What you need to know about Budget 2014

Economic Action Plan 2014 is out and we wanted to share a few of the highlights with you. As we noted in our previous post, jobs, infrastructure and affordability are some of central themes in the document. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty also touched on the responsible development of natural resources, research & development funding, and the need for a more competitive manufacturing and export sector. It is also worth noting that, if not for the three billion dollar contingency fund, this year’s budget would be running a $100 million surplus.

Digital Economy Strategy
This year’s budget affirms the government’s commitment to encouraging wireless competition by capping wholesale domestic wireless roaming rates and giving more powers to the CRTC to enforce the Wireless Code. Over the next five years, the government will also be helping to expand networks and increase the speed of wireless broadband services for rural and remote Canadian households. The government will also be working with the Canadian Digital Media Network to establish an Open Data Institute at the University of Waterloo. Finally, the budget plan also stresses the need to bring Canada’s intellectual property regulation in line with international standards. All these initiatives will likely be built into the government’s proposed digital economy strategy.

Responsible Natural Resource Development
The government will be supporting the responsible development of pipeline projects and untapped mineral deposits as drivers of economic growth and job creation. The budget sets aside funds for the National Energy Board’s review of projects like the Keystone XL Pipeline and Energy East Pipeline proposals. They will also be extending the 15 per cent mining exploration tax credit for small companies looking to develop areas like the Ring of Fire in Northern Ontario and the LNG […]

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    What Ottawa’s talking about: jobs, infrastructure & affordability

What Ottawa’s talking about: jobs, infrastructure & affordability

Members of Parliament have been back on Parliament Hill for a couple weeks and anticipation is high for the release of the federal budget this afternoon, dubbed the Economic Action Plan 2014.

By all accounts, this year’s budget will not deviate from the government’s well-honed themes of economic growth and job creation. No significant new spending initiatives or tax cuts will be introduced. And Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty has also put to rest rumours that this budget could see the government return to balance, but we can expect him to make a strong case that a return to black by 2015 is a foregone conclusion.

Beyond the budget, the Keystone XL pipeline will be a hot topic of discussion with the recent launch of a massive ad campaign in Washington D.C.. The campaign is designed to sway American politicians and public opinion that the pipeline is an environmentally responsible and ethical choice for the country. A recent U.S. State Department environmental impact statement appeared to give its blessing to the pipeline project with findings that show Keystone will not significantly increase the rate of oil extraction and therefore not release an unacceptable level of carbon emissions.

The official opposition is rethinking their lines of attack on the project, especially since federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair is engaged with his “National Affordability Tour”. In addition to criticizing employment insurance reforms, the NDP will likely continue to go after high banking fees and credit card interest rates as their major opposition issue during the budget debate. Mulcair is also holding the government’s feet to the fire on numerous scandals and shows no sign of letting down his attack.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau returned to the House confident in his […]

By |February 11th, 2014|Direct government relations|Comments Off

Just Playbook

What’s in a name?

A lot if you’ve been a fly on the wall of the Playbook offices recently.

For the past five years we’ve been Playbook Communications. And over those five years our client base has grown considerably to include a significant government relations practice.

Dropping communications from our name felt right because we have truly grown into a public affairs firm with expertise in both government relations and public relations.

Which is why we are thrilled to roll out our new logo and visual identity. We feel it captures the energy, passion and smart thinking we bring to all the work we do.

But we haven’t completely dropped the communications – you’ll note the speech bubble to the right of our name. This, we felt, is a natural evolution of what we do. We communicate, but not just with media, we also talk with government, with stakeholders and even directly with Canadians. And frequently we do so over digital platforms.

We’ve also rebranded our website and email with Team Playbook. We’ve done this because we truly think our differentiator is our team. Since I founded Playbook in 2007, we’ve had an exceptional rate of client and employee retention. We believe this has been accomplished because our clients, colleagues and friends genuinely enjoy working with us and value the services we provide.

We wanted team to be at the heart of our brand.

Those of us who work for Playbook are never described as employees or staff because we’re so much more. We’re team members. Each team member comes from a political background and many of us are also former journalists. This spirit of teamwork, camaraderie and an obsession with client service is part of what we call the Playbook DNA.

We […]

By |November 22nd, 2013|playbook news|Comments Off

Speech From The Throne: What to Expect

What to Expect

Parliament’s long summer is finally over and MPs from across the country are packing their bags to return to Ottawa tomorrow. The governing Conservative Party is eager to reset the parliamentary agenda with a Speech from the Throne. Its authors are looking for the speech to lay out a path to the fall 2015 election. It will be paved with a number of “consumer first” policies aimed at building support among disaffected Canadian consumers.

The opposition NDP and Liberals are less interested in the government’s policy priorities than they are in finally putting Prime Minister Stephen Harper on the hot seat after a summer of never-ending Senate expense scandals. Parliament’s extended time out is unlikely to have a calming affect on the opposition and we can expect question period to be more raucous than ever.

Key Issues

Focus on Consumers

Industry Canada remains a portfolio to watch as legislators return. The so-called “telecommunications war” fought this summer between Industry Minister James Moore and the CEOs of telecom giants Bell, Rogers and TELUS will continue into the fall and winter. Though the debate has been dialed back in the past few weeks, we expect it to return to full force when the government outlines a strong pro-competition agenda tomorrow.

But it’s not just cell phone companies who can expect to find themselves in the government’s crosshairs but also other large, consumer-facing businesses such as airlines and cable providers. It appears the Prime Minister and his team believe a handful of upset CEOs is a fair trade for the affections of long-suffering Canadian consumers.

Economy & Jobs

Other portfolios to watch include Employment and Social Development, where Minister Jason Kenney will be driving hard to see the government’s Canada Job Grant […]

By |October 16th, 2013|Policy development|Comments Off

Federal Cabinet Shuffle: Women take a larger role

Another big story out of the shuffle is the increase in women, with 12 out of 39 cabinet positions now held by women. Shelly Glover, first elected in 2008, gets the biggest promotion as she becomes Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages. She represents the Manitoba riding of St. Boniface, is fluently bilingual and identifies as Manitoba Metis.
Building on the Glover promotion, the Prime Minister added three additional new female ministers:  Kellie Leitch as Minister of Labour and Status of Women, Candice Bergen as the new Minister of State (Social Development) and Michelle Rempel as Minister of State (Western Economic Diversification).
Other promotions for existing female ministers include Lisa Raitt, who makes a big jump from Labour to Transport in the wake of the Lac Mégantic tragedy, and Rona Ambrose who moves from Public Works and Government Services to the more public facing Ministry of Health.
Here is a full list of the female Ministers with links to their bios:

The Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health
The Honourable Diane Finley, Minister of Public Works and Government Services
The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment, Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and Minister for the Arctic Council
The Honourable Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transport
The Honourable Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans
The Honourable Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay, Minister of National Revenue
The Honourable Shelly Glover, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages
The Honourable Kellie Leitch, Minister of Labour and Minister of Status of Women
The Honourable Lynne Yelich, Minister of State (Foreign Affairs and Consular)
The Honourable Alice Wong, Minister of State (Seniors)
The Honourable Candice Bergen, Minister of State (Social Development)
The Honourable Michelle Rempel, Minister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

By |July 15th, 2013|Uncategorized|Comments Off

Harper remakes cabinet for 2015 campaign run

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s federal cabinet got a significant makeover with many new, younger faces taking their place alongside a proven core of fiscal managers.
The Prime Minister keeps “steady hands” in several key economic portfolios, while bringing eight new faces to the cabinet table, including four women. Veterans staying in place include Jim Flaherty at Finance, Tony Clement at Treasury Board, John Baird at Foreign Affairs and Ed Fast at International Trade.
The other significant economic portfolio, Industry Canada, goes to James Moore, who moves there from Canadian Heritage. Heritage and Industry are often seen as two sides of one coin, so Moore should be able to hit the ground running on some key issues currently before Industry, including the upcoming wireless spectrum auction and several major military procurement files.
The Prime Minister hopes to see key policy areas reinvigorated through new appointments to several portfolios. This includes moving Steven Blaney from the relatively small portfolio of Veterans Affairs to take over as the new Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness (PSEPC). Long an important role in Harper’s Cabinet, Blaney’s tenure at PSEPC begins in the immediate aftermath of flooding in Alberta and the Lac Mégantic railway disaster in Quebec. Another big change is Rob Nicholson taking over as Minister of Defence from Peter MacKay. The latter having come under fire over the last several months for the perceived mishandling of large military procurement files such as the F-35 jet fighter purchase.

Find a complete list of the new cabinet here.

By |July 15th, 2013|Uncategorized|Comments Off
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    Playbook President Mike Van Soelen named one of The Hill Times Top 100 Lobbyists of 2013

Playbook President Mike Van Soelen named one of The Hill Times Top 100 Lobbyists of 2013

We are thrilled to see our fearless leader and company President Mike Van Soelen profiled in The Hill Times as one of the Top 100 Lobbyists of 2013. Mike and Playbook have been lauded as growing presence among movers and shakers in both Ottawa and Toronto. We’re proud to see the skills and hard work of Mike and our team publicly recognized.  We’d also like to give a shout out to the photographic skills of team member Meaghan Rusnell, whose eye-catching photo accompanied the profile.

The text of the article is pasted below, but you can also find it here on The Hill Times website.
Newcomer Van Soelen growing new company, ‘exciting experience’


Published: Monday, 03/04/2013 12:00 am EST

In 2007, Mike Van Soelen was running public affairs firm Playbook Communications out of the spare bedroom in his Toronto home. Today, the former Conservative staffer has a team of seven, has moved into an office at Yonge and Bloor streets and has expanded with an office in Ottawa. He’s come a long way.

“It was pretty scary when you get up and your feet hit the floor in the morning and you think, ‘Where am I going to find work today?’ but it’s also very motivating,” Mr. Van Soelen, 42, toldThe Hill Times. “I’ve wanted to create a company and do something entrepreneurial for a long time. It’s been a very rewarding and exciting experience.”

Prior to starting his business, Mr. Van Soelen was the communications director to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird (Ottawa West-Nepean, Ont.) when he was at Treasury Board and Environment. While on the Hill, Mr. Van Soelen helped the Conservative government implement its Federal Accountability Act, which, when he left, subjected him to a five-year ban on lobbying the federal government.

“I thought the Federal […]

By |March 12th, 2013|Direct government relations, playbook news|Comments Off
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    “Senate needs a makeover, big time,” says Waddell in new Hill Times article

“Senate needs a makeover, big time,” says Waddell in new Hill Times article

Playbook Senior Strategist and resident policy guru Erik Waddell weighs in Senate reform in his newest article in The Hill Times. Erik presents a nuanced argument that increased transparency and new appointment structure is what is needed, not abolition. For your reading pleasure we’ve pasted the article below, but you can also read it here on The Hill Times website.

Senate needs a makeover, big time

Photograph by Jake Wright, The Hill Times
Senate’s under fire: By instituting a permanent advisory committee on Senate appointments Canada could begin to move toward an Upper Chamber that embodies not only strong regional representation, but also true sober second thought free of hyper partisanship and cronyism, writes Erik Waddell.

Published: Monday, 03/11/2013 12:00 am EDT

OTTAWA—The Senate is in need of internal reform, including more transparency and a less partisan environment, but it should not be abolished.

Over the past several weeks the Upper Chamber of Parliament has taken quite a beating in terms of its public image, insofar as it had a public image to start with. If, as former prime minister Pierre Trudeau once put it, Members of Parliament are “nobodies” as soon as they step 50 yards from Parliament Hill, then Senators are nobodies as soon as they step foot outside the Senate Chamber.

This is not to say that Senators don’t do valuable work. It’s just that, as opposed to the daily televised antics of Question Period and House of Commons committee meetings, Senators work largely without fanfare behind the walls of the Senate Chamber and the East Block of Parliament Hill.

The recent whirlwind of media coverage has been a shock to the system in the Senate, unaccustomed as it is to sustained scrutiny by the fourth estate. Now, suddenly […]

By |March 11th, 2013|Policy development|Comments Off

A few good people

We’ve had a busy year at Playbook Communications and we’re in the midst of planning for 2013.

In reflecting on the year we’ve had, it’s clear our success comes from our team’s effortless ability to move between GR and PR projects, our ability to identify and deliver programs that can best achieve our clients’ objectives, and our commitment to delivering tangible results.

The reality is our team has been tackling an increasingly broad-range of government relations projects, covering everything from procurement to policy advocacy to profile building. And on the public relations side, our communications strategies have become increasingly integrated. While media outreach is still a cornerstone of our PR work, our programs are also employing more social media, website development and targeted advertising, than ever before. Our aggressive campaign-style approach to both GR and PR projects helps ensure we deliver meaningful results for our clients.

With success, comes growth. With this in mind, we want to begin identifying future team members. You can find our most recent posting on the careers page of the website. What might be helpful in addition to the posting, is my view on the DNA make-up of the typical Playbook team member, which I’d characterize this way:

No. 1, our team is made up of smart people, who get stuff done.
We are political animals. Today, we do not have a single consultant who has not worked in the political arena on some level.
We know media. Our team is made up of many former journalists and folks with long histories of engaging media and opinion leaders.
We are networked. Our team members’ professional experiences mean they know how to reach out to the people our clients care about most.

If you are interested in an […]

By |November 27th, 2012|playbook news|Comments Off

Twitter for the Professional Executive – Part 2

Last time we chatted about some of the ground rules for using Twitter effectively to reach your clients, or potential future customers, and get them interested in what you are doing. This week let’s talk about another fundamental rule for effective tweeting – listening and responding.

Twitter is a Conversation

Actually, Twitter is a lot of conversations. Not with the entire Internet, but with those individuals who have taken the time to stop and listen to what you are saying and, hopefully, find what you are saying engaging enough to reply.

While there is a place in the public relations world for Twitter accounts that simply push out press releases or talking points, this kind of Twitter account is a terrible way to connect with customers or clients. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t use Twitter to send out important information or updates, but it is important that people who follow your Twitter feed can interact directly with you if they have questions or comments, and not some intern you’ve got operating your social media for college credit.

The most successful people on Twitter, in any industry, are those who take the time to read the messages people send them and respond to them in an open, thoughtful way. The Internet is impersonal and anonymous – that’s what people have been conditioned to expect. It’s likely what you have been conditioned to expect too. You want to capture and keep the attention of your Twitter followers? Then surprise them by actually listening to what they are saying and letting them know that their thoughts and opinions are important to you.

Be Useful, Be Helpful, Be Entertaining

It doesn’t necessarily take a lot to make an important connection with your […]

By |November 25th, 2012|Digital strategies, social media, Social media programs|Comments Off