Inside SNC-Lavalin’s long lobbying campaign to change the sentencing rules


Justin Trudeau’s government was just four months old when SNC-Lavalin came knocking on the door, looking for help.

The stakes for the global construction and engineering firm were enormous. In 2015, federal prosecutors charged SNC-Lavalin with offering Libyan government officials $48 million in bribes and defrauding Libyan organizations of another $130 million.

If convicted, the company would be slapped with a 10-year ban on receiving federal government contracts. SNC-Lavalin saw its very existence at stake.

So the company launched a multi-year lobbying effort to convince the Trudeau government to change the Criminal Code. Its goal was to see the Trudeau government introduce deferred prosecution agreements — DPAs, for short — which typically are sentencing agreements between prosecutors and corporations charged with white collar crimes.

For SNC-Lavalin, the DPA option would offer a lifeline — allowing the company to pay fines and restitution while escaping criminal prosecution and the threat of that 10-year ban.

SNC-Lavalin’s lobbying and the introduction of DPAs blew up into a major controversy this week when Jody Wilson-Raybould, the former justice minister, announced she was quitting the Liberal cabinet — just days after a Globe and Mail report claimed she was pressured by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to help the Quebec-based multinational engineering firm avoid criminal prosecution on bribery and fraud charges in relation to contracts in Libya.

The company’s lobbying push started on Feb. 2, 2016, when company officials met with Francois-Philippe Champagne. The Quebec MP, now the infrastructure minister, was at the time the parliamentary secretary to Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

It’s the first meeting listed in the federal lobbyist registry which saw SNC-Lavalin press the Trudeau government on justice and law enforcement.

As the month rolled along, SNC-Lavalin lobbied its way up the Ottawa power chain. On Feb. 11, 2016, the company had its first discussion on justice and law enforcement with a member of the Prime Minister’s Office — an event that would be repeated at least 18 times over the next few years.

That initial meeting was with Cyrus Reporter, who at the time was listed as Trudeau’s senior adviser. Days later, SNC-Lavalin met with Robert Asselin, Morneau’s senior policy adviser at the Department of Finance.

Another meeting followed with the PMO — this time with Mathieu Bouchard, Trudeau’s adviser on Quebec issues. Bouchard has been SNC-Lavalin’s main point of contact in the PMO ever since.

A very broad lobbying effort

Before the month was over, SNC-Lavalin also had met with top officials at Global Affairs Canada and Innovation, Science and Economic Development, including Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains himself.

The company’s initial lobbying efforts were focused entirely on the PMO and top economic ministries, even though the lobbyist registry says the meetings were to discuss justice and law enforcement.

By the time 2016 was over, SNC-Lavalin had expanded its lobbying efforts to include the Privy Council Office, Export Development Canada, Public Services and Procurement Canada and Public Safety.

In 2017, its lobbying effort widened to include Treasury Board, Natural Resources and Environment.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould during a swearing-in ceremony at Rideau Hall, Wednesday Nov. 4, 2015 in Ottawa. (CP/Adrian Wyld)

SNC-Lavalin even met with a policy adviser in the Department of Heritage. The minister at the time, Mélanie Joly, is a Quebec MP.

Twenty months and 51 meetings after SNC Lavalin’s initial meeting with Champagne, the company’s efforts appeared to be paying off.

The government launched consultations to discuss a DPA regime in Canada. The consultations even had their own customized hashtag: #LetsTalkCorporateWrongdoing.

In February 2018, Morneau would deliver the budget item that SNC Lavalin wanted. The budget implementation bill contained changes to the Criminal Code that would bring DPAs to Canada.

Lobbying the opposition

It was a justice reform provision baked into a 500-page omnibus budget bill. The measures were discussed at the House finance committee without ever appearing on the justice committee’s agenda.

In May 2018, Conservative finance critic Pierre Polievre asked Morneau why his budget bill included « a provision that would allow accused white collar criminals charged with bribery, fraud, insider trading and other offences to have all charges dropped. »

« We believe that our approach to deferred prosecution agreements will enable us to pursue an approach that is functioning and doing well in other economies, » Morneau replied. « One that will result in more effective continuation of business success by companies once they have paid their dues to society. »

Around this time, SNC Lavalin broadened its lobbying efforts again. The budget bill was tabled but it still needed to pass through the House and the Senate.

So the company secured meetings with officials in Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s office, with NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and top senators — including Peter Harder, the government’s representative in the Senate. Once again, the topic listed in the lobbyist registry was ‘justice and law enforcement’.

The budget bill passed through Parliament and was given royal assent on June 21, 2018, making DPAs a viable legal option in Canada. Step one in SNC Lavalin’s efforts to save itself had been successful.

Step two would be to secure a DPA for itself. That would prove to be more difficult.

Wilson-Raybould gets involved

A few weeks after the budget passed, SNC-Lavalin had another meeting with PMO — this time with Bouchard and Elder Marques, who was a senior adviser in Trudeau’s office at the time. Prior to that he had been Bains’ chief of staff in Innovation and had been one of the first officials to meet with SNC-Lavalin when the lobbying effort began in 2016.

The next important date in this story comes not from the lobbyist registry but from the PMO itself. On Sept. 17, 2018, MPs were returning to Ottawa for the re-opening of Parliament — and Trudeau had a meeting scheduled with his justice minister, Wilson-Raybould.

In its 80 recorded meetings to lobby on justice issues, SNC-Lavalin never once spoke to Wilson-Raybould or anyone from the Department of Justice.

But given that the budget omnibus bill had gone through a full cabinet process, Wilson-Raybould would have been acutely aware of the push for DPAs — and SNC Lavalin’s desire for one. After lobbying Ottawa to change the law, the company was now asking prosecutors to cut it a deal.

Trudeau has said more than once in recent days that he reassured Wilson-Raybould at that September meeting.

« I told her directly that any decisions on matters involving the director of public prosecutions were hers alone, » Trudeau said this week in Vancouver.

The day after the PM and Wilson-Raybould spoke, SNC-Lavalin was back lobbying the government — this time meeting with Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick and Finance Minister Bill Morneau to, once again, discuss justice issues.

Things fall apart

None of the firm’s efforts seem to have paid off. In October, prosecutors told SNC-Lavalin it would not get a DPA. The criminal charges were going to court. SNC Lavalin’s lifeline was fraying. Events started to move fast.

The company made the news public in an October 10 statement. On Oct. 11, SNC-Lavalin met with Elder Marques, the PMO senior adviser.  A week later, the company announced that it would challenge the prosecutor’s decision.

The Globe and Mail reports that this is the period when Wilson-Raybould allegedly was pressured by unnamed officials in the PMO to intervene in the prosecution. Trudeau denies the allegations. Wilson-Raybould has refused to address them publicly, citing solicitor-client privilege.

In December, SNC-Lavalin issued a statement saying its Quebec operations were under threat as a result of « ongoing legal challenges. »

In January of this year, Wilson-Raybould was shuffled out of the justice portfolio. This week, she quit cabinet entirely. Her resignation letter did not offer a specific explanation.


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Anti-pipeline protesters shout at Trudeau during campaign event in Burnaby, B.C


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says some people will choose the politics of anger, fear and division, but Liberals will stay focused on serving Canadians, bringing people together and building a better future.

He made the remarks after a small group of anti-pipeline protesters began shouting at him at a campaign event to support Richard T. Lee, the Liberal candidate in the Burnaby South byelection. 

Trudeau joined Lee at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts, where dozens of supporters cheered as Trudeau said he expects Lee to be a strong voice in Parliament for residents of Burnaby, B.C.

Lee is a former provincial legislator who replaced the Liberals’ first candidate, Karen Wang, after she resigned following an online post mentioning the ethnicity of her opponent, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.

Singh is seeking his first seat in Parliament in the byelection, scheduled for Feb. 25, and earlier today he attended the annual Chinese New Year parade in Vancouver.

A small group of demonstrators clad in yellow vests also greeted Trudeau outside the Burnaby event to protest his government’s policies on immigration.


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John McCallum fell victim to Beijing’s ‘influence campaign,’ say former ambassadors


VANCOUVER—Former ambassador John McCallum’s break from Ottawa’s official messaging suggests Beijing was employing strategies from a “well-honed playbook” designed to sway ambassadors into representing state-friendly perspectives, say experts in foreign affairs.

While not illegal or necessarily sinister, the practice of “gaming” envoys and businessmen by playing to their egos with the illusion of “special access” is a tried-and-true method to subtly draw foreigners into alignment with the political aims of the Communist Party of China, said James Palmer, editor of Foreign Policy Magazine.

“China has a habit of singling out individuals … for its own influence campaigns,” Palmer said in an interview.

Palmer lived in China for 15 years, during which time he worked as a journalist and historian.

“They attempt to basically woo them, and they have a very good playbook for wooing them … And it’s not even about ideological or financial compromise, it’s about playing psychologically to these guys.”

Meng, who is currently on bail in Vancouver, appeared in B.C. Supreme Court on Tuesday following a formal extradition request from the United States the day before.

The U.S. government announced nearly two dozen criminal charges against Huawei Technologies on Monday, accusing the company of technology theft, bank fraud, obstruction of justice and money laundering. Allegations of “bank fraud, wire fraud and conspiracies to commit bank and wire fraud” were levelled against Meng personally for statements provided to one of Huawei’s major banking partners about the company’s operations in Iran.

McCallum had initially been forced to walk back comments that Meng’s legal counsel had good reason to argue the charges against her were politically motivated. The message was a stark break from the line previously held by Canadian officials, who almost unanimously stood by the legal process as legitimate and independent.

He announced his resignation on Saturday after repeating the comments a second time, following his initial retraction, to The Star.

Missives in the Global Times and China Daily — news organizations with ties to the Chinese state — depicting McCallum’s exit as confirmation of the illegitimacy of Canada’s legal process are a further indication the former ambassador was viewed as an ally by Beijing, said Palmer.

“They clearly saw McCallum as an asset, as somebody who they very successfully wooed through this program,” said Palmer, who worked for Global Times for seven years.

Jorge Guajardo, who served for six years as Mexico’s ambassador to the People’s Republic of China, agrees. The same strategies described by Palmer, he said, were used against him during his time in Beijing.

Guajardo emphasized he doesn’t know McCallum or have any special window into his motivations in this case. But when he first heard McCallum’s comments, Guajardo reports having immediately recognized the earmarks of a campaign of influence by Beijing.

“Having been there, (I thought), ‘I know why he’s saying those things,’” he said. “Because they game you, in a sense.”

Whereas newly posted foreign ambassadors in Western countries are typically put in touch with government officials of all stripes, when a foreign ambassador first arrives in Beijing, they are given zero access, said Guajardo.

Then slowly, over time, ambassadors are told particular, high-ranking Communist Party officials wish to meet with them because they’re “special” and “obviously” have a unique understanding of the nuance and delicacy of the party’s position, he said.

“And they keep playing up this idea that you’re special (by granting the same access) any ambassador would get in any other capital,” Guajardo said in an interview.

The mind-game of cultivating an envoy as a “special friend” to China who believes he has singular access to — and understanding of — the country’s political inner-workings is key to ensuring the diplomat will become an ally in Beijing’s efforts to see its interests taken up abroad, he said. And this relationship becomes especially useful during periods of dispute between China and an ambassador’s home country.

“This is typical Chinese playbook: to convince the ambassador from a foreign country that his country is not acting correctly, and that ‘of course’ he understands that they’re not acting correctly, and, ‘I’m telling you as a friend because I like you and I don’t meet any other ambassadors,’” he said. “And they start getting into your head that way.”

McCallum was the first elected official appointed as a head of mission to China — a post that dates back to the establishment of a Canadian embassy in Beijing in 1971. Previous to his appointment in 2017, McCallum was a Liberal member of Parliament for over a decade-and-a-half, serving as a federal minister under three different prime ministers.

Without commenting on McCallum’s situation specifically, former Canadian ambassador to China David Mulroney confirmed Guajardo’s account.

“China is amazingly successful at convincing people, including seasoned diplomats, that the most important thing in the world is maintaining good relations with China,” Mulroney said in an email. “By this they generally mean not commenting or otherwise reacting to something egregious that China has done.

“They persuade people by playing to their vanity, making them believe that their unique understanding of China is evidenced by their ability to keep things calm and untroubled. They do this because it works — for China.”

Mulroney’s analysis echoes Guajardo’s summary of the underlying issue: that Beijing views foreign diplomats as outgoing communication channels, rather than resources to develop an understanding of foreign countries.

What the world lacks, Guajardo recounts being told by officials in Beijing, is a nuanced understanding of China. And developing that understanding for the world is what Communist Party officials believe the work of a foreign ambassador should be, he said.

Every diplomat wants to contribute to better relations between capitals, he said. And no one wants to pick a fight with foreign officials. But operating as a conduit for messaging from a foreign capital is antithetical to the purpose of ambassadorial work, he said.

“You want to have the Chinese ambassador to Mexico explaining China to the Mexicans, and you want the Mexican ambassador to Beijing explaining China to the Mexicans? Who is supposed to explain Mexico to China?” he said.

“They are so invested in explaining themselves to the outside world that they have no energy left to understand the outside world … and they don’t care.”

With files from Michael Mui and Tonda MacCharles

Perrin Grauer is a Vancouver-based reporter covering community issues and Canada’s drug policies. Follow him on Twitter: @perringrauer


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‘This is B.C. vs. Canada’: Alberta has spent $23M on Keep Canada Working campaign


The Alberta government is full steam ahead on an advertising campaign trying to convince Canadians that the Trans Mountain Pipeline is a must-build project.

Work began on the Keep Canada Working campaign back in January, and as recently as November, the government said it had spent $10 million on the project.

But on Jan. 23, the province told Global News that $23.4 million was spent on the campaign, a jump of $13 million in just over two months.

“It does have the characteristics of an aggressive marketing campaign, given the amount of money that’s been spent,” said Mohammed El Hazzouri, an associate professor of marketing at Mount Royal University.

“But let’s remember it’s a national campaign, and national campaigns cost that much money.”

The total budget for the Keep Canada Working campaign is $31 million.

The money is going towards television, radio, print, online and billboard ads that tout the Trans Mountain Pipeline as a project that would boost Canada’s economy and create jobs.

Ottawa won’t cut corners on full review of Trans Mountain pipeline expansion: Sohi

According to documents obtained by Global News, Keep Canada Working is a national advertising campaign with multiple messaging arms for different parts of the country.

Although the ads are running across the country, there are specific messages targeting Halifax, parts of British Columbia, Toronto and Ottawa — predominantly to get the attention of sitting members of Parliament.

The documents also show there is a $425,000 “ethnic” campaign with TV, print and radio ads in Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Punjabi and Filipino to target residents in B.C.’s lower mainland.

“This is a national conversation. It has national implications for our economy, it has national implications for our jobs,” said Alberta Premier Rachel Notley.

“We all know that everybody in Alberta understands the importance of (Trans Mountain), but it’s very important for us to elevate that to an important conversation topic across the country and to develop support across the country.”

According to internal memos obtained through a freedom of information request, one of the main principles of the campaign is to point the finger at B.C.

“This is not B.C. vs. Alberta, this is B.C. vs. Canada,” the principles section read.

Two more principles listed in the documents said “it’s senseless to pit the environment against the economy” and “this is a good thing.”

A spokesperson for the province later told Global News that the section regarding B.C. refers to that provincial government’s position being in contrast with popular opinion and federal policy.

“Our position is very clear that communications always reference positions of the B.C. government, not the people of B.C.,” said Shannon Greer, a spokesperson for the Alberta government, in an email.

The three principles of the Keep Canada Working campaign listed in internal documents obtained by Global News.

Government of Alberta

Trudeau considers appealing court’s decision to quash Trans Mountain pipeline

Global News reached out to B.C.’s environment minister for a comment about the campaign. The ministry responded with a statement that did not mention the Keep Canada Working campaign.

“The province’s focus remains on defending the interests of British Columbians and protecting its environment, economy and the coast,” the statement read.

“The province recommends against the approval of the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project.”

But despite the opposition from B.C., Mount Royal University political science professor Duane Bratt believes the campaign is working.

Bratt points to data from a recent poll that shows public opinion of pipeline construction is shifting countrywide.

“If success is a pipeline being built, that hasn’t happened yet,” Bratt said. “But if success is about changing public opinion across the rest of the country, that has changed, and you’re seeing growing support for the pipeline, not just in Alberta but in the rest of the country.”

Meanwhile, the National Energy Board is holding public consultations into the reconsideration of the Trans Mountain project, with a report expected to be issued by Feb. 22.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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London-based digital sex-trafficking public-awareness campaign expands to 10 communities


Following the success of last year’s online advertising campaign with tbk Creative, the London Abused Women’s Centre (LAWC) has launched a new campaign in a total of 10 Ontario communities.

Digital awareness campaign about sex trafficking a success: London Abused Women’s Centre

Thanks to $103,000 from the Department of Justice in an effort to combat sex trafficking, the campaign has already started rolling out tailored advertisements on social-media sites like Facebook and Instagram.

“We all have a responsibility to address what we now know as a crisis,” said LAWC executive director Megan Walker at a news conference on Wednesday morning.

“London is a major hub for sex trafficking, and men have great desire to rape and sexually assault underage girls, and in fact, they will pay more to do so.”

The previous campaign involved ads on social-media sites tailored to at-risk women and girls, as well as potential sex purchasers.

The Facebook ad targeting men advertised about the consequences of buying sex, while the ad targeting women communicated how those in an abusive, unsafe, or exploitative relationships could find help leaving those partnerships.

More than 2 dozen men charged in human trafficking operation: London police

This time around, the campaign also involves ads tailored to parents, warning of the potential signs of exploitation and directing to a new landing page with resources and information.

“Two-thirds of all trafficking in Canada originates in the province of Ontario, and every community that has an off-ramp into a city in the province of Ontario, is filled with women and underage girls who are being trafficked from city to city,” said Walker.

“In our community, we are losing girls every day from post-secondary institutions, from their workplaces, and from bars, who are being picked up by traffickers and turned out rather quickly into the horrific world of sex trafficking.”

London agencies reveal groundbreaking digital sex trafficking public awareness campaign

The campaign launched on Jan. 18 and runs through to May 18.

In addition to London, the campaign is also underway in Windsor, Woodstock, Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge, Guelph, Milton, Mississauga, and Toronto.

— With files from 980 CFPL’s Liny Lamberink and Matthew Trevithick

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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NDP puts off winter caucus meeting to focus on Singh’s byelection campaign


The NDP has postponed its winter caucus meeting to free up MPs to help leader Jagmeet SIngh campaign in the Burnaby South byelection, CBC News has learned.

The party retreat, traditionally held before the resumption of Parliament in late January, will instead be held in March or early April, a party official told CBC News.

It is customary for the three main parties to gather ahead of each parliamentary sitting to plan strategy. The Liberals and Conservatives are holding their meetings in Ottawa on the weekend of Jan. 26-27.

The meetings are seen as particularly important this time around as parties are trying to fine tune their strategies and focus their message for this election year.

But the NDP has a more imminent concern: getting its leader into the House of Commons.

Singh is running in a byelection to fill the vacant Burnaby South seat in B.C., one of three byelections called by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier this month. Singh has been without a seat since he was elected leader in October 2017.

« Since (Singh) is focusing on his byelection in Burnaby South, and some MPs are focusing on helping our candidates in the three by-elections throughout the country, we have postponed our strategic discussions to the next few weeks, » said NDP caucus chair Matthew Dubé.

As another NDP MP put it, « is time better spent here (Ottawa) for a couple of days gazing into the next eight months or on the doorsteps over the next two weeks. »

« Most, if not all, of the B.C. caucus and others will be going out to help out Jagmeet, » the MP said. « All of this hinges on what happens in Burnaby. »

At the outset, it looked like Singh would have an uphill climb in Burnaby South. A poll in the fall put the NDP in third place in the riding. But a new survey published Tuesday by the same polling firm found Singh ahead of the Liberal and Conservative candidates.

Still, Singh shouldn’t take anything for granted. Riding-level polling, particularly in byelections and in diverse ridings like Burnaby South, has a mixed track record.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also called byelections for the Ontario riding of York-Simcoe and Montreal’s Outremont, which was vacated in the summer by Singh’s predecessor, Tom Mulcair.

The byelections will be held Feb. 25.


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Democrats begin wide-open campaign to pick 2020 challenger to Trump


WASHINGTON—The 2016 Democratic presidential primary: a coronation. The 2020 primary: a battle royale.

Four years after almost every possible candidate conceded the nomination to a dominant Hillary Clinton, the party is about to have an unpredictable everybody-into-the-pool scrap to be chosen as the candidate to challenge Donald Trump.

Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren is surrounded by reporters at the Massachusetts Statehouse on Jan. 2, 2019, in Boston. Warren has taken the first major step toward launching a widely anticipated campaign for the presidency, hoping her reputation as a populist fighter can help her navigate a crowded Democratic field.
Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren is surrounded by reporters at the Massachusetts Statehouse on Jan. 2, 2019, in Boston. Warren has taken the first major step toward launching a widely anticipated campaign for the presidency, hoping her reputation as a populist fighter can help her navigate a crowded Democratic field.  (Elise Amendola / AP)

And it’s starting already.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced this week that she was launching an exploratory committee, which allows her to raise money and hire staff. Former housing secretary Julian Castro has scheduled an announcement for Jan. 12.

Over the next few months, they will be joined by a mix of the party’s who’s-who and who’s-that. The “first debate,” scheduled for June, will almost certainly have to be split into two debates to accommodate the large field.

That field will likely be the most personally diverse ever to seek the presidency, featuring multiple women and people of colour. On policy, the candidates will tend toward the unabashed liberalism now favoured by much of the party’s base — though there will be significant differences in their choices of issue emphasis, in the ways they depart from progressive orthodoxy and in how they approach President Donald Trump.

Read more:

Impeachment talk flares after Democrats take power in House

Four key senators shift 2020 presidential planning into high gear

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris’s classmates from her Canadian high school cheer her potential run for president

The best-known hypothetical candidates are former vice-president Joe Biden and Clinton’s main challenger, democratic socialist Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, both of whom have been unsubtly laying groundwork. Beto O’Rourke, the charismatic Texas congressman who gained national attention during his unsuccessful Senate run against Ted Cruz, is also mulling a run.

US Senator Kamala Harris attends the United State of Women Summit at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles in May 2018. After two years of relative party unity in fighting Trump’s initiatives, members of the grassroots “resistance” will have to choose an affirmative party identity.
US Senator Kamala Harris attends the United State of Women Summit at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles in May 2018. After two years of relative party unity in fighting Trump’s initiatives, members of the grassroots “resistance” will have to choose an affirmative party identity.  (CHRIS DELMAS/AFP/Getty Images)

So are — deep breath now — California Sen. Kamala Harris, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe, and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg…

…among others. Former attorney general Eric Holder, wealthy environmentalist Tom Steyer, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley and California Rep. Eric Swalwell have all expressed interest.

After two years of relative party unity in fighting Trump’s initiatives, members of the grassroots “resistance” will have to choose an affirmative party identity. They could go any number of ways. The list of prospects includes people known for fiery oratory and for low-key affability, for ideological rigidity and for shape-shifting, for focusing on economic injustice and on racial injustice. It includes champions and skeptics of free trade, advocates and opponents of free college tuition, billionaires and critics of the billionaire class, Washington veterans and relative newcomers.

The leaders in extremely-early opinion polls — which should be treated mostly as measures of how widely the candidates’ names are currently known — are Biden and Sanders. Both have devout fans. But as white men of age 76 and 77, they will be challenged by what seems to be a desire in much of the party base for fresh faces.

“I think the country is looking for excitement. I think they’re looking for someone who is not a part of the Washington conversation. And I think they’re looking for new ideas,” said Democratic strategist Jennifer Holdsworth. “People that most of the country has never heard of,” she said, “are ultimately going to be much closer to the top than people think.”

In the 2018 midterm elections, Democrats elected a record number of women and people of colour to Congress. “I think that the Democratic electorate is hungry for either a woman or a person of colour,” said Kate Maeder, a party strategist in California.

Former vice-president Joe Biden is one of the best-known hypothetical candidates for the Democratic primary.
Former vice-president Joe Biden is one of the best-known hypothetical candidates for the Democratic primary.  (Bloomberg / David Paul Morris)

“I think we just kind of need to clean house with the old white male guard,” said Lori Goldstein, party chair in Adams County, Colorado. “And we need to keep our younger folks invested in all of this, and I think we’ve lost a lot of them because of the old white male guard.”

The first voting is 13 months away. Mayra Rivera-Vazquez, Democratic chair in Beaufort County, South Carolina, said local party members want diverse candidates but will reserve judgment until the candidates make their pitches.

“You hear the common names, but probably there are probably going to be other names too. So we don’t know. We’ll see,” she said. We have a spectrum of all thinkers there. It’s too early to decide what type of presidential candidate the Democrats want. Let’s see when they come here: what are going to be the issues, what are they going to offer, what is the message?”

California’s move of its primary to March, from the traditional June, will require candidates to change the way they approach the early months. The nation’s most populous state has long been an afterthought because of how late it came in the process. Now, its racially diverse Democratic electorate will begin casting ballots in early voting on the same February day as the first caucuses are held in the small, heavily white state of Iowa.

Candidates will have to figure out how to establish national personas in a media environment dominated by Trump. And they will have to decide how to navigate the uncompromising mood of an increasingly left-leaning party base while also retaining their viability among the moderates who may decide the general election — and while convincing the base that they are best positioned to beat Trump.

Texas Democrat Beto O'Rourke speaks during a town hall meeting in Brady, Texas, on April 6, 2018.
Texas Democrat Beto O’Rourke speaks during a town hall meeting in Brady, Texas, on April 6, 2018.  (Bloomberg photo / Sergio Flores)

So far, it has been full-speed ahead to the left. Harris, Booker, Gillibrand, Warren and Sanders have all endorsed the idea of a federal jobs guarantee. In 2016, Sanders’s endorsement of single-payer health care, “Medicare for All,” made him a left-wing novelty. In 2020, that position is expected to be a Democratic standard.

Sanders has already won one early victory. After furious complaints from him and his allies, the party voted this summer to sharply limit the power of “superdelegates,” the party elites who previously got to vote for whichever candidate they wanted no matter what regular voters decided.

10 potential Democratic candidates

  • Joe Biden, former vice-president

Strengths in the primary: Personal fondness of most Democrats, reputation for connecting with white working class, association with Barack Obama.

Weaknesses in the primary: Age, error-prone campaign past, past conservative votes, handling of Anita Hill hearing.

  • Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts senator

Strengths: Anti-Wall St. credibility, reputation for unyielding liberalism.

Weaknesses: Low approval ratings with broader public, decision to take DNA test to prove claim to Native American heritage.

  • Bernie Sanders, independent Vermont senator

Strengths: Perceived authenticity, progressive record, voter loyalty established in 2016.

Weaknesses: Age, unpopularity among some Clinton devotees, weakness with Black voters, distance from the Democratic party.

  • Sherrod Brown, Ohio senator

Strengths: Record of electoral success with white working class.

Weaknesses: Support for Trump’s trade policy, past allegation of 1980s domestic abuse (by ex-wife who now supports him).

  • Kamala Harris, California senator

Strengths: Lawyerly eloquence, varied personal background, popularity in California.

Weaknesses: Centrist decisions as a prosecutor.

  • Cory Booker, New Jersey senator

Strengths: Powerful oratory, focus on racial inequality.

Weaknesses: History of Wall St. ties, mixed results as Newark mayor.

  • Julian Castro, former housing secretary

Strengths: Service in Obama administration, Latino identity.

Weaknesses: Never elected to office higher than mayor, non-fluency in Spanish.

  • Michael Bloomberg, former New York City mayor

Strengths: Wealth, leadership on gun control.

Weaknesses: Wealth, conservative positions.

  • Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota senator

Strengths: “Minnesota nice” likability, broad appeal in Midwestern states.

Weaknesses: Low national profile, relatively conservative voting record.

  • Beto O’Rourke, Texas congressman

Strengths: Charisma, fundraising prowess, youth.

Weaknesses: Never held office higher than the House, relatively conservative voting record.

Daniel Dale is the Star’s Washington bureau chief. He covers U.S. politics and current affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @ddale8


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#DontWreckTheHolidays Saskatoon police campaign implores – Saskatoon


A social media campaign by the Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) mirrors its efforts to reduce impaired driving over the holidays.

“Don’t wreck the holidays” is the theme being used by SPS on its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Operation Red Nose returning to Saskatchewan for 10th season

The campaign uses photos and the hashtag #DontWreckTheHolidays in an effort to deter drunk and high drivers and ensure everyone celebrates the Christmas season responsibly with a safe ride home.

Saskatchewan has the highest impaired driving rates in the country.

“It’s not OK to get behind the wheel impaired, whether that be under the influence of cannabis, liquor, prescription medications or anything else for that matter,” SPS deputy chief Mitch Yuzdepski said in a press release.

“But the message remains the same; don’t drive impaired and don’t wreck the holidays.”

Sask. RCMP issue 47 impaired driving tickets from Dec. 1-7

Officers will also be conducting an unspecified number of holiday checkstops in high-traffic areas to enforce impaired driving laws.

A recent change to Canadian legislation came into effect Dec. 18, which allows police to demand a roadside sample of a driver’s breath without reasonable grounds. SPS said this adds to the laundry list of reasons to not drive impaired.

WATCH BELOW: Mandatory impaired driving laws to hit the roads before holidays

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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Postal union launches protest campaign as employees halt rotating strikes


Federal back-to-work legislation may have ended rotating strikes by postal workers — but their union now says it’s switching to a campaign of « non-violent civil disobedience » to press its contract claims.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Canadian Union of Postal Workers Union (CUPW) National President Mike Palecek said that while legal strike action is ending, the pressure campaign is just beginning.

« You cannot legislate labour peace. We are now moving to a different phase of the struggle, » he said.

Union members were instructed to return to regularly scheduled shifts as of noon ET today, and to await further instructions.

Striking Canada Post workers stay warm around the fire as they walk the picket line in front of the Saint-Laurent sorting facility in Montreal on Thursday November 15, 2018. (Ryan Remiorz/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

« In the coming days we will be calling on our allies and membership for a campaign of mobilizations, demonstrations and non-violent civil disobedience, » Palecek said.

« All options remain on the table to achieve negotiated collective agreements that address health and safety, inequitable treatment, fair wages and working conditions, and the democratic right to free collective bargaining. »

The union also warned it’s considering legal action against the federal back-to-work legislation, but offered no details.

The rotating strikes ended after senators voted Monday night in favour of the Liberal government’s legislation to force Canada Post employees back to work.

Bill C-89 was debated in the upper chamber Saturday after the Liberal government fast-tracked the legislation through the House of Commons. The Senate vote passed by a margin of 53 to 25, with four senators abstaining, as walkouts by Canada Post workers entered their sixth week.

C-89 imposes fines of between $1,000 and $50,000 per day on anyone found in contravention of the Act, and up to $100,000 per day against Canada Post or the union if they are found guilty of violating its terms.

Negotiations between Canada Post and the union have been underway for nearly a year, but the dispute escalated when CUPW members launched rotating strikes on Oct. 22.

The union wants better pay and job security, guaranteed hours for its 8,000 rural and suburban carriers, and equality for those workers with the corporation’s 42,000 urban employees.

CUPW also wants Canada Post to adopt rules that it said would address workplace injuries — a problem the union has described as a « crisis. »

Canadian Union of Postal Workers National President Mike Palecek. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Palecek has called the back-to-work bill a slap in the faces of Canada Post employees and accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of turning his back on postal workers.

The former Conservative government forced an end to a lockout of postal workers during a 2011 dispute by enacting back-to-work legislation, which was later declared by a court to be unconstitutional.

Labour Minister Patty Hajdu has insisted the Liberal legislation is dramatically different, since it tasks an independent mediator-arbitrator with reaching a contract settlement in 90 days. Failing that, a settlement could be imposed by the arbitrator.


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Tory campaign chief prefers the old-fashioned ways of winning elections


Hamish Marshall, the man who will be heading the Conservative campaign in next year’s federal election, does not have an account on Twitter.

This doesn’t mean Marshall is uninterested in what’s going on with social media or its potentially corrosive effects on traditional politics. Actually, it was a big topic of discussion at a panel debate in Ottawa this past week about data and democracy, in which Marshall was one of the featured speakers.

Hamish Marshall, Andrew Scheer’s campaign manager, is a conservative kind of Conservative, Susan Delacourt writes.
Hamish Marshall, Andrew Scheer’s campaign manager, is a conservative kind of Conservative, Susan Delacourt writes.  (Torch Agency Photo)

“You end up having people getting really, really into a bubble, where their news feeds on whatever social platforms they’re on is all they consume,” Marshall said. “And they don’t watch broadcast television or they don’t read newspapers in the normal sense. They only read articles that are posted online that fit with their world view. And the problem with that is that people don’t see the whole picture.”

In the Twitterverse, Marshall is a much-demonized figure, portrayed as a practitioner of dark political arts and a co-conspirator with the alt-right, such as it is, in Canada. The caricature stems from Marshall being a founding board member of Rebel Media, even if those ties were cut long ago.

People who have embraced that view of Marshall would have been disappointed at the person on stage at the Chateau Laurier last week. Andrew Scheer’s campaign chief seems to have a distinct preference for the old-fashioned aspect of politics — paper ballots, big political parties, and traditional mass media covering the campaign. You might say that Marshall is a conservative kind of Conservative.

Before the event, we talked about his concern that there would be too few reporters covering the Scheer campaign along the trail from day to day in next fall’s election.

What that means, at least for now, is that federal Conservatives don’t seem to be leaning toward the no-media-bus innovation that we saw with Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives in this year’s Ontario election.

Marshall told the crowd that he expected all parties to be vulnerable to hacking in the 2019 campaign — a view I’ve heard from high-level Liberals as well for several months now. On that score, Marshall agrees with Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould, who was voicing similar warnings this week.

Marshall believes that Canada is wise to keep its paper-ballot system because it is far harder to hack. “Voting online is a horrific and terrible idea,” he said.

He was also happy that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had backed away from any electoral reform that would have led to proportional representation. That system would have bred a whole bunch of smaller, “niche” parties, Marshall contends, and Canada would be the poorer for it. Niche politics produces tribalism, he says — and that’s no good. Large, pan-Canadian parties breed compromise and moderation.

“As a national campaign director, I’m held in check from tribalism by knowing the fact that we can’t win with just the hardcore of our party voting for us,” Marshall said. “If I just appeal to the most conservative Canadians, we’re going to get 25 per cent of the vote. We’re not going to win an election with 25 per cent of the vote. ….It’s the only way that either of the only two parties that have ever won … by appealing to a large section of Canadians.”

All of this speaks to middle-ground moderation, not the alt-right extremism that Marshall’s detractors are keen to find. If you’re looking for Donald Trump-style politics, in fact, you’re more likely to find it among the members of the federal Conservative caucus.

MPs such as Michelle Rempel and Pierre Poilievre have been whipping up anti-media sentiment since the government announced measures this week to aid the ailing news industry, alleging journalists are being “bought off” by the Liberals. It’s a variation on Trump’s now oft-used efforts to delegitimize his critics, whether they’re in the justice system or the reporting ranks.

On Twitter, this anti-media thing by some MPs has picked up steam, especially among Conservative partisans. We know the campaign manager won’t be joining in the pile-on, though, since he’s staying off Twitter.

It’ll be interesting to see what approach prevails for Conservatives in 2019. Will it be the tribalism and populism we’re seeing on Twitter, or will it be Marshall’s moderate, old-fashioned embrace of the tried and true in big-party Canadian politics? That internal tension could be as interesting as the Conservatives’ fight against the Liberals.

Susan Delacourt is the Star’s Ottawa bureau chief and a columnist covering national politics. Reach her via email: or follow her on Twitter: @susandelacourt


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