Category Archives: Blog

Freeland sets the tone with enthusiastic, progressive vision for NAFTA

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Chrystia Freeland is optimistic about the outcome of the North American Free Trade negotiations the United States has forced on Canada and Mexico.

We know that, because she said so multiple times ‎earlier this week, the week the NAFTA negotiations begin in Washington.

The Foreign Affairs Minister struck her upbeat pose as she outlined the ‎things Canada will be seeking in what she called a “modernized” NAFTA. Those items will include the positioning of both labour and environmental clauses in the text of the agreement, as well as recognition of indigenous people and feminism in the NAFTA treaty.

How those second two objectives will go over with the Americans and Mexicans are unclear, and the U.S. is also likely to object to any direct mention of climate change in an environmental clause.

Outlining negotiating objectives was forced on the Trudeau Government by the Opposition parties. Under American law, the Trump administration had to reveal its negotiating objectives to Congress a month before the talks were to begin, and so Conservative and New Democrat MPS wanted the same thing‎ here. While the American objectives filled eighteen pages in a fully prepared document, Canada’s were spelled out in a couple of paragraphs in a ministerial speech.

And the presentation of the objectives explain the true nature of the negotiations.

These talks are being held because the Americans insisted they be held. Donald Trump campaigned and was elected on a promise to either change trade agreements to be more favourable to the United States — or end them altogether. In his inaugral address he made it clear. From then on it was to be “America First.”

The negotiating objectives revealed in July underline that approach. The Americans want greater access to our markets, while placing more restrictions on our access to their markets. Such a one sided approach would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious.

So while Canada will have a wish list for the NAFTA negotiations, the real job of our negotiators is to limit the damage of American demands. We are playing defence throughout this game. How well we play it will determine the future if NAFTA — and to a great degree the health of the Canadian economy.

There is an adage in sports that the best defence is a good offence. Unfortunately, in the NAFTA negotiations beginning this week, that adage doesn’t seem to be true.

Instead, ‎ Canada may well be put in the position of telling the Americans that any new restrictions to Canadian access in the United States will be matched by new restrictions on U.S. Access here. Of course, very much of that tit for tat type of exchange and the whole concept of a free trade agreement would become meaningless.

If that is the way the negotiations develop, then to save NAFTA it will be up to America‎ politicians and business to intervene with the Trump administration.

The Canadian Government has spent the past six months in an unprecedented campaign in the United States trying to convince anyone who might matter in this process how important NAFTA is to America.

There have recently been favourable signs that campaign has been having a positive effect. Perhaps that is why Chrystia Freeland is now so optimistic.

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!

NAFTA talks aren’t an isolated issue for Trump, and that matters to Canada

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When the negotiation to renew the North American Free Trade Agreement between Canada, the United States and Mexico begins August 16 at a Washington Hotel two miles north of the White House, it will probably pass under the radar in the American capital.

That is because there is so much controversy swirling around President Donald Trump and his administration that unless the President himself decides to highlight the start of the talks, the media, politicians and the public will likely be more focussed on the possibility of a nuclear confrontation with North Korea or the investigation of Special Council Robert Mueller.

But while the President may want to herald the start of the NAFTA talks to divert attention from his administration’s other problems, will he ultimately be driven to end them for the same reason?

Will Donald Trump ultimately blow up the ‎NAFTA negotiations in a desperate bid to save his beleaguered Presidency?

Trump campaigned on repealing or replacing NAFTA. He called it “the worst trade deal” ever signed by the United States.

He also campaigned on replacing the health insurance plan know as Obama Care, cutting both personal and business taxes, launching a multi-billion infrastructure program and building a wall along the United States border with Mexico.

So far, no progress on any of these promises.

Instead, the Trump administration ‎is mired in a scandal over whether it colluded with the Russian Government and Vladimir Putin in the election campaign he won to beat Hilary Clinton.

So, desperate for a political “win” to show to his political base, will Trump disrupt and the destroy the NAFTA negotiations?

Never interested in the substances of issues, it wouldn’t take much to convince Trump ‎to do just that.

Remember in April Trump attacked Canadian dairy policies in a speech in Wisconsin. That was the headline in the newspapers and on TV.

The real story went much deeper. I was told that when Trump returned to Washington that evening he told Commerce‎ Secretary Wilbur Ross that he wanted to pull the United States out of NAFTA.

The reason; before his speech attacking CANADA a small group of Wisconsin dairy Farmers told him they had been adversely affected by a change in Canadian dairy regulations.

It took the combined efforts of the Prime Minister, the Global Affairs Minister and the Canadian Ambassador in Washington to talk the President out of killing NAFTA.

That was before Trump’s current problems had reached the boiling point.

Now the water is getting really hot for the President. Will the NAFTA negotiations be a victim of all the other problems besetting his troubled Presidency?

Pivot, Pivot, Pivot: The dog days of summer have arrived, pivot but don’t halt your GR efforts

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The Ottawa bubble has all but emptied and we have arrived at the dog days of summer. MPs are at BBQ’s and ribbon cuttings, political staff are recovering from a gruelling parliamentary session and Ministers are on hiatus and basking in the glow of no daily question period. And while the actual machinery of government doesn’t completely grind to a halt, it certainly slows to a snail’s pace. But your organization still has government relations goals and priorities, so how do you advance them?

The answer is not halting your GR efforts, the answer is pivoting and looking regionally.

If you are like me, you can’t hear the word ‘pivot’ without hearing it yelled by Ross Gellar from Friends while trying to move a couch up a stairwell and while pivoting didn’t end up working for them, it will work for your organization.

When MPs are in Ottawa they are typically inundated with national priorities. Legislation, motions, committee responsibilities, but in general those things don’t always help ensure an MP’s re-election. Their summer ‘break’ is their opportunity to reconnect directly with their constituents and frankly is not a break whatsoever, for as much as these MPs enjoy being associated with a party, it is there dedication to their constituents that is essential to their re-election.

So for your organization, engaging with MPs locally should be high on your priority list. During the summer months, instead of asking how the government can help you, ask how your asks can help advance your MP’s re-election goals? If you have members across the country, this is the perfect time to motivate them to meet locally with MPs in their constituency offices.

Secondly, the summer months provide a great opportunity to work on re-tooling your asks of government. Work on your pre-budget submission, dig into legislation that you didn’t have the capacity to review in detail in the spring, map out the parliamentary calendar throughout the upcoming year and take the time to ensure your priorities match up with the government’s agenda. If your organization isn’t talking about NAFTA, then maybe it’s time to enter the conversation since it is literally seizing everyone in government?

Third, how can you use the summer months to build the social capital you need to build political capital in Ottawa? While business Ottawa may be asleep, that doesn’t mean that the government isn’t listening.

How can you dust off your digital arsenal to ensure that you can build broad based public support and use research to bolster your asks and give the government the confidence they need to say yes to you.

For many of us in government relations, the summer months represent a reprieve of the daily House of Commons drama and while you may need to take a much needed and deserved vacation, don’t take your foot off the gas of your GR goals during the summer. Pivot to meeting your MPs regionally and retooling your asks, but don’t halt all together, because the effort you put in during the summer months will pay off dividends in the long run. And to close with a final Friends reference, remember that you’ll never be ‘on a break’ from government!

Trudeau’s Troubled MMIW Inquiry Requires a Reset – and Fast

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The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIW) was one of Prime Minister Trudeau’s many election promises aimed at the Indigenous population. The promise is one of the few he has delivered on, launching the inquiry shortly after the 2015 election with the promise to listen to families.

The recent resignation of inquiry commissioner Marilyn Poitras is, however, just the latest sign that the inquiry is struggling to fulfill its mandate and in need of a reboot. Many Indigenous leaders are calling for an inquiry grounded in cultural beliefs and processes led by community members. They want the existing framework to be dismantled and replaced with a more community driven model; the inquiry must also focus on the resiliency of the Indigenous community as much as violence against its women. Ultimately, for these leaders, the process must be about healing just as much as a quest for answers.

Since its inception the inquiry has been flawed. Bureaucracy is driving the process, losing sight of the inquiry’s goal: justice for the victims and increased safety for Indigenous women and girls. Families feel ignored and frustrated.

The election of Prime Minister Trudeau brought hope for Indigenous people. His promises of reconciliation and renewed nation to nation relationships certainly evoked the best of those sunny ways. The Prime Minister’s thoughtful and fresh approach to working with Indigenous Canadians was such a departure from the status quo that it was burned into the minds of Canadians hopeful for meaningful change.

Many governments struggle to deliver on key promises in their early days, even when those commitments are deeply important to its leader and rank-and-file. But nearly halfway into the government’s mandate, there should be an urgent push within the government to understand why the inquiry has stalled and what is required to renew its momentum.

To borrow a metaphor from the long road trips of summer, the current struggles of the inquiry is a flashing check engine light for the Trudeau government. The responsible driver knows to get the light checked and address the problem. Other drivers simply ignore the light and hope for the best. This issue is simply too important to carry on with business as usual.

The missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and their families deserve answers and healing. This inquiry must move forward and it must be done right.

Sara Monture is Ensight’s Indigenous Practice Lead. A results-oriented strategist, Sara is a skilled organizer, researcher, writer and facilitator from Six Nations of The Grand River Territory.

Milestones You Need To Know For NAFTA

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The NAFTA negotiations are only a month away. But next week we should find out at least some of the changes the U.S. Government will be trying to make in the 25 year old three way trade deal between Canada the United States and Mexico.

July 17th is the deadline for the Trump administration to notify Congress of its broad goals in the trade talks. For most of June, the Commerce Department and the Office of the Trade Representative heard representations from virtually every sector of the U.S. Economy‎.

The groups that made those representations are now about to find out whether their issues will be on Washington’s negotiating list.

Those that make it, and those that don’t, ‎will get a chance to make their case publicly. That is because the Trade sub-committee of the House Ways and Means Committee will hold public hearings on July 18th to hear representatives from the manufacturing, agriculture and service sectors of the American economy.

These hearings are important, because any final NAFTA agreement will have to be approved by the full Ways and Means Committee and by the Senate Finance Committee before being sent to the ‎House of Representatives and the full Senate for a vote.

The second date to watch for is August 14th. That is when NA‎FTA negotiations ‎can legally begin. August 14th is a Monday. Washington usually does not like to work in August, but in this case it probably will.

That is because of a third date, December 15th. That is when the Mexicans would like the talks finished. Both Canada and the U.S. are doubtful that can happen, but the Mexicans are pointing out that Presidential elections will be held there next July. A left-wing candidate has been leading in the polls and they don’t want the NAFTA negotiations to become the dominant issue in the polls.

Don Newman is Senior Counsel at Ensight, a Member of the Order of Canada, and a life-member and past president of the Canadian Parliamentary Press Gallery.

Ready, Set, Spend: Six questions to ask if your organization is ready to participate in the 2018 Pre-Budget Consultations

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Earlier this month, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance launched their 2018 Pre-Budget Consultations.  This is the venue for organizations, corporations and Canadians alike to submit their ideas for where the government should be spending money in 2018.  The 10 Members of Parliament on the Finance Committee, chaired by MP Wayne Easter, will devote a considerable amount of time to reviewing all the submissions, hearing from witnesses and ultimately tabling a final report in Parliament.  The report will be considered by the Minister of Finance as he develops next year’s budget.

So if you are an organization in Canada with an idea, why should you participate in this process?  Here are six questions to ask your organization:

1. Why should we bother making a submission?

This is the Government of Canada’s formal mechanism for collecting information from Canadians on what to include in Budget 2018.  All the submissions are shared with a committee of 10 Members of Parliament and you may also have the opportunity to appear as a witness before the committee. While not every item eventually included in the final budget will have gone through this process, it does allow for you to formally put your request on record.  For your organization, your pre-budget submission becomes an important tool to showcase your asks of government and provides an opportunity to bring your issues forward through all media channels; you can frame a release or op ed around your asks and your rationale.

2. Does our proposal align with current government initiatives?

Early in the life of Justin Trudeau’s government, the Prime Minister took what was an unprecedented move by releasing the cabinet mandate letters to the public.  These letters included the specific initiatives that each Minister would be responsible for. The priorities draw heavily from the commitments in the Liberal campaign platform and Ministers are expected to track and report on the progress of their commitments in order to get results. Fast forward 18 months and the mandate letters continue to hold sway, to the point where stakeholders who cannot align with the mandate letters are virtually ignored.

Not every ask of government will always align nicely with the priorities of the middle class, nor do they always need to, but where possible, every effort should be made in your pre-budget submission to remind MPs and Ministers on how you can help them deliver on the objectives articulated in their mandate letters.

3. Do we have cross party support for our asks?

This is a majority liberal government, so ultimately the Liberals can pass anything they choose, but that’s not good politics and is certainly now how sunny ways is supposed to work.  Your pre-budget submission allows you the opportunity to reach out to MPs on all sides of the aisles for support.  You’ll need that support when MPs have to agree on a witness list and you’ll need that cross party support to have your recommendations included in the final report that is reviewed by the Minister of Finance.

4. Do we have public support?

In addition to MP support, you need to ask yourself if your proposal has public support amongst everyday Canadians. Will what you’re asking for be well received by the public?  Is it an easy sell for the Government? Also for a government committed to evidence-based policy, can you point to a body of peer reviewed research or data that supports what you are asking for? Additionally, this pre-budget period is used by the government as a way to identify high priority community projects that they can greenlight and roll out over next summer – just months before the next campaign begins, and the more you can point to broad support from other stakeholders and Canadians, the easier it will be for the Government to include in the budget. Social and civic capital = Political capital.

5. What does success look like?

It’s actually not the norm for specific companies or organization to be named in a Budget, unless there is a politically safe and legitimate reason to do so.  In general, it is the role of the federal government to create the right programs and funding mechanisms, to allow as many organizations as possible a chance to succeed.  So instead of asking what you could do with 1 million dollars, ask how the government could invest 1 million dollars in a fund that you could access.

6. What will it take to achieve our ask in the budget?

Finally, if you are an organization committed to making a pre-budget submission, you’ll want to know what it will take to drive it across the finish line.  Ultimately you will need an internal champion within government, someone who will push to see your wish list realized. Many stakeholders assume that they need to lobby the Department of Finance, but ultimately the Minister of Finance will be receiving recommendations from his cabinet colleagues.  So if the lead Minister in your portfolio doesn’t include your item on their wish list, it becomes a much harder sell with Finance.  Your efforts need to be focused on relevant MPs and Ministers to ensure that they all support your asks and in turn that your lead Minister places your project on their priority list that they submit to Finance.  After that it will just take a determined and sustained effort to get in front of the right audiences and ensure that you have the right buy in from Canadians.

Conclusion

Ready, Set, Spend!

This may seem like jumping through hoops, but it is an important part of the democratic process.  The Government is sincere in its desire to hear the feedback from Canadians, but given the competition for a limited pool of funding, make sure your organizations asks yourselves those key six questions if you want to stand apart from the rest.

A proposal for region building in Atlantic Canada: Jesse Robichaud

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Ensight consultant Jesse Robichaud’s column originally appeared in the St. John’s Telegram, Charlottetown Guardian and the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal. Follow Jesse on Twitter @writeJR.

Sure, it seemed old-fashioned. When Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil visited the province’s Lieutenant Governor last Sunday to trigger a May 30 general election, he was the last provincial or federal politician in Canada with the power to do so purely on his own accord.

As if too much spontaneity was the problem discouraging us all to vote, legislated voting dates have taken some of the fun out of Canadian politics without producing any great revival of democratic engagement. An unintended by-product has been a move to interminable, American-style campaigning that leads in to the official writ period.

Refreshingly, the province which celebrates itself as the birthplace of parliamentary democracy in Canada is the only one left in the country that hasn’t jumped on the bandwagon of legislated election dates.

But wait! That Nova Scotia hasn’t yet given in to the trend of fixed election dates may yet present an opportunity to build a more formal foundation for meaningful cooperation across Atlantic Canada.

The release of 2016 Census numbers this week is the latest grim reminder that massive change is needed to stem the tide of the sinking economic, fiscal and demographic metrics afflicting the entire region. The brand of region-building projects needed to turn things around in the East are the same types of major projects that most governments aren’t comfortable undertaking when there is an election waiting around the corner. And the problem in Atlantic Canada is there is always an election waiting around the corner.

With four election cycles in play at all times, it leaves only a few limited windows of opportunity to strike big, game-changing partnerships and initiatives, the kind Atlantic Canada needs today to reset its economic, fiscal and demographic course.

One practical way to widen that window of opportunity would be to finally establish a fixed election date in Nova Scotia and align it and the election dates of each other Atlantic province.

This would move voters, and their leaders, to the same political tide clock, one that can serve as a platform to improve the lives of the 2.3 million people who call Canada’s East Coast home.

In the Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, the idea of forming a Maritime Union is indeed as old as Canada itself. The Fathers of Confederation hijacked the idea and stretched it west. Now, why can’t the idea be reclaimed, reengineered and stretched eastward from the Appalachian range into the North Atlantic?

Proponents of a formal union of Maritime or Atlantic provinces make many compelling points, but it is terribly unlikely it will gain any traction before it is too late.

Alternatively, a coordinated election date would not only address the issue of political hibernation around campaign and pre-campaign countdowns, it would also provide the opportunity to present voters across the region with referenda on major questions, such as governance of utilities, Crown Corporations, and new policy positions on internal and foreign trade, labour, and immigration.

Think of how common election mandates might embolden premiers to work together to establish positions on urgent matters like softwood lumber tariffs, the renegotiation of NAFTA, and changes to resource rules like fishing quotas.

By working together more formally and creatively, Atlantic Canada can move in the polar-opposite direction of the go-it-alone zeitgeist that has propelled Brexit and Trump-brand politics, and build a collective strength that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Of course, political parties will argue there is already plenty of cooperation going on between the provinces, but that is mostly when cooperation is convenient. Political convenience on really big, important issues is too rare to count on. In Atlantic Canada, premiers share an undeniably genuine desire to improve life in their home provinces, but they also share an equally genuine desire to be re-elected.

These two genuine desires don’t interfere with each other in and of themselves, but when it comes to working together on big ideas and initiatives across provincial lines, the timing of elections are getting in the way of transformative action.

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’s John Delacourt weighs in on social media best practices for parliamentarians – as featured in the Hill Times

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#cdnpoli: social media like Twitter can polarize voters and over-simplify issues

To be effective, politicians should strive for authenticity, and avoid canned posts.

By CHELSEA NASH
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017 12:00 AM
The effective use of social media may at one time have given a politician an edge over their opponent. But in a world where President of the United States Donald Trump uses 140-character tweets to address and announce policy issues, and Justin Trudeau is known as the ‘selfie prime minister,’ having at least a bare-minimum presence on social media has practically become a prerequisite in politics.
“It’s part of our job. That’s how people communicate,” says Twitter aficionado and Conservative MP Michelle Rempel (Calgary Nose Hill, Alta.) “You’d be leaving out a whole cross-section of your community” if you weren’t on it, she said.
Ms. Rempel said she’s used various social media platforms to hear from her constituents on issues, including crowd-sourcing opinions on M-103, a Liberal MP’s anti-Islamophobia motion, which she voted against.
“It’s given people platforms and it’s become a very interesting [way] to exchange ideas, but I think it’s also forced us to sensationalize content,” she said. “You’re looking for that 140 characters. Donald Trump is a good example of that,” in that he simplifies “complex policy actions.”
In Canada, and the United States, Ms. Rempel, who is the immigration critic for her party, said putting immigration policy “down to 140 character soundbite” can be detrimental.
“I’m not sure it’s been the best thing for public policy,” she said.
Mark Blevis, a digital public affairs specialist with Full Duplex, said social media is changing the way politicians seek out support.
“It used to be that when you worked in politics you tried to reach the squishy middle, people who were pragmatic about issues,” he said. Now, he said there’s quite a bit of “shoot first, ask questions later” strategy going around on social media.
“They’re doing what Donald Trump does,” he said, in that they put something out that might enrage most people, but caters to their base.
“You put out the idea, you may or may not have to apologize,” he said. “The only people who are going to care about the apology is the opponents.”
Because of this strategy, which Mr. Blevis said Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch (Simcoe Grey, Ont.) is employing, “we’ve become extremely polarized.”
While Mr. Trump might be a good example of having a polarizing Twitter account (just look at the responses to anything he tweets out), no one can deny his authenticity is an asset.
John Delacourt, a former director of communications for the Liberal Research Bureau who now works at Ensight, said on Facebook and Instagram, “authenticity rules.”
“There is nothing that just becomes wallpaper quicker than a clip or a shareable that is just an MP at a podium delivering an award or delivering a speech. It looks canned,” he said. What does work well are live videos as direct addresses, or live videos featuring constituents, because “in a short video you create a short narrative,” he said. And, on social media, it all comes down to the story you’re telling, and the brand you’re delivering, Mr. Delacourt said.
Mr. Delacourt said one of the most useful platforms for politicians is Instagram. “Instagram has a great deal of potential, and as a way of taking a piece that you do from one platform to another,” he said. It also appeals to younger voters, who might not be as engaged on Facebook or Twitter.
The Hill Times took a look at the Canadian politicians who are leading the way in social media use. While some of them are better on some platforms than others, they all have a unique strength.
Top 10 Canadian politicians to follow on social media:
1. Justin Trudeau
Instagram: @justinpjtrudeau
Snapchat: justintrudeaupm
Without a doubt, the prime minister’s social media presence is one that’s been honed to near-perfection. While his Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook pages are obviously curated by staff, with well thought-out captions to photos, and posts always seamlessly appearing in both official languages, his followers don’t expect the prime minister to have time to personally update them. The team behind his social presence knows what they’re doing. The dissemination of an Instagram photo of Mr. Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) greeting a newly-arrived Syrian refugee at Toronto Pearson Airport was an instant “shareable” moment, Mr. Delacourt said. “And in many respects, of course there was a level of authenticity there, because we all knew this wasn’t staged, this was something that occurred in real time.”
“What the PM is incredibly good at, is he has an active working conversation with those who are working with him,” Mr. Delacourt said, which can make up for the fact that it’s not actually Mr. Trudeau behind the posts. “I think of Adam Scotti who’s working with him,” he said, referring to Mr. Trudeau’s photographer. “There are years of a simpatico relationship there.”
2. Rona Ambrose
Facebook: @ronaambrose
Instagram: @ronaambrose
Snapchat: rona.ambrose
After the last election, in which the Liberals used social media to their advantage to encourage the youth vote, the official leader of the opposition knew she had to step up her game if she was to keep pace. “Behind the scenes” videos of Ms. Ambrose show her clapping, laughing, and clapping some more as she prepares to deliver weekly video updates to her followers. And arguably, one of the best #cdnpoli mannequin challenges was done by Ms. Ambrose and her team, showing the full official opposition office standing still as if turned to statues. The “mannequin challenge” is a social media craze of filming a room full of people frozen in position that took the world by storm last year.
3. Jagmeet Singh
Facebook: @jagmeetndp
Instagram: @jagmeetsingh
Snapchat: jagmeetsingh
Jagmeet Singh is seen here posing for a mirror selfie. On his Instagram page, he demonstrates a stylish and casual brand.
In the Ontario NDP, Mr. Singh is making waves as an up-and-comer whom we might see a whole lot more of if he decides to enter the federal NDP leadership race. Mr. Singh was recently profiled in GQ Magazine, thanks in large part to his avid social media use. Mr. Singh updates his followers constantly on his Snapchat and Instagram accounts. Follow him to get a glimpse of the life of a polished and trendy politician, including selfies, protest photos, and video messages on issues he cares about.
4. Michelle Rempel
Instagram: @michellerempel
Ms. Rempel is as fiery on Twitter as she is in Question Period. She is an entertaining politician to follow, since she doesn’t shy away from a good debate. “I think people engage and find the content more useful to them when it’s an authentic reflection of the person,” she said. “There’s a flavour of me. It’s not a cardboard cutout.”
5. Naheed Nenshi
Twitter: @nenshi
Facebook: @NaheedNenshi
Instagram: @nenshi
Speaking of Ms. Rempel’s debates, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi was one of the latest to get into a sparring match with the Calgary Nose Hill MP. But dramatic arguments aside, Mr. Nenshi is a good example of knowing your brand and staying authentic. It’s one of the reasons he was able to get into it with Ms. Rempel in the first place. In all likelihood, staff-managed accounts don’t get into arguments on Twitter.
6. Carolyn Bennett
The minister of indigenous and northern affairs demonstrates her social media savvy by hosting weekly Q&As via Facebook. Every Sunday night going back years before she took over her current ministerial role, Ms. Bennett (Toronto-St. Paul’s, Ont.) has consulted her constituents using one of the most widely used platforms. While her Instagram only has two posts, Mr. Blevis says her effective use of Facebook and Twitter puts her top of mind as one of the best Liberal ministers for online engagement.
7. Tony Clement
Facebook: @tonyclementpsm
Instagram: @tonyclementcpc
Snapchat: tonyclementcpc
For the avid #cdnpoli follower, Mr. Clement (Parry Sound-Muskoka, Ont.) provides a nice depth for his audience. Photos and posts often come from his point of view, like an Instagram of his guitar, or the snow outside his Huntsville home, instead of a collection of photographs of him at different events. But, the most entertaining part about following Mr. Clement is his use of Snapchat filters, which add different features to one’s selfie, such as dog ears, or a flower crown. Mr. Clement said he prefers the thematic ones, such as the pizza-slice face for National Pizza Day, and the Hello Kitty one for Valentine’s Day.
Mr. Clement said he does most of his own social media, though his staff might help him with Facebook now and again. Asked how much time he thinks he spends on social media in a given week, Mr. Clement said with a laugh that he’d rather not answer, as it could get him in trouble with his wife.
Mr. Blevis said Mr. Clement’s style on Twitter “is interactive.”
“Most MPs, 80 per cent of their content would be communications. Regular tweets like, ‘look at me, look at me, look at me.’ They’ll retweet and they’ll almost not reply at all. The average MP reply rate is five per cent. He has about a 40 per cent reply rate. He was looking for questions to answer,” Mr. Blevis said.
8. Niki Ashton
Twitter: @nikiashton
Facebook: @MPNikiAshton
Instagram: @nikiashtonmp
Every person The Hill Times spoke to pointed to Ms. Ashton (Churchill-Keewatinook Aski, Man.) as one of the best users of social media. Mr. Blevis said Ms. Ashton knows how to use different platforms for different purposes.
“It’s not just about having popular tools like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, it’s knowing which ones to use, and how,” he said.
Otherwise, if people follow you on more than one platform, they are getting the same message blasted to them over and over.
In an interview with Mr. Blevis for his podcast, Ms. Ashton told him that within First Nations communities, Facebook is very important for staying in touch over long distances. So, she uses Facebook specifically for listening to First Nations communities in her riding.
However, one downfall of Ms. Ashton’s social media strategy is her use of two separate Instagram accounts. One was created only recently, which Mr. Blevis speculated could be because she is planning on creating a more curated image before announcing her run for the leadership of the NDP. However, upon looking at both Instagram accounts, Mr. Blevis said there was no reason for the two of them to be separated. The content could be merged into one account, and her followers would hardly know the difference.
9. Jim Watson
Instagram: @jimwatsonottawa
An exchange on Twitter shows how Jim Watson responds to almost everyone who interacts with him, making him one of the more accessible Canadian mayors.
The Ottawa mayor is a natural choice to follow for those living and working in Ottawa. Mr. Watson has a certain affinity for engaging with his followers. On Twitter, he will often reply to those who start a conversation with him, whether it be criticism, praise, or simple conversation.
10. Gary Anandasangaree
Twitter: @gary_srp
Mr. Delacourt pointed to Mr. Anandasangaree (Scarborough-Rouge Park, Ont.) as someone who has been effective at reaching out to diverse communities in his riding through social media. On Twitter and Facebook, Mr. Anandasangaree posts frequently about Tamil Heritage Month, which was created under his own private member’s bill. He also invites his constituents to celebrate Black History Month with him, shares stories of Tamil heritage in Newfoundland, and links to reflections on the impact of superstar boxer Muhammad Ali.
cnash@hilltimes.com
@chels_nash