News

Trade and innovation topped September lobbying

The government's 'Supercluster' initiative is one link, and trade talks in the Pacific are also top of mind for many lobbyists now.

International Trade Minister François-Philippe Champagne, left, and Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains were lobbied by many similar groups in September. Experts say the two departments are interlocking, because of their relationship with trade. The Hill Times file photographs

PUBLISHED :Friday, Oct. 20, 2017 12:00 AM

PARLIAMENT HILL—The staff tasked with implementing the Liberal innovation plan were lobbied the most last month, because “all roads go through” Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains’ office, insiders say.

Mr. Bains himself was only the third most lobbied minister, however, with International Trade Minister François-Philippe Champagne (Saint-Maurice-Champlain, Que.) and Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay (Cardigan, P.E.I.) seeing the most traffic in September.

Mr. Champagne and Mr. MacAulay both had 17 monthly communication reports logged to their name, based on monthly communication reports filed between Sept. 1 and Oct. 16.

The Innovation Department had 200 communication reports filed to it, while Mr. Bains (Mississauga-Malton, Ont.) only had 11 communication reports filed to his name, according to statistics from last month.

  

Global Affairs Canada—which would be Mr. Champgane’s and Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland’s (University-Rosedale, Ont.) department—was the second-most lobbied department, with 184 communication reports filed to it.

Following shortly behind GAC was Finance Canada, with 140 communication reports filed.

Ms. Freeland had 10 communication reports to her name for September, when she managed a NAFTA round in Ottawa. She also travelled to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly late last month.

However, much of the lobbying of Ms. Freeland wasn’t necessarily specific to the North American Free Trade Agreement, said Sarah Goldfeder, a consultant at Earnscliffe Strategy Group..

  

“It’s in play and there are different ways into the government without actually lobbying the government…I don’t think people need to lobby on it because most of the companies can find another way in through advisory groups,” Ms. Goldfeder said.

On Aug. 2 the government announced 13 members of the NAFTA Council, including former Conservative Party leader Rona Ambrose and Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Perry Bellegarde.

The government agenda on other trade files like Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement and engaging China in trade talks likely made Mr. Champagne and Mr. MacAulay popular choices among lobbyists, Ms. Goldfeder said.

Though CETA was 98 per cent provisionally implemented on Sept. 21, though Ms. Goldfeder said there are “still final bricks being put into place on how that agreement is going to function.”

  

Mr. Champagne’s press secretary, Pierre-Olivier Herbert, said in an email that the minister had been seeking feedback from Canadians on many issues including his office’s engagement in Asia-Pacific with ASEAN, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and ongoing talks with China.

“Since CETA was implemented on September 21st, businesses are also very interested in finding how they can seize the opportunities of a new market of more than 500 million consumers,” Mr. Herbert said.

Mr. Champagne will also be traveling to India with Transport Minister Marc Garneau and Mr. Bains from Nov. 13 to 17 to focus on two-way investment and trade talks with India.

Canada has had four rounds of exploratory discussions on a free trade agreement with China so far. Innovation and agriculture will be important aspects of the talks.

In 2016, Canada exported more than $6-billion worth of domestic agri-food products into China, the largest product being canola seeds, according to Agri-food and Agriculture Canada. In September 2016 Canada and China reached an agreement to continue the trade of canola seeds through 2020. China previously was concerned that the seed, when imported into China, would be contaminated with foreign material.

Ms. Goldfeder’s colleague at Earnscliffe, Paul Moen, said agriculture typically has been one of the most challenging areas of international trade.

“So it’s no surprise that engagement in this respect has been increasing,” said Mr. Moen, who advised former Liberal trade minister Jim Peterson.

The Agriculture Department was the subject of 109 monthly communication reports in September, seventh after Health (182), Finance (199), Industry (214), Transportation (217), and Environment (244).

The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association lobbied both Mr. Champagne and Mr. MacAulay on Sept. 26, the Canadian Meat Council communicated with Mr. MacAulay Sept. 25 and 26, and with Ms. Freeland on Sept. 26, while Maple Leaf Foods Inc. met with Ms. Freeland on Sept. 17 and 26.

At an evening reception at the Chinese Embassy for its national day on Sept. 26, Mr. MacAulay told The Hill Times that Canada is “a very open trading nation,” and was very aware of the agriculture market in China.

Mr. Moen also said that Mr. Champagne’s office may have been the most lobbied because he and his staff were “quintessential bridge builders, whether it’s between disparate groups within Canada or if it’s across oceans” into other countries.

Innovation and international trade are like PB&J

International trade was the top subject matter for lobbyists last month, listed as the subject of 318 communication reports, including from many groups that fall under the innovation file.

Satellite company MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates Inc., since rebranded as Maxar Technologies, communicated with Mr. Champagne on Sept. 14, and Ottawa’s sweetheart startup Shopify also communicated with the International Trade minister Sept. 18.

There always has been a symbiotic relationship between the two departments, Mr. Moen said, especially with respect to aerospace, automobiles, and forestry. He noted that these industries “play a key role in global supply chains.”

General Motors of Canada communicated with Mr. Champagne on Sept. 14 and 24; it also communicated with Mr. Bains on Sept. 22 and Sept. 29. Bombardier Inc. communicated with Mr. Champagne on Sept. 14 and with Mr. Bains on Sept. 8, and Resolute Forest Products communicated with Mr. Champagne on Sept. 26.

Adam Taylor, trade consultant at Export Action Global, explained that innovation and trade also have a correlation because of the government’s current supercluster plan. The project will shell out $950-million over five years to companies that focus on highly innovative industries like manufacturing, agri-food, clean technology.

“The supercluster initiative has a component of Canada being a world leader in these sectors and by a natural extension of Canada seeking to be a world leader in certain areas that there is an international trade component to that,” Mr. Taylor explained.

Mr. Taylor was the former adviser to then-Conservative trade minister Ed Fast (Abbotsford, B.C.).

Superclusters may be good, but not good enough

But despite the supercluster initiative, Ms. Goldfeder said at the end of the day the government isn’t buying any new technology. She said that innovative companies are heading over to both the Innovation and International Trade departments because their target audience is outside of Canada.

“The government doesn’t actually do a very good job of being a customer, so it has all these programs and all these pots of money and all these competitions, but they’re not actually buying anything,” she said. “Until the government actually serves as a customer and a prime adopter of new technologies, all these pots of money that they are throwing at research and development and startups and innovation don’t mean much.”

Because Mr. Bains is handling the supercluster project and is in charge of the Strategic Innovation Fund, Ms. Goldfeder said it makes sense many companies are knocking on his door to let him know they need to export to markets outside of Canada.

Bombardier is at the centre of a trade dispute with U.S.-based aerospace giant Boeing. The U.S. company has accused Bombardier of selling its C-Series passenger jets to an American airline with the help of government subsidies.

Last week Bombardier struck a partnership with French company Airbus, agreeing to give up a substantial stake in the C-Series project without getting any cash in return.

Mr. Bains announced Oct. 16 that the strategic partnership in the C-Series program is subject to the Investment Canada Act, which is overseen by his department.

“In my review, I’ll be looking to see how this deal with benefit Canadians, support our aerospace sector and create good jobs,” Mr. Bains said in a release, which noted that the deal would make Canada the first country outside of Europe in which Airbus would set up shop.

Ms. Goldfeder said that if the government wants to be a leader in innovation, it has to adopt new technologies and purchase the country’s products.

“I think companies feel they can come in right now and talk to the government and say to them ‘we need you to do more than pay us lip service, we need you to be our customer and client.’”

sshekar@hilltimes.com

The Hill Times

Lobbying communication reports filed for departments, by the minister responsible:

Innovation, Navdeep Bains200
Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, François-Philippe Champagne, Marie-Claude Bibeau184
Finance, Bill Morneau140
PMO, Justin Trudeau130
Agriculture, Lawrence MacAulay109
Environment, Catherine McKenna90
Natural Resources, Jim Carr82
Health, Ginette Petitpas Taylor51
Transport, Marc Garneau46
Employment, Patty Hajdu33
Heritage, Mélanie Joly31
Public Services, Carla Qualtrough29
Treasury Board, Scott Brison27
Infrastructure, Amarjeet Sohi26
Privy Council Office, Justin Trudeau25
Fisheries, Dominic LeBlanc24
Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, Carolyn Bennett, Jane Philpott18
National Defence, Harjit Sajjan17
Public Safety, Ralph Goodale15
Immigration, Ahmed Hussen13
Justice, Jody Wilson-Raybould2
Status of Women, Maryam Monsef2
Veterans Affairs, Seamus O’Regan2

Source: Federal lobbyist registry

Lobbying communication reports filed for subject matter:

International trade318
Environment244
Transportation217
Industry214
Taxation and finance199
Health182
Agriculture161
Economic development143
Research and development130
Energy128

Source: Federal lobbyist registry