Thanks for reading Ottawa Playbook. I’m your host, Nick Taylor-Vaisey, with Kyle Duggan. Welcome to Day 15 of silly season, which will be over before you know it. Today we have an antidote to the antics. We also bring you in the loop on DAVID JOHNSTON’s star turn in a House committee hot seat.
LIFE ON MARS — Ottawa woke up Tuesday to orange skies. An auspicious start to the day. By late afternoon, thunder clapped over downtown. Spooky.
Wildfires raged all over Canada. And the figurative forecast wasn’t much rosier for a House of Commons replete with MPs who don’t have much time for each other.
— On the agenda: Government House Leader MARK HOLLAND moved to limit debate on a contentious budget bill, much to the chagrin of flummoxed Tories. DAVID JOHNSTON faced a three-hour grilling from the same opposition MPs who recently tried to force him to quit, via House vote, as the PM’s “special rapporteur” on foreign interference. Note: He didn’t quit, and he won’t quit.
Somewhere along the way, New Democrat CHARLIE ANGUS and Conservative DAN ALBAS bickered in the House about current and former tenants of a luxury-adjacent Rockcliffe abode known as Stornoway (home to the leader of the Official Opposition). Then they argued about name-calling. MARK GERRETSEN added his two cents on that one.
Just another day of Hill sillies. Fires, fires, everywhere.
‘COVER-UP COALITION’ — That’s the line Conservative MP MICHAEL COOPER test-drove after it was revealed Tuesday that GT and Company’s DON GUY and BRIAN TOPP provided Johnston with informal advice — unpaid, apparently — nearly a week ago.
Guy and Topp are longtime politicos and consultants who’ve served as chiefs of staff to Liberal and NDP governments. Their advice to Johnston took center stage during the former GG’s testimony at the procedure and House affairs committee.
As did the recently reported revelation that Johnston’s lead counsel on his foreign interference investigation, SHEILA BLOCK, attended a Liberal fundraiser in 2021.
Johnston later told CBC’s Power and Politics that Guy and Topp were two examples of many professionals who reached out with offers of help. They aided Johnston with media training, and acted as another set of eyes on how to get the public to actually read his lengthy report into foreign interference in Canadian elections.
The affable former vice-regal rep spent a good part of his committee appearance reading parts of his report aloud — clearly irritating NDP MP JENNY KWAN (and possibly anyone else watching who had already absorbed it).
Later in the afternoon, Conservative Leader PIERRE POILIEVRE led Question Period with demands that Johnston be removed, claiming the prime minister tragically “destroyed” Johnston’s reputation by appointing him to investigate the government’s response to foreign interference, while “surrounding” him with Liberal staffers, donors and lawyers.
Johnston, 81, spent his three hours at committee on his heels. Calmly. With a big ol’ pair of headphones on, like he was there to host Saturday Afternoon at the Opera.
“To suggest I’m part of a Liberal clique is just wrong,” he said at one point in the hearing, adding that meeting with senior officials in politics has been “simply part of my life.”
Similarly to the House affairs committee meetings before his, at least some information trickled out amid all the partisan sparring.
Questioned by NDP MP PETER JULIAN on how he can respect Parliament and defy its will at the same time, Johnston said a House vote that called for his resignation was based on “allegations that were false.”
— The never-mets: Johnston’s team never reached out directly to HAN DONG, the MP who left the Liberal caucus after allegations surfaced that he engaged in inappropriate conversations with Chinese diplomats in Toronto.
Johnston also never met with Chief Electoral Officer STÉPHANE PERRAULT, nor Commissioner of Canada Elections CAROLINE SIMARD. But he expects he will.
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— Prime Minister JUSTIN TRUDEAU will attend caucus at 10 a.m. The PM will lead a wildfire update at 12:30 p.m. He’ll be joined by Defense Minister ANITA ANAND, Emergency Preparedness Minister BILL BLAIR and Indigenous Services Minister PATTY HAJDU.
— Governor General MARY SIMON visits the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation in Winnipeg. Later, she’ll receive an honorary degree from the University of Manitoba.
— NDP leader JAGMEET SINGH will attend his party’s caucus meeting at 9:30 a.m., speak to reporters at 2 p.m. and attend Question Period.
9:45 a.m. Foreign Minister MÉLANIE JOLY will deliver a speech at the Global Heads of Mission Meeting in Ottawa to discuss the Future of Diplomacy Initiative.
10 a.m. Bank of Canada Governor TIFF MACKLEM will announce the bank’s decision on the target for the overnight rate.
12:30 p.m. Families Minister KARINA GOULD delivers the keynote address at the Together|Ensemble conference at Carleton University.
4:30 p.m. Trudeau will deliver a speech at the Global Heads of Mission Meeting.
LINGERING VACANCY — The voters of Calgary Heritage are still missing an MP.
BOB BENZEN retired on the last day of 2022, ending five-plus years as only the second MP the riding has ever known. The first was STEPHEN HARPER, who won the southwestern Calgary constituency when it was first contested in 2015.
— Time is running out: Candidates in four by-election campaigns are ramping up to June 19 votes.
July 2 is the last day Prime Minister JUSTIN TRUDEAU can call the by-election in Calgary. The rules say campaigns can run 36 to 50 days, and elections must fall on Mondays. The last possible day to elect a new MP would be Aug. 21, ending the vacancy streak at 233 days.
— The likely winner: Seats don’t come much safer than this hallowed ground formerly occupied by the godfather of the modern Conservative movement. Neither the Liberals nor the NDP have nominated candidates, though the governing party is promising an update “in the coming days and weeks.”
SHUVALOY MAJUMDAR is the party’s candidate. He’s a foreign policy and national security specialist whose CV includes the Macdonald-Laurier Institute and Harper’s global consulting firm. Majumdar was also former foreign minister JOHN BAIRD’s policy director.
— A breather? A federal by-election in the middle of a provincial campaign would’ve made for awkward encounters on the doorstep, but Albertans re-elected DANIELLE SMITH on May 29. A week has passed.
— Watching the calendar: The Calgary Stampede opens July 7. The annual rodeo and festival is a magnet for federal politicians. This year, some will be shopping for votes.
TODAY IN SILLY SEASON — When Government House Leader MARK HOLLAND moved Tuesday to limit debate on CHRYSTIA FREELAND’s budget bill, Green Leader ELIZABETH MAY called out pretty much everyone in the chamber.
May spoke some truth to silly season, setting her sights on Tories who delighted in delaying the bill and Liberals who deployed a blunt instrument — and super-weapon — of time allocation in response. And, presumably, the New Democrats who gave the governing party all the votes they needed.
“I find myself in the awkward position of being in favor of this legislation, opposed to the government moving to push it through quickly, and very much opposed to meaningless partisan obstruction tactics that do not deal with the substance of the legislation, which I fear most people in this place have still not read,” she said.
— The antidote: Not everybody on the Hill was feeling angsty.
Playbook got on the horn with NICK SCHIAVO, director of federal affairs at the Council of Canadian Innovators. First thing Tuesday morning, Schiavo virtually joined three CEOs — Canvass AI’s HUMERA MALIK, AltaML’s NICOLE JANSSEN and Thrive Health’s DAVID HELLIWELL — at the inaugural meeting of the nascent all-party emerging tech caucus.
Conservative MP MICHELLE REMPEL GARNER and Sen. COLIN DEACON are spearheading the group, which aims to study up on artificial intelligence policy and trends in a less-charged atmosphere than is typical on the Hill.
A parliamentary committee, this is not. These are just parliamentarians talking.
CCI was the first stakeholder to meet the new caucus that’s now packed with co-chairs. Liberal MP ANTHONY HOUSEFATHER and NDP MP BRIAN MASSE joined the founding pair.
One of the council’s primary objectives, Schiavo tells Playbook, is to sell the caucus on “how we can develop a rights-based approach that can spur AI, commercialization and IP here in Canada.” Here’s more on the movement to protect personal privacy rights as the federal government moves to regulate AI.
— Vibe check: “As someone who goes to appear before committees, I felt very relaxed. The nice thing about this caucus is that it’s very much designed and operated in a way that is open for parliamentarians to ask questions without fear of being burned. It operates on the Chatham House Rule.”
“It was a very smart way to run this kind of caucus, because fundamentally it’s about educating parliamentarians to develop better public policy. Very relaxed, very good vibe.”
— The point of it all: “It’s about redefining the conversation around innovation and tech, specifically, redefining the conversation about partisanship. I think we need a Team Canada approach if we want to get this stuff right. This can’t be an exercise in partisanship. As soon as we go down that path, I think we lose as a country.”
— Room for hope: “I run a nonprofit called No Conversion Canada. We lobbied against conversion therapy. I started off the call by saying, ‘Look, I spent four or five years lobbying for this. And then I saw unanimous consent across both chambers.’ And so as someone who’s grown up in Ottawa, I don’t buy into this idea that we can’t get anything done.”
— The Washington Post scooped that the CIA learned last June, via a European spy agency, that a six-person team of Ukrainian special operations forces intended to blow up the Russia-to-Germany Nord Stream natural gas project.
— In news from our U.S. colleagues: CHRIS CHRISTIE files paperwork to run for president.
— Japan wants to lead global rule-making on AI through its chairmanship of the G-7. POLITICO’s Digital Future Daily newsletter explains that even if the G-7 can reach a meaningful consensus, the gap between that and effective global consensus is growing.
— “Worries about safety, discrimination and inclusion underline how fragile our democracy and sense of belonging are, especially at a time of growing polarization and given the pernicious effects of online hate and divisive narratives,” Canada’s Special Representative on combating Islamophobia AMIRA ELGHAWABY writes in the Star.
— APTN’s EMELIA FOURNIER writes about a Native Friendship Centre in Val D’Or, Quebec that is working to help a growing population of unhoused people against calls from some local residents to “lock up” the homeless.
Our latest policy newsletter for Pro subscribers: Debating the end of debate
In other news for Pros:
Birthdays: HBD to Liberal MP ROB OLIPHANT and NDP politician JINNY SIMS.
Spotted: At a Canadian Biogas Association meet and greet at Rabbit Hole, MPs RICHARD CANNINGS, TED FALK, ARNOLD VIERSEN, ROBERT KITCHEN, CHURENCE ROGERS, GREG MCLEAN and DAVE EPP. Also, Sen. ROBERT BLACK.
Toronto mayoral candidate BRAD BRADFORD, welcoming a second child to the world in the midst of the campaign … The order-in-council that reappointed CATHERINE TAIT as CBC president (salary range: C$422,600–C$497,100).
MPs LOUIS PLAMONDON and LENA DIAB paying tribute to former speaker GEOFF REGAN. “For 27 years, Geoff was an honest and dedicated representative for the people of Halifax West,” Diab told the House. His official portrait was unveiled during a ceremony on Parliament Hill Tuesday afternoon.
Movers and shakers: Wellington Advocacy director PHILIPPE BOLDUC, former chief of staff to then-Tory House leader GÉRARD DELTELL, is lobbying for the Detroit International Bridge Company that co-owns the Ambassador Bridge.
Global Public Affairs consultant ABIGAIL PENDER organized a May 31 meeting on behalf of Metro Supply Chain with PMO advisers BEN CHIN and HARRY ORBACH-MILLER.
The industrial gas and engineering giant Linde tapped StrategyCorp’s ELAN HARPER to lobby on the Hill. The company wants to bend government ears on clean investment tax credits and “government support for large-scale hydrogen and industrial gas production projects.”
Media moves: MARIE VASTEL has been named a columnist at Le Devoir.
Send Playbookers tips to [email protected].
— It’s caucus day on the Hill.
11:30 a.m. The Senate committee on Indigenous peoples will be focused on the constitutional, treaty, political and legal responsibilities to First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.
3:30 p.m. Finance Minister CHRYSTIA FREELAND and 38 government officials will be at the Senate finance committee on Bill C-47.
4:15 p.m. The meeting of the Senate banking committee in this slot has been canceled.
4:30 p.m. HAYDEN KING of the Yellowhead Institute is among the witnesses at the House committee on northern and Indigenous affairs, which will be focused on land restitution.
6:45 p.m. The Senate committee on Indigenous peoples continues its study of constitutional, treaty, political and legal responsibilities.
6:45 p.m. Heritage Minister PABLO RODRIGUEZ will be in the hot seat at the Senate transport and communications committee — up at 7:45 p.m. Parliamentary budget officer YVES GIROUX is also scheduled to appear.
Behind closed doors: The House liaison committee meets at 1 p.m.; the House agriculture committee will be focused on an environmental study. The Senate audit and oversight committee will also gather in camera.
Tuesday’s answer: In 1988, former B.C. MP SVEND ROBINSON was the first MP in Canada to publicly declare he was gay. “There were still lots of barriers,” he later said. “People forget what it was like back then. I didn’t exactly start a trend.”
Props to JOHN ALHO, KEVIN BOSCH, SHEILA GERVAIS, ETHEL FORESTER, GEORGE SCHOENHOFER, JOANNA PLATER, DOUG RICE, DAVE EPP, BRANDON RABIDEAU, ANDRÉ BRISEBOIS, ALYSON FAIR, NANCI WAUGH, SHAUGHN MCARTHUR, ROBERT MCDOUGALL, MAUREEN MACGILLIVRAY, ALLAN FABRYKANT, PATRICK DION, DAN MCCARTHY, CAMERON RYAN, DEAN VALENTINO, IQBAL SULTANI and BOB HOWSAM.
Two we missed on Tuesday: STEVE PAIKIN and MP GREG FERGUS.
Think you have a harder trivia question? Send us your best.
Wednesday’s question: Name the sitting senator who wrote the following in their doctoral thesis: “The principles of respect, reciprocity, relevance and responsibility go beyond theory and practice to living life, to being in the world. A wise friend once told me that Indigenous ways of knowing and being in the world are not just for Indigenous peoples but are about humanity, about living with the world in a respectful and honoring way.”
Answers to [email protected]
Correction: Monday’s Playbook contained incorrect information about a federal GST/HST rebate styled as a “grocery rebate.” The text of that measure was included in both Bill C-47 and Bill C-46, but was enacted May 11 when C-46 received royal assent.
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