Marc Miller on an abrupt job change

Marc Miller on an abrupt job change

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Thanks for reading Ottawa Playbook. Let’s get into it.

In today’s edition:

→ A sit-down with MARC MILLER, Canada’s new immigration minister

→ Washington is not pleased with CHRYSTIA FREELAND‘s digital services tax

→ Our running tally of Liberal fundraisers headlined by Cabinet ministers

ONE-ON-ONE — Immigration Minister MARC MILLER spent five years trying to build some kind of meaningful trust between the federal government and Indigenous people, first as a parliamentary secretary in 2018 and later in two Cabinet portfolios.

There were achievements (historic compensation settlements, vastly reduced boil-water advisories in First Nation communities), but he also had critics (the Native Women’s Association of Canada recently gave Miller a failing grade on achieving progress for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls).

Miller’s files were some of the thorniest in government. But he loved working on them. And on July 26, with little notice, he found himself in a new job. Prime Minister JUSTIN TRUDEAU shuffled Miller to immigration, part of a summertime sea change in Cabinet.

Five days after that shuffle, Playbook was on the phone with Miller. Here’s what he told us about his abrupt career shift, edited for length and clarity.

— When he knew he was being shuffled: There was a series of interviews and discussions with the prime minister, in generalities. But the ask was provided within the last couple days before the swearing in.

— His first reaction to leaving Crown-Indigenous relations: I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t have some hesitations and some regrets. It sounds odd in a portfolio and a relationship that’s been so broken with Canada for me to say publicly that I loved what I was doing. But I really did love what I was doing. And I love what I’m doing now, although it’s gonna take time to get used to it.

— Why regrets? I like to see things through. There’s a lot of stuff at the one-yard line that GARY [ANANDASANGAREE] will punch through. I have all the confidence in the world in that. But when I look at how I want to play my role in helping to shape what I believe Indigenous relations with Canada looks like, I was still hungry to get more done.

— Part of the gig: We all serve at the pleasure of the prime minister, and we’re all replaceable. I’m going to use a 1980s reference. Anyone walking into the room with the prime minister, if they have any sort of self-awareness, is probably checking the ground and seeing if they’re standing on plastic.

[Note: that’s a darkly comic reference to an iconic “Lethal Weapon 2” scene in which a crime boss offs an underling with a convenient method of clean-up afterward.]

— The post-shuffle shuffle: Everyone knows that ministers have their staffing preferences. It is a great period of uncertainty. [Ministers’ staff] see all the speculation in the media, some of it founded, the vast majority of it unfounded or unsubstantiated. And it makes them feel probably insecure that they’re not in the loop, or feeling that they’re left out.

I wouldn’t have been able to get a fraction of the stuff done without staff. My Indigenous staff in particular really stuck their necks out for me and took a risk on me. What I tried to do is give them as much information as I could, give them as much support as I could, and inform them when I could inform them at least where I was going. If you don’t have good staff, you could be the best minister in the world, you’re not going to do a good job.

— Frenetic first briefings: The secure laptop is very large. Lots of tabs to click on. [Immigration] is a massive department with a footprint across the globe, and it has a briefing book that corresponds to that picture. I’ve spent the last five days in briefings, but also getting one-on-one time with the briefing book and going through it in some detail, poring over facts, writing down questions that we have.

I’m lucky to have someone who has the reputation for being one of the best briefers in government. CHRISTIANE FOX is the deputy minister. I had the opportunity to work with her at Indigenous Services Canada during a particularly difficult time.

— Further reading in the Financial Post: Canada has no plans to decrease immigration amid housing criticism, new minister says

12:30 p.m. (9:30 a.m. PT) Employment Minister RANDY BOISSONNAULT is at Tasty Indian Bistro in Delta, B.C., to announce a pilot program under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

Boissonnault will be accompanied by Sport Minister CARLA QUALTROUGH, the local MP who was employment minister until last month’s Cabinet shuffle. Surrey Centre MP RANDEEP SARAI will also attend.

2 p.m. NASA will brief journalists on the “preparations and crew training” for the Artemis II mission to the Moon. The crew, including Canadian mission specialist JEREMY HANSEN, will be on hand.

TAXING THE GIANTS — Washington officials are looking north with furrowed brows.

Finance Minister CHRYSTIA FREELAND has her mind made up. Canada will move ahead with a domestic digital services tax, in force as early as next January, that taxes major tech companies that operate in Canada — the likes of Google, Meta, Amazon, etc.

The Americans argue a Canadian DST would undermine negotiations at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development on a global approach to taxing Big Tech. But this isn’t a new threat from north of the border.

— Paper trail: The minister has telegraphed the go-it-alone approach for a few years, promising in November 2020 that Canada would eventually collect revenue on its own if OECD talks failed to produce a deal. Years later, there’s no deal. Not even a timeline.

Freeland’s department published on Friday a draft version of the DST plan that explains how it’ll work once implemented.

— Grumblings: D.C. is displeased. Here’s how our colleague BRIAN FALER framed the brewing discord in a Pro dispatch on Monday:

“Canada’s threat to press ahead with a special tax on American tech giants could blow a big hole in President JOE BIDEN‘s bid to remake the international tax system. It amounts to a vote of no confidence in the long-running effort, one the administration is worried could prompt other countries to follow suit — unraveling years of difficult negotiations.”

The specter of retaliation — aka a trade war — now threatens the cross-border relationship.

— For the record: Freeland insists Canada is committed to a multilateral solution. But there’s a but. “At the end of the day, you have to stand up for the national interest,” she recently told POLITICO Editor-in-chief MATT KAMINSKI at the Aspen Security Forum.

— Eye on the prize: The Business Council of Canada’s GOLDY HYDER worries what a domestic DST will mean when lawmakers in three countries review the USMCA in a few years. “Both senior Republicans and Democrats have made clear that it will be hard to get the USMCA extension through Congress if Canada has a DST in place,” he told Faler.

— Spotted: Chamber of Commerce President and CEO PERRIN BEATTY, sharing a Wall Street Journal story on the fight with his own note: “We need a Hippocratic Oath for politicians: First, Do No Harm.”

LABOR PEACE (FOR REAL) — A bulletin published late Friday evening by the International Longshore & Warehouse Union Canada brought to an end more than a month of uncertainty at British Columbia ports. The ILWU membership ratified a tentative deal.

— Not unanimous: The union’s 7,000-plus members drove a hard bargain, having previously rejected a tentative deal forged with the help of federal mediators and recommended by their leadership.

Friday’s result was decisive: 74.66 percent, almost exactly three-quarters of votes, favored ratification of a deal reached with the help of the Canada Industrial Relations Board.

— Futureproofing the ports: A joint statement from Labor Minister SEAMUS O’REGAN and Transport Minister PABLO RODRIGUEZ applauded the “good news” at the ports. But it wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine from Ottawa:

“We do not want to be back here again. Minister O’Regan has directed federal officials to review how a disruption on this scale unfolded, so that in future we can provide greater stability for the workers and businesses across Canada that depend on our B.C. ports. We will have more to say on this soon.”

— One option: The federal government isn’t about to decimate collective bargaining rights, but industry groups want some restrictions at ports that are crucial to trade and commerce.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce called for “new tools that can be used in the face of labour disputes in sectors that are critical to Canada’s supply chain.”

DAN KELLY, president of the Canadian Federation for Independent Business, wants Ottawa to make ports an essential service that stay open during bargaining.

Kelly also pitched a likely non-starter to O’Regan et al, asking the feds to scrap legislation banning replacement workers — so-called “scabs,” to use union parlance — during labor disruptions that would “further tilt the balance of labour laws in favour of unions.”

Budget 2023 promised to introduce “anti-scab” amendments to the Labour Code before the end of the year. That measure is a key plank of the Liberal-NDP deal that virtually guarantees New Democratic support for confidence votes in the House.

Further reading in the Globe: Fed-up workers are rejecting deals even their unions thought were good.

THE FALL CIRCUIT — Treasury Board President ANITA ANAND is headlining a fundraiser next month, just a few days before the return of Parliament.

Anand will help fill Kitchener South-Hespeler MP VALERIE BRADFORD‘s riding association warchest on Sept. 14. The evening’s organizer is ABDULLATIF AL-SHAIKH, the founder and president of the Canadian Middle Eastern Council and president of the National Council on Canada-Arab Relations.

— Running tally: The Kitchener fundraiser will be Anand’s ninth since in-person events resumed in 2022 — and her fifth this year. A Playbook analysis of Elections Canada records reveals few Cabinet colleagues have been willing or able to match her pace.

Nobody headlines more Liberal fundraisers than Prime Minister JUSTIN TRUDEAU, who has met donors in 24 rooms in 14 cities since the Omicron lockdowns ceased last year.

Employment Minister RANDY BOISSONNAULT is second overall with 10 events, though four of them raised dough for his own battleground riding of Edmonton Centre. (Anand has only headlined one in her own Oakville riding, and the funds went to the party — not her own riding association.)

The new housing minister, SEAN FRASER, is second to Trudeau in 2023 with six fundraisers, including stops in Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, Richmond, B.C., and Mississauga, Ont.

— A rootin’, tootin’ time: The Liberals recently posted their attendance figures for the Laurier Club Stampede Reception at Calgary’s MobSquad Café. Trudeau, Anand and Boissonnault anchored the room.

Among the crowd: MPs PARM BAINS, JAIME BATTISTE, GEORGE CHAHAL, PAUL CHIANG, BRENDAN HANLEY, TALEEB NOORMOHAMED and YA’ARA SAKS (recently appointed to Cabinet), Rubicon managing partner ANDREW BALFOUR, Bluesky co-founder TIM BARBER, Métis leader CLÉMENT CHARTIER, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs director of public affairs KATE DALGLEISH, Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee deputy executive director RACHEL CHERTKOFF, Yukon Government director of business and industry development LISE FARYNOWSKI, social media strategist JARO GIESBRECHT, Shakti Strategies principal SABRINA GROVER, Crestview partner JULIAN OVENS, Canadian Bankers Association senior VP DAN OUIMET, Impact Public Affairs VP CHRISTIAN VON DONAT, Porter O’Brien partner JORDAN O’BRIEN, Counsel partner SHEAMUS MURPHY, and ALAR Strategy principal RICHARD MAKSYMETZ.

Top story on POLITICO this weekend: ZI-ANN LUM on what’s next for SOPHIE GRÉGOIRE TRUDEAU.

OMER AZIZ, a lawyer and academic from Scarborough, Ont., who served a seven-month stint as a policy adviser to then-foreign minister CHRYSTIA FREELAND in 2017, wrote a weekend essay on the decline of neoliberalism in the Globe and Mail. Come for the reflections on a glitzy party at TOM CLARK‘s Manhattan residence. Stay for Aziz’s convo with PM Trudeau.

— The Hill Times and ABBAS RANA granted anonymity to six backbench Liberal MPs so they could “share their candid views” about the Cabinet shuffle. Insert eyeballs emoji. “There were also complaints after Trudeau’s first cabinet in 2015,” polisci professor ALEX MARLAND noted as he shared the piece.

— From the POLITICO Magazine: Cape Cod or Cancun? Vacation spots to suit every political type. (With a nod to Whistler, B.C.)

JUSTIN LING’s latest Bug-eyed and Shameless post earned a share from Sen. PETER BOEHM: “The internet is making us hate each other. Why do we keep letting it?”

— Over the weekend, the Star’s ALTHIA RAJ suggested one way to curb extremism in politics might be to change the way parties are financed by adopting a per-vote subsidy.

CATHERINE MCKENNA tells the HEATED newsletter that she once brought the idea of a Climate Barbie to Mattel. “I don’t think they were ready for that,” she says in a wide-ranging interview.

NEVILLE PARK at The Local is tracking OLIVIA CHOW’s first 100 days as Toronto mayor.

— The Logic’s JESSE SNYDER flags this trend: The labor market is cooling, the work-from-home fight is heating up.

— From Alberta: “There was no moratorium when the problem was oil and gas,” the Calgary Herald’s DON BRAID writes of a provincial decision to halt new green energy projects. “Now we have the strangest one possible, in large measure because it doesn’t hit the sacred sector.”

For POLITICO Pro subscribers, our latest policy newsletter by SUE ALLAN: Blowback on Alberta’s wind moratorium.

In other news for POLITICO Pro subscribers:

Canada details planned digital service tax on American tech giants.

EU blindsided by ‘spectacular’ solar rollout.

Washington can’t stop Hollywood’s AI apocalypse, JUSTINE BATEMAN says.

‘Dangerous pivot’ on overseas oil and gas deals splits Biden administration.

A steady economy offers no boost for JOE BIDEN.

Birthdays: Former Cabinet minister and Stanley Cup champion KEN DRYDEN is 76 today.

HBD to Ontario Cabinet minister VIC FEDELI, MPs RON MCKINNON and GÉRARD DELTELL, Alberta politician RAY MARTIN and former MP PIERRETTE VENNE.

Spotted: PM JUSTIN TRUDEAU and his son, Xavier, taking sides in the Great Barbenheimer Debate of 2023. A Playbook straw poll of Cabinet ministers revealed only Housing Minister SEAN FRASER had sided with Barbie — until now.

CBC anchor IAN HANOMANSING, kayaking in Iceland … Former ethics watchdog MARIO DION, throwing shade at the Privy Council Office.

MPs: FRANK CAPUTO with a harvest of surprisesADAM CHAMBERS amplifying news about a White House push to increase the amount of in-person work at federal agencies … Agriculture Minister LAWRENCE MACAULAY, on the farm with his grandkids, James and Lucy.

Sen. KAREN SORENSEN, taking in the Saskatchewan Glacier: “How many more summers til it recedes away?”… High Commissioner in the U.K. RALPH GOODALE with a red sunset over Regina … Sen. ROB BLACK and 13 jars of “Cowboy Candy.”

Movers and shakers: The Prime Minister’s Office has an acting director of parliamentary affairs and issues management. ALEX JAGRIC takes over from ALANA KITELEY, who left the PMO last week to study law at the University of Toronto.

Jagric has worked on the Hill since 2016, and an internal memo notes he “has been at the forefront of key issues including the biggest parliamentary, legislative, and committee files in these last two minority parliaments.”

ROSEMARY THOMPSON is now VP of communications and marketing at the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.

Friday’s answer: Trivia master ROBERT MCDOUGALL wrote in with Friday’s answer: The 1952 fire at the Library of Parliament. “The ‘wet, dirty, strenuous struggle’ refers to rescuing the books from the fire and water, ‘Hercules’ to the task of repairing them.”

Props also to DOUG SWEET.

Have another stumper for Playbook’s trivia players? Send it our way.

Today’s question: This day in history marks “the start of Canada’s hundred days.” What took place?

Answers to [email protected].

Want to grab the attention of movers and shakers on Parliament Hill? Want your brand in front of a key audience of Ottawa influencers? Run a Playbook ad campaign. Contact Jesse Shapiro to find out how: [email protected].

Playbook wouldn’t happen without: POLITICO Canada editor Sue Allan, Luiza Ch. Savage and Emma Anderson.

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