearing image, and message paired with more of a focus on the economy instead of the Niqab this week, allows for less divisive dining room conversations as families gather for the long weekend.

Advance polls give early vital insight into how campaigns are faring in key ridings and polls. The data will help shape the final days of this election. So don’t forget to be thankful, and vote this weekend.


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By: Lindsay Maskell

This week we selected an important image of the leaders as they sparred over citizenship, security and the Keystone pipeline during the Munk leaders’ debate on Canadian foreign policy.

It was the fourth of five debates in this marathon election campaign, with polls suggesting that Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau are holding steady or gaining momentum, depending on the poll.

As the leaders battled over Canada’s place in the world, the fireworks of the night took place between Harper and Trudeau.

Heated debate moments have been a standard and have even created defining moments during our past elections. This image looks similar to the Brian Mulroney and John Turner photo during the 1988 debate on free trade.

Today’s French language debate in Montreal is the last of this election. A strong performance – or a disappointing one – could shape the final results on October 19th.


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By: Lindsay Maskell

The Munk Federal Election Debate on Canada’s Foreign Policy was the fourth debate of this election. The stakes were high in a close three-party race. Leaders’ debates are usually in a closed studio so an event with an audience was extremely rare. The debate revealed a few important details, some of which were more visible to the live audience. Here are four things you may have missed during the Munk Debate on Canada’s Foreign Policy:

  • The rules of the Munk Debate stipulated that the Leaders were not allowed any prepared notes on their podiums. They were provided just a few sheets of blank paper and a pen. NDP Leader Tom Mulcair chose to ignore the live audience format and use his time when not speaking to take notes and was constantly writing. It may have distracted him, and to the live audience he appeared less engaged. Conservative Leader Stephen Harper is an experienced debater and is well-versed in foreign policy. He took no notes and listened intently to his opponents.
  • An unexpected moment happened in the crowd when Mulcair prompted an emotional retort from Justin Trudeau when he criticized the Liberals for invoking the War Measures Act in 1970. Trudeau spoke about being proud to be Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s son and the crowd erupted in applause. The audience had been informed no applause was allowed during the debate. Mulcair was definitely thrown having to respond after Trudeau spoke about this day being the 15th anniversary of his father’s death.
  • Having pushed for the Munk Debate to be bilingual and Quebec being a key battleground, Trudeau led most of his responses in French. The closed captioning service of the live show was not prepared.
  • President Obama dealt the wild card in last night’s debate with his statement to the United Nations on Monday that he was willing to work with Iran and Russia to end the conflict in Syria and defeat the Islamic State. Stephen Harper has taken a firm position against working with Russia over its involvement in Ukraine. It was an important part of the debate with little prep time for the leaders as they tried to find their best footing.

Substantively the Munk Debate had the most content with seven minutes for one-on-one debate on specific questions to each leader. Topics ranged from the Syrian refugee crisis to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations. Compared to other debate formats, there was plenty of room to make a mistake and more time to create contrasts between the leaders. The post-debate analysis echoed the recent polls giving Trudeau a little momentum and Mulcair losing a little ground. The leaders face off again this Friday, October 2nd in Montreal.

Lindsay Maskell is the Vice President of Public Affairs at Enterprise, one of ENsight’s two parent companies. Lindsay served on three central winning campaign teams. Prior to joining Enterprise, Lindsay was a Manager in Operations in the Premier’s Office. You can find Lindsay on Twitter here.


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By: Lindsay Maskell


We are approaching the end of the second month of campaigning (almost two provincial elections) in this 42nd federal election. There are still 24 days left to go. This week all three campaigns shared images of their leaders relaxing, exercising, and even drinking to try to soften their public images and to let their leaders have a little fun.

Stephen Harper’s love of hockey is immense and may even outweighs his passion for politics. Like Ontario Provincial Leader Patrick Brown, Harper trotted out beloved (no longer eligible to vote) Canadian, Wayne Gretzky for a chat about our national pastime and an endorsement of Harper’s time as Prime Minister. Looking relaxed and slightly in awe of his hockey hero, one can be quite sure this was Harper’s favourite day on the campaign trail so far.

Tom Mulcair had a swing through PEI this week. Atlantic Canada is an important battleground, even with only 32 seats. The election is expected to be close until the end and those few seats with rich NDP and Liberal support could be key. As Mulcair’s team aims to put angry Tom back in the box, they had fun events this week hoping to convince Atlantic Canada that you would want to go cod jigging and yes, even have a beer with Tom.

Justin Trudeau had the hometown advantage this week getting to relax and prepare for the French debate in his home riding of Papineau in Montreal. He shared photos sparring at his favourite boxing gym and a quiet moment with his photogenic family in a park resulting in a well-rested and confident looking Trudeau at the debate.

With a third of the election still remaining, and three debates in the next two weeks, the leaders will savour these lighter moments and hope it refuels their tank for this crucial final stretch.


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By: Lindsay Maskell

The halfway point in the election is key for campaigns to try to create a shift in momentum. The leaders had major highlights this week as the polls keep all three leaders in a tight race.

Stephen Harper’s campaign suffered some blows last week, but his team appears to have buttoned down and it showed. A more confident Harper played some hockey, lost the suit jacket, and was more comfortable with his supporters. He did not have the largest crowds at his events, but no incidents between his supporters and media helped round out a smoother week.

Justin Trudeau’s Hamilton rally included former Prime Minister, Jean Chretien. With a crowd of almost 2000 last Saturday, Trudeau’s rally was to show strength in numbers in NDP territory but also served as a reminder of past governing ability from the federal Liberals.

Tom Mulcair had successful rallies this past week drawing decent numbers to keep competitive with Trudeau’s events. Breaking from the usual security concerns of public events, Mulcair held a rally in an open-air venue familiar to many as it was the location of the Olympic torch in Vancouver. Mulcair spoke in the round and it produced the best visuals of a rally this week.

Lindsay Maskell is a Director at Ensight Canada and Vice President of Public Affairs at Enterprise Canada, bringing more than a decade of political experience at Queen’s Park. An experienced campaign manager, Lindsay has played a key role in three successful central campaign teams.