Category Archives: Blog

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

ENSIGHT APPOINTS GAYLA BROCK-WOODLAND AS PRESIDENT, LAUNCHING NEW VISION FOR FIRM’S NEXT DECADE

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Ensight today announced the appointment of Gayla Brock-Woodland as President to lead the firm into its second decade in Canada’s rapidly evolving public affairs and government relations environment.

Brock-Woodland comes to Ensight from MSLGROUP, a division of Publicis, where she led the agency’s operations in Canada since 2004 as Managing Director, and since 2013 as President. Prior to joining MSLGROUP, Gayla was Senior Vice President and Partner at Advance Planning & Communications.

“Gayla brings a new and added dimension to Ensight and a clear direction for our future, in which intelligent public engagement is integral to our clients’ success in the public policy arena,” Ensight principal Jaime Watt said.

In her 30-year career, Brock-Woodland has established a national reputation as a versatile and trusted advisor to C-suite executives and front-line leaders of major Canadian companies in sectors including energy, retail, professional services, consumer products, telecommunications, insurance, financial services, pharmaceuticals, healthcare and education.

“I started my career in Ottawa 30 years ago, and it’s a thrill to be back full circle. I’m privileged to be working with a team I’ve long admired, and eager to leverage my experience to create a bold vision for Ensight’s next decade and ensure their clients achieve their public policy goals,” Brock-Woodland said.

Ensight, a strategic partnership of Canada’s leading communications and public affairs firms – Enterprise and Navigator – has worked successfully on some of Canada’s largest public affairs files since it was founded in 2006. In addition to its government relations expertise, the firm has expanded service offerings to meet the needs of clients in today’s public affairs environment including:

  • A digital campaign practice that has demonstrated the power of combining data-driven communications and engagement to achieve public policy goals;
  • An Indigenous affairs practice, led by Sara Monture of Six Nations;
  • An infrastructure practice with a proven track record in working on some of Canada’s largest infrastructure projects; and
  • A research practice led by Chris Kelly, one of Canada’s foremost researchers.

“We are delighted to welcome Gayla to the Ensight team. She brings proven leadership abilities, a track record in reputation management and a unique ability to facilitate and build rewarding relationships between clients and decision-makers. We look forward to working with her as we move into Ensight’s second decade and the future of public affairs in Canada,” Barbara Fox, Ensight principal, said.

Trump’s Inauguration and Canada: Ensight’s John Delacourt on 570 News Kitchener

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Ensight Vice President, John Delacourt, recently appeared on Kitchener’s 570 News to discuss the upcoming inauguration of Donald Trump and what this will mean for Canada moving forward.

The interview has been reproduced below.

 

Note: This interview originally appeared on 570 News: The Eric Drozd Show on Wednesday, January 18, 2017. 

John Delacourt is a Vice President at Ensight and a former director of communications for the Liberal Party Research Bureau.

Ensight Hosting U.S. Presidential Inauguration Conference Call

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ENS.00_PresidentialCall_02_V02_HT_D.jpg

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.

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

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Ensight Vice President, John Delacourt, recently appeared on Ottawa’s 1310 News to discuss how Justin Trudeau should go about dealing with Donald Trump.

The interview has been reproduced below.

 

Note: This interview originally appeared on 1310 News on Monday, January 16, 2017. 

John Delacourt is a Vice President at Ensight and a former director of communications for the Liberal Party Research Bureau.

The Art of Dealing With Donald Trump: Ensight’s John Delacourt in iPolitics

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By: John Delacourt
Vice President, Ensight

Note: This article originally appeared in iPolitics on Friday, Jan. 13, 2017. 

Following a U.S. presidential campaign marked by bold, provocative gestures, it was a move fit for the times: Not long after the confetti was swept off the floor at Trump’s victory party, the Trudeau government signalled, via diplomatic channels, that it would be receptive to opening up the North American Free Trade Agreement.

For those on the opposition benches, Trudeau was being naïve at best — approaching our largest trading partner with an overweening eagerness to set the frame. It did not take a great deal of strategic insight to read Trump’s sabre-rattling about ripping up NAFTA as being all about Mexico, not us.

Yet there was more to the gesture than the initial interpretations saw. As we look ahead to the first 100 days of a Trump government, we can see the components of a new approach to relations with our largest trading partner in Trudeau’s overture.

Now more than ever, in the kabuki theatre of international trade relations, what occurs behind the scenes defines the gestures on stage. What truly set the tone for our dialogue with a Trump government was what was not said during the presidential campaign. There was little commentary from the prime minister or his cabinet in the months leading up to Election Day, and for a good reason: This is a trading relationship that accounts for approximately $2.4 billion in goods and services crossing the border daily, supporting over 10 million jobs on both sides. The Trudeau government’s message discipline assured the incoming government that we would come to the table in good faith, and that the NAFTA gesture would be seen in the best light. It’s about trust.

The commentariat in Canada and around the world has made much of the stark contrasts between Trump and Trudeau: the former allegedly inward-looking and polarizing, the latter a global brand ambassador, defining Canada as an innovation champion and the last centrist outpost in a rapidly polarizing world.

What these profiles in broad strokes conceal are the similarities between the two governments. You can be assured that Trump’s team will keep a strong focus on the priorities and concerns of a beleaguered middle class, just as the Trudeau government did with three big policy announcements in its first year — its middle class tax cut, the Canada Child Benefit and the Canada Pension Plan agreement with the provinces.

Republicans will stray at their peril from the president’s focus on ‘making good deals’ for the American people. It will be incumbent on the Trudeau government to be just as pragmatic, just as transactional with the Trump administration.

In the first year of its mandate, expect a similar ‘retail’ approach from the Trump government to the demographic that feels most acutely the impact of limited real GDP growth, the erosion of the manufacturing sector and the struggles faced by the energy, agricultural and resource sectors.

Much has been made of the fact that all of the progress made working out the details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement has now been lost with Trump in the Oval Office. Throughout the summer, the official line was that we were making steady, incremental progress towards an agreement that would redraw the map for global trade, foregrounding the Pacific Rim region as a hub for accelerated growth and stronger trade relationships.

Yet the TPP was always a flawed document, and it is questionable whether it would have fared any better had Clinton won. A Trump government is not going to focus its energies on such sweeping multilateral agreements. Trump wants to make deals — better deals — as bilateral agreements. What this means for the Canadian economy is that a sector-by-sector approach to the U.S. — one that ensures both governments can claim victories — is the only way forward.

The good news is that, through the cross-country consultations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership that the government initiated last year, then-International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland received the best briefing possible, at the grassroots level, of the current state of play for Canada-U.S. trade relations. From dairy farmers in Quebec to lobster fishermen in the Atlantic provinces, these conversations are going to be key to ensuring that Canada’s interests are articulated and stoutly defended in the months ahead.

The challenge will come in how fast-moving the anticipated big ticket announcements from the Trump administration will be, in every area from corporate tax reform to health care. The Republicans “won big,” as the president would say. Freed from the kind of partisan gridlock that marred the progress the Obama administration could make moving legislation forward, the Republicans will be looking to get things done in a hurry. And it will be the GOP’s congressional agenda, rather than simply the president himself, that will determine his legislative record.

But the Republicans will stray at their peril from the president’s focus on “making good deals” for the American people. It will be incumbent on the Trudeau government to be just as pragmatic, just as transactional with the Trump administration. Clear-eyed, focused and resolute in defending Canadian interests — our neighbours and strongest trading partners on the international stage would not expect any less of us. It’s time to bring our ‘A’ game to the table and refine our version of the art of the deal.

John Delacourt is a Vice President at Ensight and a former director of communications for the Liberal Party Research Bureau.

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 adds member of senior government staff as Liberals enter year of major decisions

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Ensight has hired a leading communicator and strategist from within the Liberal government to advance its clients’ priorities in Ottawa.

John Delacourt, who served as Director of Communications for the Liberal Research Bureau through December 2016, will help clients navigate government relations and communications challenges from the public affairs firm’s Ottawa office.

“I’m excited to be joining Canada’s most outstanding network of public affairs professionals at Ensight, where I will help clients advance their priorities with concrete, measurable results,” said Delacourt “Access to the best knowledge and insight can be the difference between success and failure, and we are here to provide valuable advice that elevates our clients’ interests.”

Ensight Principals Jaime Watt and Barbara Fox noted that in a year of major decisions for the federal Liberal government, clients will benefit from the valued depth of experience and expertise that John has gained as an advisor to Liberal ministers and opposition leadership over two decades in Ottawa.

In his role as Director of Communications for the Liberal Research Bureau, John played a key leadership role in the planning and execution of the digital communications strategy for both caucus and cabinet. In addition, he worked closely with the Prime Minister’s Office to provide issues management and strategic support in a wide range of policy areas. John has also served Liberal opposition leadership and stakeholder relations and communications roles.

In his extensive agency experience in the private sector, John has provided counsel and communications advice to a vast range of clients in the technology, health care, education and financial services sectors. In addition, he has authored and managed winning campaigns, influential brands and digital communications products in the Ottawa marketplace, providing counsel on marketing strategy, crisis management and media training to senior leadership in private and public organizations.

John is a published author of two books, and he began his career writing for broadcast news after completing a graduate degree at the University of Toronto.

Ensight is a full-service, federal public affairs and communications firm, and a strategic partnership of Canada’s leading communications and public affairs firms – Enterprise and Navigator.

Contact:

Will Stewart
Principal
wstewart@navltd.com
416-642-6337