Thanks for reading Ottawa Playbook. Let’s get into it.
In today’s edition:
→ A peek at how party war chests stack up
→ A top PM adviser is on the way out
→ Canada’s complicated relationship with tech giants
SHOW ME THE MONEY — Never mind the polls and posturing. This number might be the best indication an election isn’t anywhere on the horizon: C$6.5 million.
That’s how much revenue the NDP drew in during 2022. It’s around three-quarters less than what it reported in 2021, an election year: C$27.3 million.
That’s from their election rebates propping up revenue in 2021.
The parties report their finances quarterly but also release audited returns every summer that detail the overall health of their annual finances, covering everything from advertising spends and fundraising to debt and loans, ending Dec. 31 last year.
— Big blue machine: The overall figures paint a stark contrast between the Conservatives and everyone else.
The Tories surged in fundraising on the heels of a leadership race that brought in record memberships and donations that elected firebrand PIERRE POILIEVRE — C$23 million from party donations, C$18.7 million from leadership contributions.
And the party listed C$5.6 million in expenses covering the big party convention and meetings.
The party reported a combined C$57.4 million in revenue, bringing in some C$2 million more than it did in 2021 — dominating the competition.
The governing Liberals netted C$14.9 million in contributions, with the NDP trailing at $6 million.
Insert your respective partisan spin lines here.
PMO HR UPDATE — The Prime Minister’s Office needs a new policy director. JOHN BRODHEAD publicly announced his departure Tuesday.
“It has not always been easy — nothing worthwhile is without its challenges — but I got to walk down into my (basement) office every day and work for a Prime Minister and government who wanted me to focus on making the lives of Canadians meaningfully better, and I will be forever grateful for that opportunity,” he wrote on LinkedIn.
It’s unclear who will fill Brodhead’s former job on an interim or permanent basis.
Brodhead was one of the PMO’s most seasoned hands. His CV is packed with senior government roles on the Hill and at Queen’s Park, alongside Toronto-based stints at Sidewalk Labs and Evergreen CityWorks.
— Job opportunity: Brodhead told Playbook he’s “still landing next steps” and “taking a bit of downtime over the summer.”
— Elsewhere in the PMO: LIONEL FRITZ ADIMI no longer works as a policy adviser to the PM. Adimi posted on LinkedIn: “As I leave, I cannot help but reflect on many things, especially the fact that I was born and raised in West Africa and came to Canada in 2007. What does this mean in relation to my journey in politics? I cannot say for sure. But I think it means that representation matters, especially for BIPOC of all intersecting identities. It also translates to two words: humility and responsibility.”
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— Indigenous Services Minister PATTY HAJDU will visit Fort Frances Health Centre.
9:30 a.m. Prime Minister JUSTIN TRUDEAU is in Montreal where he’ll deliver a speech to the International Council of Nurses Congress 2023. At 10:40 a.m., he’ll meet with members of the Canadian Nurses Association.
1:20 p.m. Deputy Prime Minister CHRYSTIA FREELAND will make remarks as the government delivers a special one-time GST credit. She’ll be joined by MP JULIE DABRUSIN and a media availability will follow.
12 p.m. Heritage Minister PABLO RODRIGUEZ is holding a news conference on the Online News Act’s implementation in the Sir John A. Macdonald Building. He’ll be joined by NDP MP PETER JULIAN and Bloc Québécois MP MARTIN CHAMPOUX.
1:55 p.m. Trudeau will visit a local food market in Montérégie, Quebec.
2:15 p.m. The PM will hold a media scrum.
PLATFORM POLITICS — It’s complicated.
These two words, cribbed from those infamously awkward relationship status updates on Facebook, might be the best way to describe the Liberal government’s fragile relations with some of the world’s most powerful social media companies.
The Online News Act has, at least for the time being, forced a major rift between Meta and Google on one side and Heritage Minister PABLO RODRIGUEZ on the other. Both tech giants have signaled their intentions to remove Canadian news from their platforms instead of striking compensation deals with publishers whose stories are shared online.
It’s going to be a long summer of complex public policy maneuvering between platforms and the people who use them.
Here’s punditry we’ve spotted that’s worth your time.
DAVID MOSCROP: As we proceed, we ought to accept a few things: the Online News Act is bad law that needs to be amended or scrapped, Google and Meta are not your friends, we need to find a way to save journalism, some (legacy) media companies are awful themselves, and we need to rein in the tech giants and force them to pay for what they extract from their workers and from us. Easy peasy, so what’s everybody waiting for?
EVAN SCRIMSHAW: This week has seen two seeming inevitabilities come through — the Raptors lost FRED VANVLEET for nothing and they now have to finally reckon with the entirety of their options, and Google announced that when Bill C-18 comes into effect, they will stop linking to news sites in Canada. Obviously, at first blush these two things seem disconnected, but what’s interesting is the number of people treating the latter of those the way the collective basketball world treated the former.
NORA LORETO: I don’t like seeing these too-big foreign companies doing blackmail to influence politics (though, hey, usually this stuff is all behind closed doors and politicians buckle before the public sees anything), but these companies do this because they know they can win. Government has refused to do anything for way too long — remember that the Facebook (Meta, I mean) was only forced to collect and remit tax on transactions (like Facebook ads) in 2021! They’ve been collecting HST as long as I have been!
MICHAEL GEIST: Any reasonable risk analysis accounts for the downside if things go wrong, but the government appears to have ignored those risks altogether. If the future of many Canadian news outlets did not hang in the balance, perhaps the approach could be justified. That the government chose to ignore warnings from smaller media outlets of the existential risks in the event of a standoff is unconscionable regardless of the final outcome of Bill C-18.
— Ahead today: Rodriguez is holding a news conference at noon on the Online News Act’s implementation. He’ll be joined by NDP MP PETER JULIAN and Bloc Québécois MP MARTIN CHAMPOUX.
FROM THE TRENCHES — ANTHONY HOUSEFATHER, the parliamentary secretary for public services and procurement, is no stranger to tense exchanges with The Platforms.
Back in March, Housefather joined the House heritage committee in grilling SABRINA GEREMIA, the head of Google Canada, after the company claimed a temporary blocking of news content for a fraction of Canadian users was simply a “test.”
— On the road: Last week, Housefather was in Brussels for meetings of the Inter-Parliamentary Task Force to Combat Online Antisemitism, which includes lawmakers from the E.U., United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Israel.
DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-Florida) is a co-chair, alongside MICHAL COTLER-WUNSH, a former member of the Israeli Knesset.
The task force’s two-day confab included meetings with civil society groups and a three-hour hearing featuring European reps for Twitter, Meta and YouTube.
Housefather came away unsatisfied by their inability to root out antisemitic posts by enforcing their own content moderation policies. He and his colleagues want the platforms to open themselves up to independent review of those policies.
Playbook got on the horn with Housefather while he was still overseas. We spoke about the power and influence of major platforms in modern democracies — and how governments should respond. Here’s what stood out from our conversation.
— One stat that matters: “The experts all estimated only between 4-11 percent of antisemitic posts are actually removed from major platforms, versus the platforms’ confident assertions that they’re taking off more than 90 percent. The experts talked a lot about the importance of algorithmic transparency, and giving them the information that allows them to track what’s happening on the platforms.”
— Not a monolith: “Each of the different platforms has its own unique models, its own interrelationships with government, its own leadership that has different perspectives.
“I think ELON MUSK‘s purchase of Twitter has created a situation at Twitter, in terms of repealed policies and mass firings, that is different from the other platforms.
“The attitude of Meta in Canada is different from the attitude of Google, in terms of my own interactions with them. I think Google has made some kind of an effort to work with parliamentarians that Meta has not.
“I, for one, prize the ability that we have as parliamentarians to engage with the platforms and have our own efforts outside of legislation to try to convince platforms to do certain things.”
— On reining in the platforms: “It’s not a free speech issue. It’s an issue of contracts. The platforms’ users are the ones they enter into a contract with, and they’re not respecting the contracts they have with their users. And the users are put into a contract of adhesion that they have no control over, because it’s basically you accept it or you don’t get on the platform. Governments need to help them fight back.
“I am convinced that the governments of different countries need to act in concert. We should have very similar terms that comply with every country’s Bill of Rights and Charter of Rights — but that places the onus on the platforms to keep the platform safe, based on their own published guidelines.”
— RAISA PATEL checks in on Ottawa’s online safety bill, which is a year-and-a-half overdue.
— DON BRAID writes in the Calgary Herald: “B.C. port workers strike is a looming economic disaster that the Trudeau Liberals aren’t ready for.”
— The GOP has its most diverse presidential field in modern history, POLITICO’s BRAKKTON BOOKER reports. “But the party isn’t keen to trumpet it.”
— “24 Sussex is an abandoned, rat-infested hellhole in dire need of repair,” JERRY AMERNIC writes at The Hub.
— The Star’s JOANNA CHIU investigates a website spreading fake news about Canada: Why did major Indian outlets treat it as news?
— HOLLY DOAN of Blacklock’s Reporter reviews JONATHAN MALLOY’s The Paradox of Parliament: “Malloy skilfully documents the myths of Parliament. There are many. One is that MPs are helpless, broken automatons with failed marriages who are reduced to jellyfish by mean tweets.”
Our latest policy newsletter for Pro subscribers, via KYLE DUGGAN and SUE ALLAN: U.S. relationship checkup on July 4
In other news for Pros:
Birthdays: HBD to H+K Strategies senior consultant ANDREW PEREZ and to former premiers PIERRE-MARC JOHNSON and GRANT DEVINE. HBD + 1 to Crestview Strategy senior consultant NICHOLAS POZHKE.
Spotted: Most of the Ottawa bubble, milling about in the blistering sun — and scrambling for shade — at U.S. ambassador DAVID COHEN‘s Fourth of July party at his Lornado residence. An enormous fan, nestled under a tent adjacent to the main building, offered cool respite for party-goers. Lineups were long for Philly cheese steaks and ice cream. The lamb was a hit. The plantains went fast.
Justice Minister DAVID LAMETTI and chief of staff ALEX STEINHOUSE in the Air Canada Lounge at YUL, drinking Campari spritzes.
Movers and shakers: A shakeup in the diplomatic ranks: AMY BAKER is ambassador to Norway, replacing DEIRDRE KENT. ROSALINE KWAN is consul general in Atlanta, replacing NADIA THEODORE (who left that post in October 2020). ALY-KHAN RAJANI is now ambassador to South Sudan, replacing JENNY HILL. BETH RICHARDSON is consul general in Minneapolis, replacing ARIEL DELOUYA. STEWART SAVAGE is the Washington-based ambassador to the Organization of American States, replacing HUGH ADSETT.
KATHERINE HENDERSON has been named president and chief executive officer of Hockey Canada.
MARK DIENESCH and MYLÈNE TASSY have been appointed to the board of the Canadian Commercial Corporation; DYANNE CARENZA, MICHAEL JOHNSON and CHRISTA WESSEL have been reappointed.
Rubicon Strategy senior consultant VANESSA LAMARRE signed up in the lobbyist registry for Flair Airlines.
He’s in: Liberal MPP ADIL SHAMJI is officially entering the race for Ontario Liberal leader at a Saturday event in his Don Valley East riding.
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Tuesday’s answer: JUDAH KATZ played BRIAN TOPP in “Jack.”
Props to JORDAN LEICHNITZ, ROBERT MCDOUGALL, SARA MAY, GERMAINE MALABRE and GEORGE SCHOENHOFER.
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Wednesday’s question: Who was Quebec’s shortest-serving premier?
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