When discussing who has the most sway in politics and government, one lobbyistâwho spoke on backgroundâsaid there are those who may not fit into tidy categories, or be considered a âusual suspect,â but still wield a great deal of power.
One way to gauge influence, the insider said, is to hypothesize: if the person in question were to telephone the PMO, and ask to speak to the prime minister on a matter of urgency, what are the chances he would personally take the call?
There are some who the government simply could not afford to ignore, say insiders. These heavy-hitters include names like Jim Irving, who owns the Canadian conglomerate, J. D. Irving Limited. This New Brunswick-based giant has its corporate fingers in everything from forestry, pulp and paper, newspaper and media, construction and building supplies, food, transportation, andâ perhaps most relevant to the Canadian governmentâshipping, transportation, and ship building.
Irvingâs net worth sits at $5.4-billion, making him the fourth-richest businessperson in Canada. But his wealth isnât the only thing that would put him on Trudeauâs Rolodex; as one insider points out, he managed to secure the contractÂ to build the new Canadian Surface Combatants as part of the NationalÂ Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy. His ties to this government are close enough that Trudeauâs right-hand-man Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc has an ethics screen in place to prevent a conflict, as Irving is a close friend of his.
âNot only did [Irving] secure the largest single procurement contract in Canadian history, but he also convinced the government to allow him to decide who the subcontractors should be,â said one insider, who added that as such, Irving holds power, wealth, and a long-term contract that transcends whoever the current leader in Ottawa is. When Irving picks up the phone and calls, âthe government has to answerâthey donât have a choice. Thatâs power,â said the insider.
Another powerful and respected businessperson in this category, according to those who work closely with the government, is Tobias LĂŒtke, founderÂ and CEO of tech startup darling Shopify, a favourite government example of Canadian innovation at its bestâand one that has, so far, remained in Canada.
LĂŒtke is the brains behind the e-commerce giant Shopify, which has gone public and sawÂ its stocks surge 67 per cent in 2016 and
is now a multi-billion-dollar company. LĂŒtke also fits the Trudeau brand to aÂ T; heâs young, immigrated to Canada, rides his bike to work, and expounds the importance of investing into small-and-medium sized businesses, innovation, and young people learning coding and other digital skills.
And then there are those who are finding ways to help the Canadian government capitalize on success stories like Shopify. John Ruffolo, Chief Executive Officer of OMERS Ventures, is one such example. In the current climate, where innovation isÂ key, Ruffolo is one of the kings.
He manages a pool of $470-million in venture capital and his bread and butter is to search-out the ânext big thingâ in the tech world, so he can give it a lift to go global. In the past, heâs invested into now-household names, including Shopify and Hootsuite. As one tech expert said, Ruffolo doesnât just grasp innovation, he intuitively understandsÂ how to commercialize it; something this government is desperate to do.
Something else this government is desperate to do is create jobs, and Jim Smith, CEO of Thomson Reuters, is doing just that. In the fall of 2016, Thomson Reuters Corp announced that it would be opening a brand-new technology hub in Toronto, hiring hundreds of Canadians over the coming years, and having Smith operate out of the financial capital, Toronto.
The data, information, and news service headÂ has met several times with Trudeau, and told The Globe and Mail, that the Toronto centre would involve âdevelopment jobs, software engineers designing and building productsââall good news in terms of Trudeauâs economic and job-creation commitments.
Outside of the economy, there areÂ a number of people who hover on the outskirts of the traditional political bubble, either bringing policy developmentsÂ and current affairs to the electorate, like entertainer and political satirist Rick Mercer, and then those who measure the publicâs understanding of the issues du jour, and what affects that has on their political preferences, like pollster Nik Nanos. In a time when public opinion can make or break a political narrative, these two are well-placed to make an impact.
Despite increasing claims that political polls are notoriously inaccurate, Nanos Research is still a trusted source of information on political trends. In 2006, Nanos Research took the Canadian record for making the most accurate election call ever recorded in Canada when it predicted the result to a tenth of a percentage point, and Nanos continues to publish numbersÂ and studies that provide a snapshotÂ of Canadaâs moods and misgivings on everything from the U.S. election, to the cabinet shuffle, to the future of 24 Sussex, to the economy.
One issue that Trudeau is keen to make progress on in 2017 is indigenous relations and reconciliation. Itâs a complex and emotional topic, and one that requires advisers from within First Nations groups, or at least, ones who are close to the subject.
As one lobbyistâwho spoke on condition of anonymityâpointed out,Â there are those who are respected within indigenous communities who are expected to hold the government accountable toÂ its promises. Itâs on this front thatÂ the next two influencers hold their sway, although they have very different âdayÂ jobs.â
Both AssemblyÂ of First NationsÂ National ChiefÂ Perry BellegardeÂ and the TragicallyÂ Hip frontmanÂ Gord Downie haveÂ thrust the issue ofÂ indigenous actionÂ into the spotlight, andÂ maintained pressure on theÂ Canadian government to make reconciliation a priority.
Bellegarde, who represents and advocates on behalf of 634 First Nation communities is an outspoken and articulate communicator, who doesnât mince words and knows how to give a sound byte with a punch.
For his part, Downieâwho was diagnosed last year with terminal brain cancerâused the stage on the last legs of his final tour with the iconic band to call on Canadians to hold the government accountable to its promise to better-support indigenous communities, particularly in the North.
And, considering that one-third of CanadiansâmoreÂ than 11 million peopleâtuned in to watch the Tragically Hipâs final concert, the government knows that a significant number of voters heard the message loud and clear.
Although Downie has arguably shaped Canadian culture and identity through his music and lyrics throughout decadesâand 14 studio albumsâas an artist, he chose to use his platform to be remembered another way: as an advocate for indigenous and First Nations Canadians.
Lastly, there are those who are influential because they play a large roleÂ in the life of the prime minister. One is obviousâhis wife, Sophie GrĂ©goire-Trudeau, who has taken a good amount of criticism in the last year around the pairâs perceived entitlement but who remainsÂ a high-profile companion and partner to Trudeau, travelling often with him, while also staying actively involved in her own advocacy issues.
The other is Bruce Anderson, who one insider describes as having âhis hands in everything.â Chairman of AbacusÂ Data and Summa Communications, Anderson has advised governmentsÂ of several political stripes on politicalÂ and communications strategy, as well as some of the mostÂ recognizable names in business, such asÂ Enbridge, and TELUS.
He also happensÂ to be the father of Kate Purchase, a trusted member of TrudeauâsÂ inner circle, and his director ofÂ communications. Anderson is a popularÂ and sought-after political pundit, and well-known Ottawa philanthropist and culinary scene aficionado.