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The director of communications for the federal Conservative Party and a prominent political pundit are at odds over the commentator’s qualifications to speak on party matters.

The conflict pits Sarah Fischer against Tim Powers, and began with a letter, available here in which Ms. Fischer raised concerns about Mr. Powers being described as a “Conservative strategist” in a story by The Hill Times, an Ottawa publication.

In this week’s issue, Mr. Powers is quoted saying that Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre’s political strategy attacking the federal government’s policy on the opioid crisis is more about framing the issue as one of security and public safety rather than the science behind efforts by government to provide a safe supply of drugs.

In response, Ms. Fischer wrote in the letter to The Hill Times that Mr. Powers is not a strategist for the Conservative Party of Canada or its leader. She also offered to recommend “an actual strategist” for the party if asked.

“The leader can also confirm that, in his nearly two decades as a member of Parliament, cabinet minister and leader, he is not aware of any strategic work that Mr. Powers has ever done for the party in any capacity whatsoever.”

Mr. Powers, a long-time Conservative, is the chairman of the Summa Strategies government relations firm who has long offered political commentary, appearing on such programs as CBC’s Power & Politics series.

In response here, Mr. Powers said on social media that the strategist label is used by the media. “Sorry I don’t have a Conservative strategist card that I hand out. In fact, I have corrected that before. But run me down falsely if that helps your cause.”

In a statement to The Globe and Mail on Thursday, he said he was put on the party’s 2004 leadership election organizing committee by Stephen Harper to organize the first leadership race of the then new party. Also, he was a paid strategist in the Tory war room in 2005-06.

He also said he has taken on several assignments for the party, including being a member of the party’s “Spinners Calls” where party activists are briefed on announcements and asked to give feedback.

“Sarah Fischer is entitled to her views but I am not sure there is any great value in running down me or anyone else who have had long associations with the Conservative Party and movement,” Mr. Powers said in his statement.

“Party purity tests don’t win elections in my experience.”

Ms. Fischer did not respond to a request for additional comment.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you're reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.


MPS SEEK JOHNSTON TESTIMONY – Opposition MPs are looking to put former governor-general David Johnston, who is investigating allegations of foreign interference, in the hot seat by seeking his testimony before a parliamentary committee. Story here.

APPOINT JUDGE ON CANADA’S HANDLING OF CHINA STATE INFLUENCE: FORMER INQUIRY LEAD COUNSEL – Canadians would have greater trust in the government’s handling of Chinese state interference if Ottawa appointed a judge – with full subpoena powers – rather than relying on the advice of Mr. Johnston, according to former lead counsel of two major public inquiries. Story here.

CALGARY ER PHYSICIANS RAISE HEALTH CARE ALARM – A group of nearly 200 Calgary emergency room physicians released an open letter on Wednesday calling attention to what they call a health care crisis across the province, with dire staff shortages, overcrowding and long wait times compromising patient care. Story here.

PM TALKS ADDICTION ISSUES DURING TOWN HALL – Being an addict shouldn’t be a death sentence, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a town hall gathering in Winnipeg on Wednesday. Story here from CTV.

NO HIKE FOR N.S. MLAS – The Nova Scotia House of Assembly management commission is refusing to debate a 4.4-per-cent increase in MLA budgets and allowance despite an appeal by the speaker of the legislature. Story here from CBC.

Canadian privacy regulators are launching a joint investigation into ChatGPT-parent OpenAI’s data collection and usage, becoming the latest major government to take a closer look at the regulation of artificial intelligence tools. Story here.

TOP ALBERTA COURT REJECTS KENNEY BID ON LAWSUIT – Alberta’s top court is denying an attempt by former Alberta premier Jason Kenney to have a defamation lawsuit against him thrown out. Story here.


TODAY IN THE COMMONS – The House of Commons is now on a break until Monday. It is the last recess before the final stretch of sittings ahead of the summer break, scheduled to begin June 23. The Senate is also on a week-long break.

MINISTERS ON THE ROAD -Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, in Breslau, Ont., announced safety investments at the Waterloo region international airport. Immigration Minister Sean Fraser, in Vancouver, with Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne made an employment growth announcement, with a group that included Calvin McDonald, the chief executive officer of Lululemon Athletica Inc. Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, in Akwesasne, Que., announced federal support for Indigenous-led community safety initiatives. (Story here.) Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Mark Miller, in Wendake, Que., signed a framework agreement with Grand Chief Rémy Vincent of the Huron-Wendat Nation. Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray, in Vancouver, announced funding to renew the Canadian Coast Guard’s small vessels fleet while Public Services Minister Helena Jaczek made a simultaneous announcement in St. John’s. Filomena Tassi, Minister Responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, in Vaughan, Ont., announced details on supporting the electric-vehicle supply chain.

PARLIAMENTARY BLACK CAUCUS MAKES ANNOUNCEMENT IN WASHINGTON – In Washington, D.C., members of Canada’s Parliamentary Black Caucus and the leaders of five U.S. legacy civil rights organizations were scheduled, at 2 p.m. EST, to make a joint statement and take media questions.


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in Southwestern Ontario, according to an advisory from his office, to participate in a roundtable discussion with local entrepreneurs. A Canadian Press report later indicated Mr. Trudeau was in St. Thomas.


NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, in Saskatoon, met with the Saskatoon Paramedic Association, and, in Toronto, was later scheduled to virtually attend the New Westminster-Burnaby NDP nomination meeting.

No schedules released for other party leaders.


Thursday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast features Anne Ellis, a professor and division chair in the department of medicine at Queen’s University, on the effect worsening allergies can have on us and what we can do to live with them. The Decibel is here.

POLITICS NEWSLETTER BOOKS Canada: Beyond Grudges, Grievances and Disunity by Donald J. Savoie. (McGill-Queen’s University Press)

In his latest book, Moncton University academic Donald J. Savoie has been taking the measure of victimhood in Canada. He wrote about his findings here, suggesting the victimhood claims of Canadian provinces are wearing thin. But Mr. Savoie is also reflecting on victimhood as it applies to others, including Indigenous persons. Mr. Savoie, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Public Administration and Governance, answered questions about the project in the following Q&A with the Politics Newsletter.

What were your concerns about how this book would be received? How has that played out?

I was concerned that readers would not react well to the book, given that I raise a number of controversial issues. The word “victim” can stir strong negative emotions and I expected sharp criticism. The reaction from friends and colleagues has been very positive, at least thus far. I recognize, however, that those who do not agree with the book are less likely to share their thoughts with me.

What were the challenges of writing about what you call a “deep culture of victimhood in Canada”?

The book deals with issues that can generate heated political debates. But no one serves Canada well by avoiding dealing with difficult challenges. Writing about a deep culture of victimhood in Canada speaks directly to our country’s national unity woes. All Canadian regions believe that they have been or are being wronged by Ottawa. This view has also flowed downward to communities, groups and individuals. What is too often overlooked is that Canada has been able to deal with regional grievances and to make the country work for 156 years.

I count 26 publications you have written alone, and eight additional titles written with co-authors. What’s the key to being so prolific?

I write everything longhand. Spending time with family and friends and writing bring me great satisfaction. Writing is my passion and joy. The fact that I was poor at sports, both at school and at universities, probably explains my desire to focus on something that I am good at. I am up at 5 a.m. every morning to read and write and will stay on task until someone interrupts me. I avoid meetings as much as possible because in my line of work, meetings can eat up a lot of time and produce very little.

Are you working on another book?

I am currently working on another book-length manuscript on the state of the federal public service. I believe that there are several pressing challenges ahead for Canada – the state of our public finances, relations with Indigenous communities, how best to deal with climate change, how to give Western Canada a stronger voice in Ottawa and deal with issues confronting rural Canada. Canada cannot address these challenges without a strong federal public service. The federal public service cries out for some fresh thinking and I hope to make a contribution. My purpose is not to denigrate it but rather to identify ways to make it stronger. I expect to see the manuscript in print in 2024.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.


Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on fixing the flaws in David Johnston’s report: ”David Johnston’s report on Chinese foreign interference has been savaged by opposition politicians for its flaws. So why not fix them? The biggest one, in the eyes of the Conservatives, the Bloc Québécois, and many others, is that it relies so heavily on trust in Mr. Johnston. If relying on Mr. Johnston is a flaw, it shouldn’t be so hard to remedy.”

Wesley Wark (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how it’s time to get behind David Johnston’s plan on foreign interference: ”No public inquiry. That was the surprise conclusion reached by David Johnston, the independent special rapporteur on foreign interference appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in March. By all accounts he surprised himself. The decision has been met with predictable outrage by many, including opposition party leaders, who continue to insist on the need for a public inquiry. The demand may persist, possibly until the next federal election. The Conservative Leader, Pierre Poilievre, has pledged to hold a public inquiry into electoral interference if he forms the next government.”


The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on the flip side of bail reform in Canada: “A recent rash of violent crimes committed by people who were out on bail has spurred the Liberal government to toughen some bail rules, and for the Conservative Opposition to call for alleged repeat offenders to automatically lose the right to bail. This is an important issue. But as we said earlier this week, an equally important issue – one that politicians don’t talk about, and which rarely makes the headlines – is the thousands of people accused of non-violent crimes who are held behind bars by an overcautious bail regime that disproportionately harms the poor and marginalized, and is a key contributor to Canada’s clogged courts.”

Kelly Cryderman (The Globe and Mail) on why Alberta’s election is also important for the rest of Canada: ”With its abundance of oil and natural gas – in quantities that would change the political trajectory of any jurisdiction on Earth – Alberta and its economy are more than its 12-per-cent share of Canada’s population. The decision by Alberta voters in the days ahead will be felt across the country. Expect more of a cantankerous relationship with the federal Liberals should Ms. Smith win the election instead of Rachel Notley’s NDP. And it might be over issues that don’t immediately come to mind.”

Konrad Yakabuski (The Globe and Mail) on how Montreal’s LRT delays confirm a predictably Canadian pattern: ”The phenomenon has become as predictably Canadian as the Toronto Maple Leafs breaking hearts: A multibillion-dollar light-rail transit project touted by politicians and promoters as a game-changer is behind schedule and over budget. After Ottawa’s Confederation Line debacle, and Toronto’s Eglinton Crosstown fiasco, Montreal’s Réseau express métropolitain, or REM, is late. The first leg of the REM was twice delayed before. Now, after repeated assurances that it would finally begin running in the spring of 2023, the 16-kilometre segment of the LRT between the south-shore suburb of Brossard and downtown Montreal is set to miss another deadline.”

Matthew Hays (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on why the Conservatives should thank the CBC: ”But if conservative charges against the CBC were true, their news division would have muted, ignored or downplayed the story to protect the governing Liberals. In fact, the opposite happened. Reporting on the sponsorship scandal often led the CBC’s nightly flagship newscast The National, and the Gomery Commission’s public inquiry was reported on in detail.”

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