Progress Summit: One year later

A year ago, as organizers prepared for the annual Broadbent Institute Progress Summit, the federal NDP were witnessing an uptick in support as parties prepped for a federal election call that would come mid-way through summer 2015.

Twelve months later, the scene at Thursday’s summit opening reception was packed, lively and boisterous, defying the somber mood settling over Canada’s progressive NPD supporters as they gear up for a leadership review at an April 8 convention in Edmonton.

The party was left with just 44 seats in the House following the October election, after winning 103 in 2011. 

Polling shows the party’s support at historically dismal levels, according to a recent poll from Ekos for iPolitics. The poll shows the NDP at just 11.7 per cent support among Canadians, the lowest level since 2003. 

NDP leader Thomas Mulcair arrived mid-way through festivities at the opening gala on Thursday, drawing requests for selfies from a number of attendees noshing on hors-d’oeuvres and making custom anti-Donald Trump lapel pins in the crowd. 

While some attendees remarked on the contrast between the jovial mood and upcoming scrutiny on the progressive party’s election performance, Ottawa’s GR community showed up in full force to the event. The opening reception was sponsored by the Government Relations Institute of Canada, members of which regularly show up at events like the left-leaning Progress Summit and right-leaning Manning Centre Conference that encourage public policy discourse more broadly. 

Influence and policy professionals spotted amongst the crowd included: GRIC president André Albinati, among other institute board members; former NDP MP turned World Wildlife Fund Canada consultant on ocean governance Megan LeslieCrestview Strategy consultants Stephen Hampton and Joanna Carey (who joined the firm recently after a stint with Capital Hill Group); Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs government relations and university outreach director Allyson Grant; and U15 Group‘s new public affairs director Dylan Hanley, also formerly of CIJA, among others. 

Summit activities continued through the weekend, with a Friday panel on infrastructure raising questions among government relations veterans about the role of the private sector in consultations on design of Ottawa’s promised infrastructure spending programs.

It’s been a busy post-election season for the GR sector, which witnessing a 185 per cent jump in lobby activity in the capital in February.

Here at The Lobby Monitor, we’ve been caught up in the action too (scroll down, and you’ll see why this blog post is framed as a one-year reflection), and are busy gearing up for another heavy month of advocacy on the Hill.

Stay tuned to our website for the latest on who is making waves in the federal influence community, and for updates from the events, reception and lobby day scene in Ottawa. Lobbying and government relations action will be from groups including pharmaceutical industry representatives, insurance pros, recreational vehicle dealers, air liner advocates and others, through the month of April. 

Open Dialogue Forum draws federal dollars

Further east in Ottawa, the Open Dialogue Conference, hosted jointly by Liberal supporter-linked think tank Canada 2020 and collaboration agency PubliVate, took over the Shaw Centre on Thursday and Friday. 

Treasury Board president Scott Brison kicked off festivities with an address calling for government to “be open by default” and announcing consultations on a new open government policy.

The veteran Liberal spoke of ushering in a new era of transparency, arguing that the federal government would now have to justify why they are withholding information instead of having those requesting it explain why they need it. He also called for a dismantling of overly bureaucratic structures to woo younger workers to government service.

In a lighter moment, Brison gamely fought back against reporter questions on offering government funding for the event, which exclusively featured speeches from Liberal politicians and private sector professionals. 

When asked how he would respond if the former government had done the same, he said had the Conservatives earmarked money for an open government event the Grits would have instead been “pleasantly surprised.”

– With files from Lobby Monitor reporters Alyssa O’Dell and Marco Vigliotti

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