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Ontario Cabinet Shuffle: New mandate, new ambitions

This afternoon, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne unveiled her new cabinet as her government embarks on their majority mandate.
Premier Wynne made some major changes among her veteran MPPs at Queen’s Park to help produce a clean policy slate and reward long-standing loyalties. Dr. Eric Hoskins becomes the new Minister of Health, while Deb Matthews is shuffled to President of the Treasury Board. Brad Duguid hands the Training, Colleges and Universities portfolio over to Reza Moridi for charge of the revamped Economic Development, Employment, and Infrastructure ministry. Bill Mauro takes over Natural Resources and David Orazietti moves over to the new Ministry of Consumer Services and Government Services.
A few senior cabinet ministers were kept in their current roles to ensure continuity with current government planning and policy. Charles Sousa keeps the Finance portfolio as he aims to pass his government’s budget. Minister of Energy Bob Chiarelli will remain to implement the province’s Long-Term Energy Plan and oversee the merger of the Independent Electricity System Operator and the Ontario Power Authority. Michael Gravelle will also stay in Northern Development and Mines to complete the promised $1 billion investment in the Ring of Fire region.
Four new faces are also slated to join Wynne’s cabinet table. Steven Del Duca becomes the new Minister of Transportation, responsible for overseeing the province’s multi-billion dollar transportation projects. Scarborough MPP Mitzie Hunter was named Associate Minister of Finance to help implement the Ontario Registered Pension Plan proposed by the Liberal government. Mississauga MPP Dipika Damerla will be a new face on the Health portfolio as an associate minister focusing on long-term care. Finally, Dr. Helena Jaczek takes over the Ministry of Community and Social Services from Ted McMeekin.
Find a complete list of the […]

By |June 24th, 2014|Direct government relations|Comments Off

2014 Ontario Elections Results

Election night in Ontario on June 12 proved once again that most pollsters need to go back to the drawing board. The Liberals were able to defy the polls and major media endorsements by winning a majority government.

The Liberals won 58 seats, the PCs held onto only 28 seats (Thornhill was won in a recount), and the NDP now hold 21 seats.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR EACH POLITICAL PARTY

Liberals
The Liberals are in the best position out of all three major political parties after receiving a majority mandate to govern by the people of Ontario. They had major seat gains in the Greater Toronto Area, including Trinity-Spadina, Beaches-East York and Durham.

Premier Kathleen Wynne promised to bring the legislature back within 20 days to pass the spring budget. After that, the Liberal government will have to start making good on its promises from the election. This includes balancing the budget by 2017-2018 while not making significant job cuts to the public service.

The next four years is an opportunity for the Liberals to implement their Ontario Registered Pension Plan and pursue major transportation and transit infrastructure projects across the province.

Ontario PC Party
Despite a campaign that drove the agenda, the PCs have fewer seats in the legislature than before the election was called. The Tories are now left to rebuild the party and spend some time reflecting on their election loss.

On election night, Tim Hudak announced he would be resigning as leader, which means the Tories will now face a leadership race.

The new leader will determine whether or not the PC party loosens its fiscal conservative principles and moves to a more centrist view.

Ontario NDP
While the NDP increased its seat count from 20 to 21, the Party lost some […]

By |June 16th, 2014|Direct government relations|Comments Off

Ontario Budget 2014: Election Trigger

The Ontario Liberal government will have to defend its budget on the campaign trail. The budget proved to be the final straw as the NDP pulled their support for the government this morning.
The budget will now function as a campaign document for the Liberals. It’s the largest proposed spending budget ever, so the Liberals will have lots of goodies to point to. Below find the key components of the budget that will be the focus of interest over the course of the election:
Infrastructure
The government plans to spend $130 billion in infrastructure through its 10-year economic plan. $2.5 billion is earmarked for highway rehabilitation and expansion projects, including the Highway 407 expansion, widening Highway 401 near Cobourg and developing High Occupancy Vehicle lanes in Brampton and Mississauga. Two new transportation infrastructure funds have been created with $15 billion allocated for projects in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area and close to $14 billion for projects outside the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area over the next 10 years.
Jobs & skills training
The budget highlighted a new 10-year $2.5 million Jobs and Prosperity Fund to help attract new investment through corporate grants. In an effort to reduce red tape, the government is also asking each of the ministries to report on or identify annually at least one initiative that can help reduce regulatory burdens on businesses.
The budget laid out plans to integrate employment and training programs across the government. The new employment and training structure will also include a modern apprenticeship system. The government touted its Apprenticeship Training Tax Credit in the budget and said it would be reviewing the program’s support for large companies.
Taxation
While the province is planning no new gas taxes or increases to the HST, […]

By |May 2nd, 2014|Direct government relations|Comments Off

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’

By BEA VONGDOUANGCHANH |

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