WELCOME TO OTTAWA PLAYBOOK. I’m your host, Nick Taylor-Vaisey. At long last, the federal Cabinet has committees and ministers have parliamentary secretaries. Friday’s announcements reveal a post-election hierarchy: Who the PMO trusts most, which cabmins are workhorses, and which Liberal caucus colleagues are on the outside looking in. Let’s get into it.
SAVE THE DATE: TRIVIA — Don’t make plans for Dec. 21 at 7 p.m. ET. Playbook is whipping up our first-ever virtual trivia night, a chance for everyone to show off just how much they know about #cdnpoli — and mix it up with our growing list of regular daily trivia champions. More details TBD.
CABINET HAS COMMITTEES — They may sound drab and unexciting, but Cabinet committees play a crucial role in actually getting things done. Every government program lands at a committee for debate and approval — even Covid recovery initiatives developed on the fly.
In his handbook on governing, former PCO clerk MICHAEL WERNICK takes a new PM through the process of appointing committee chairs.
“The extra status and workload are things that you can use to reward allies, to keep rivals busy, or to develop a deeper bench,” he writes. “Effective chairs help to keep your government moving forward, provide solid due diligence on both policy and politics, and sustain team morale.”
— tl;dr: Chairs matter.
— Here are the chairs: MONA FORTIER chairs the Treasury Board. DOMINIC LEBLANC heads up the key operations committee, as well as Covid recovery and a subcommittee on intergovernmental affairs. CARLA QUALTROUGH leads one of two committees on the economy and climate. FRANCOIS-PHILIPPE CHAMPAGNE chairs the other. KARINA GOULD shepherds global affairs. BILL BLAIR oversees safety, security and emergencies. DAN VANDAL helms reconciliation. ANITA ANAND guides a subcommittee on litigation management.
— Priorities and planning: That used to be the name of the senior Cabinet committee named “Agenda, Results and Communications” in the Trudeau era. The PM chairs this one, which includes trusted ministers who steer the overall agenda. This top tier includes AHMED HUSSEN, MÉLANIE JOLY, MARY NG, PABLO RODRIGUEZ, LeBlanc, Qualtrough and Blair.
— Workhorses: LeBlanc sits on six committees. Qualtrough sits on five. Rodriguez sits on four, as do Blair, HELENA JACZEK, PATTY HAJDU and OMAR ALGHABRA. Joly sits on three, along with Ng and JONATHAN WILKINSON.
— Worth noting: The high-profile environment minister, STEVEN GUILBEAULT, finds himself on just two committees — and he’s neither chair nor vice-chair.
THE CLIMATE A-AND-B TEAMS — ZI-ANN LUM reports that a major change came with the committee list: No more separate environment group. Instead, the PMO cleaved its “Cabinet Committee on Economy, Inclusion and Climate” into two: A 14-member “A” Team and a 12-member “B” Team.
But it’s not seniority that splits the groups. Guilbeault and Wilkinson, who’ve both been busy fronting the government’s climate agenda, are on separate committees.
A senior government official tells Playbook Team “A” and “B” are two parts of a supercommittee with the same intentionally “broad” mandate focused on economic and climate platform promises. The split was intended to “accelerate the movement of those pieces,” they said.
Translation: The structural capacity didn’t match the ambition of the Liberals’ agenda, but now two groups working on the same goal (#Ottawa) may give them a better shot at getting promised policies out the door.
MINISTERS HAVE PARLSECS — This was the other end-of-week announcement. The significance of parliamentary secretaries varies depending on the portfolio and the minister, but they can serve as key players — especially with stakeholders — and durable parliamentary stand-ins. The capital was growing impatient with the lack of understudies as the House wrapped up its second week.
— Finally, some backup: Here’s the list of parlsecs. Eagle-eyed Playbook readers noted strategic geographic offsets: B.C. MP JOYCE MURRAY‘s backup at fisheries is Nova Scotia MP MIKE KELLOWAY. That covers two oceans. Another example: Quebecer JEAN-YVES DUCLOS is seconded by Ontarian ADAM VAN KOEVERDEN.
Then there’s GREG FERGUS, who returns as parliamentary secretary to Trudeau and to Fortier at Treasury Board — make that two National Capital Region MPs for the department that serves as the employer for the capital-centric public service.
Fergus, snubbed from Cabinet, was also elevated to the Privy Council, which means he’s now officially Honorable when it comes to honorifics. (Playbook isn’t clear on exactly why both Fergus and fellow backbencher ROP OLIPHANT gained the new title. Drop us a line if you know.)
— Who was cut: A few re-elected MPs were dropped from the parlsec ranks: ALI EHSASSI, JOËL LIGHTBOUND, PATRICK WEILER and PETER SCHIEFKE.
— The final consolation: Not all is lost for Liberals who’ve so far evaded promotions. Committee chairs can be high profile — just look at how WAYNE EASTER handled his finance committee. They also come with C$12,700 pay bumps. Wernick notes in his book that former provincial cabmins can be well-suited for those gigs. Keep an ear out, MICHAEL COTEAU and LENA DIAB.
THE SENATE IS READY — The Red Chamber’s committees are staffed up with senators in anticipation of fast-tracked legislation approved by the Commoners up the street. The full list is here.
— These are senators to watch: When CHRYSTIA FREELAND‘s Covid recovery bill eventually finds its way into the other place, it’ll land at the doorstep of the Senate national finance committee.
The Independent Senators Group is repped at that table by PETER BOEHM, PAT DUNCAN, ÉRIC FOREST, ROSA GALVEZ, TONY LOFFREDA and KIM PATE. Tory members include ELIZABETH MARSHALL and PERCY MOCKLER. The Canadian Senators Group has JEAN-GUY DAGENAIS and DAVID RICHARDS. And the Progressive Senate Group contingent included AMINA GERBA and CLÉMENT GIGNAC.
— A fight is brewing: The Senate’s selection committee tabled a separate report that could produce fireworks when it comes up for debate this week. One of its recommendations would yank committee seats away from senators if they switch parliamentary groups — a significant shift from the status quo. The committee recommended that groups be assigned a set number of seats, with vacancies to be filled by caucus leaders or group facilitators.
Sen. TERRY MERCER filed a dissenting opinion. He called the proposal a “step backward in Senate modernization” that “entrenches the authority of group and party leadership.” Mercer, a member of the Progressives, warned against “undermining individual independence and limiting the freedom of affiliation of us all.”
— The unspoken downside: Any parliamentary group bent on increasing its numbers stands to lose valuable committee seats if newcomers are forced to abandon them.
VIEW FROM YELLOWKNIFE — Northwest Territories Premier CAROLINE COCHRANE sat down with POLITICO’s Ottawa bureau for a wide-ranging conversation about Covid recovery, the territory’s burgeoning critical minerals industry and affordable child care. Pros can read the full Q&A.
Cochrane also dropped some news for Playbook:
— She’s coming to Ottawa on Dec. 13 to meet with Prime Minister JUSTIN TRUDEAU and members of his Cabinet.
— She expects to sign a child-care deal with the feds before the end of the month after productive negotiations: “We are one of the last to sign on, but that does not mean we were difficult.”
— Remember those weekly phone calls between Trudeau and the premiers? Cochrane says they’re still happening, but the place has slowed. They’re now scheduled every two weeks.
DAYS WITH NO DOCS: 41 — More than a month has passed since Cabinet was sworn in, and still the Prime Minister’s Office has made no mention of new mandate letters for ministers — key documents that set the government’s priorities. Playbook is counting the days. We’ll stop when the documents flow.
When Trade Minister MARY NG spent three days in Washington last week, she took opposition MPs with her to some of the meetings. But she also teamed up with a familiar face in trade circles: FLAVIO VOLPE, the president of the Auto Parts Manufacturers’ Association.
Volpe is in the middle of an extended full-court press in D.C. His goal: Convince anyone who will listen that a tax incentive for electric vehicles that shuts out Canadian manufacturers is a bad deal for Americans, too. The EV measure is a key component of President JOE BIDEN‘s infrastructure bill.
Volpe tells Playbook he’s planning to go back to D.C. this week, on the heels of APMA’s first in-person conference — capacity: 250 — since the onset of Covid. Volpe gave Playbook a sense of his strategy south of the border — and who he wants to meet next.
You were in meetings with Minister Ng. How did that come together?
I was planning to go anyway. I knew the minister’s team were planning to go. I just shared my itinerary with them, and we agreed it’d be best if we overlapped on some of it. I wasn’t in all her meetings, and she wasn’t in all my meetings. But it worked in the ones that we overlapped on, especially with the senators that we were meeting. You can imagine it’s a little bit more effective to have the minister in the room. It removes the question of whether “Official Canada” agrees with our position.
I was also working very closely with the embassy, and with consuls general. The key person for that day was LOUISE BLAIS, who’s consul general out of Atlanta. We connected about a week before. She told me that she was working on a series of meetings scheduled for that day around the minister’s trip.
What’s your strategy when you’re in the room with decision makers?
We’re making the right contacts at congressional offices, whether that’s key staff or the actual representatives themselves. Our position isn’t a secret, and certainly the resolve behind that position isn’t a secret. But we missed a year and a half of face to face. Doing those conversations in person is a much better opportunity to turn people — to address their positions — than by email or Zoom. Relationships matter.
Democratic Sen. JOE MANCHIN is a key vote in the Senate. How important is it to meet with him?
Certainly, he’s number one on our list. But he’s number one for everybody impacted by the infrastructure bill. We’re going to try to meet White House economic adviser, CECILIA ROUSE, before the Christmas break. Certainly not new territory for us. We met with the White House during the NAFTA negotiations and TPP negotiations. We’ll try. Everybody’s looking to speak to the same people.
The APMA conference starts Tuesday. How do these conversations figure in with that industry crowd?
The conference is usually about advanced technology innovation and trade patterns and dynamics. Over the years, electrification has been part of the show, maybe a sideshow. Now, it’s the main show — especially with global mandates, everybody’s sweeping towards 100 percent zero-emission vehicles in the 2030s. The backdrop of what’s happening in Washington is important.
— The House will observe a moment of silence in honor of the victims of the 1989 École Polytechnique Montreal. The dominion carillonneur will also mark the day.
— More debate on Bill C-3, which would guarantee 10 days of paid sick leave to federal workers and bolster protections for health care workers.
— The Covid-relief bill will make its way to the finance committee. (KADY O’MALLEY digs into the politics of fast-tracking that signature piece of legislation and notes Tory MP PIERRE POILIEVRE‘s desire to split the bill into separately votable parts.)
— The Liberals are also expected to introduce a bill that aims to repeal mandatory minimum penalties for drug offences.
— Tomorrow, the House will debate the supplementary estimates — which includes C$8.7 billion in spending that needs the green light from Parliament.
— Wednesday and Friday bring more debate on the Throne Speech. They’ll eventually vote on this in the first test of confidence in the government. The Bloc Québécois will side with the Liberals.
Prime Minister JUSTIN TRUDEAU will meet with Newfoundland and Labrador Premier ANDREW FUREY at 1:30. (Afterwards, Furey will talk to reporters.) Later, the PM will head to Montreal for an evening vigil in memory of the victims of the 1989 École Polytechnique tragedy.
Deputy PM CHRYSTIA FREELAND is in “private meetings.” She’ll also make at least one very public appearance: QP.
Pharma giant Merck Canada is dropping big news about biomanufacturing at Toronto’s Mars Discovery District this morning. Innovation Minister FRANÇOIS-PHILIPPE CHAMPAGNE will be in the house along with Ontario counterpart VIC FEDELI. Another Liberal will be there: Whitby MP RYAN TURBULL. (Perhaps a hint about the whereabouts of Merck’s next move in Canada?)
Tory leader ERIN O’TOOLE will talk to reporters this morning. Bet on him setting his party’s agenda for the week, including potentially highlighting the motion he’ll prioritize on the first Tory opposition day of the new session (he’ll pick from a buffet of options).
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“We can no longer afford to take four or five years to develop new regulations,” STEVEN GUILBEAULT tells The Globe’s ADAM RADWANSKI in a feature that considers the multiple urgent issues on the environment minister’s agenda. And here’s LORRIE GOLDSTEIN in The Sun: Trudeau Liberals miss another climate change target.
The CBC’s RYAN MALONEY has more on the private member’s lottery, including a list of the top 30. In top spot: Liberal MP RANDEEP SARAI.
From STEPHANIE LEVITZ: Some in his party are working to oust him. But Erin O’Toole isn’t going down without a fight.
Show up to THE HERLE BURLY for a super-smart conversation with STEVE PAIKIN on Ontario politics, stick around for the Grey Cup bet.
NAVDEEP BAINS and Telesat CEO DAN GOLDBERG talked up Canada’s space economy on the latest Policy Speaking podcast.
CHANTAL HÉBERT offers that next on ERIN O’TOOLE’s list should be to get his “showboating finance critic to stop tilting at windmills.” Hebert speaks more about it on the latest edition of The Bridge podcast: “Was this Erin O’Toole’s best week ever?”
How did it take so long for Sweden — a global champion for gender equality — to shatter a political glass ceiling? Former minister BIRGITTA OHLSSON identifies some barriers — notes that well apply here in Canada. Related reading from a team at the CBC: It’s been a century since Canadians elected their first woman MP. How far have we come?
The Globe’s NANCY MACDONALD tells a story of untold destruction in Nicola Valley, B.C.
Birthdays: Former diplomat and Conservative cabinet minister LAWRENCE CANNON is 74 … Quebec MNA RUBA GHAZAL is 44. … Happy belated to former Liberal MP WILL AMOS, 47 on Saturday. … Veteran journalist CHRISTOPHER GULY celebrates today.
Another belated HBD to Ottawa pundit and media trainer BARRY MCLOUGHLIN.
Birthdays or other social notices for the Playbook community? Send them our way.
SOPHIE GRÉGOIRE TRUDEAU, thumbs up as HADRIEN gets his first Covid-19 vaccine.
POLI Lego celebrating LGBTQ2+ representation in the House.
Liberal MP RUBY SAHOTA sharing her virtual swearing-in ceremony to the Board of Internal Economy.
Nova Scotia Premier TIM HOUSTON with Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. KIRSTEN HILLMAN and consul general RODGER CUZNER on the Boston Common, toasting the lighting of a 60-year-old, 48-foot white spruce — a 50-year-old tradition.
Movers and shakers: NEIL MCKENNA, a PMO operative who also worked for ANITA ANAND and CARLA QUALTROUGH, is out of government after five years: “For the first time since I was a teenager, I will not have a job on Monday morning.” JOHN OSSOWSKI has been reappointed president of the Canada Border Services Agency. … Diplomat SUMITA DIXIT, hospitalized for nine months with acute respiratory distress syndrome, was back behind a Canada nameplate at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
Media mentions: Editor ROBYN SMITH is leaving the helm of The Tyee: “I’m just ready to get out from behind my desk and experience life in different ways,” she shared in a farewell notice. DAVID BEERS will step in on an interim basis. The Tyee is also hiring a managing editor.
The Wall Street Journal’s JACQUIE MCNISH and ROB COPELAND are celebrating after an Ontario judge ruled that whistleblower stories — like the one for which they were sued four years ago — “deserve an elevated level of protection as they serve a public interest.”
LEVON SEVUNTS starting work today at the UN Refugee Agency in Canada — after three decades as a print and broadcast journalist.
Farewells: The life of AUSTIN HUNT, a charter member of the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities, was celebrated in the House last week. Here’s the Manitoulin Expositor’s obituary. “From his earliest days as LESTER B. PEARSON’s driver, to a 65-year municipal career that saw him retire as the longest-serving politician in Canada, Austin was a force,” MP CAROL HUGHES told the House.
She also honored the life of Anishinabek Nation head GORDON WAINDUBENCE. “A resident of Sheguiandah First Nation, Gordon worked to unite the Anishinabek Nation and preserve the culture and language,” Hughes said. The Métis Nation of Ontario wrote about his life here.
On Twitter, the Broadbent Institute’s ALEJANDRA BRAVO shares a tribute to GRAHAM MITCHELL, “gentle godfather of the Canadian left,” who died in October. “His mantra was always, ‘I just want to be useful,’ ” she writes. Follow this link to more words from BRAVO, JONATHAN SAS and AMARA POSSIAN.
Our Friday PM Pro newsletters preview the week ahead: Pressure on Tiff Macklem
In other news for Pros:
— EIA: U.S.-Canada energy trade value slips to lowest level since 2016.
— Canadian economy sees ‘massive re-acceleration in hiring.’
— French trading company signs secretive deal for U.S. LNG.
— Biden oil policies draw heat from both sides.
— U.S. ambassador-designate and the GG to meet Tuesday.
Friday’s answer: The Speaker of the House of Commons has an official Scotch. PETER MILLIKEN started the tradition in 2003. ADRIAN HUMPHREYS has written about all of this in the National Post.
Props to ZEV LEWIS, CAMERON PENNER, WAYNE FLEMING, BEN ROTH, JOHN GUOBA, MICHAEL MACDONALD and BRAM ABRAMSON. A few readers pointed out that Milliken was borrowing from the U.K., where you can actually buy the Speaker’s Select.
Today’s question: About how many titles are in the Library of Parliament’s print collection?
Send your answers to [email protected]
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