The Hill Times – Freeland strikes alliance with populist Maine governor who understands value of trade

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[As published in the August 21, 2017 edition of The Hill Times]

Canada’s NAFTA lobbyist-in-chief has revealed the key but unorthodox ally she has found inside U.S. President Donald Trump’s inner circle—one who is fluent in the president’s own bombastic political language.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told a committee of MPs last week that she often speaks with him on the phone to discuss ways the Trudeau government can make its NAFTA advocacy resonate within the administration and, most importantly, in the president’s ear.

But he is not your typical D.C. power broker. He proudly spends as little time in Washington, D.C., as he can, a fact that endears him to the president and the “drain the swamp” supporters they share.

Despite speculation, he has not taken an official role within the Trump administration, although he has joked to reporters he would be happy to serve as Trump’s ambassador to Canada in the summer and Jamaica in the winter.

At least for now, though, when the thoroughly progressive Freeland wants to bounce an idea off an outspoken populist, she dials Maine, the small state where Gov. Paul LePage has raucously ruled as a headline writer’s dream since 2010.

“I have been in close contact with him. I speak on the phone with him often. He is an influential voice in this administration,” Freeland told the International Trade committee last week, as she outlined the labour, environmental, and gender-equality objectives of Canada’s negotiators.

“I have also found him—not solely in conversations with me, but also in his advocacy in Washington—to be very good in explaining a key element of our economic relationship with the United States, which is we build things together. That is a key element and it can sometimes be missed.”

LePage knows Canada well. His first language was French. He lived in New Brunswick through most of the 1970’s, where his adult daughters still live today, and he worked in the province’s forestry sector which is closely integrated with the industry in Maine.

But what makes LePage most valuable to Freeland is that his connection to Canada neatly intersects with a political brand of populism and hyperbole that he shares with Trump.

“I was Donald Trump before Donald Trump became popular,” LePage said in February 2016 when he became one of the first governors to endorse Trump.

The Boston Globe called it a “bromance” in March 2017, and in April Trump warmly poked at LePage’s recent remarkable weight loss.

“I knew him when he was heavy, and now I know him when he was thin, and I like him both ways,” Trump said.

Many of the blunt adjectives used to describe Trump’s crude and cartoonish political style were tried on LePage first, with the same approximate result among his staunch supporters and detractors.

When Freeland calls LePage, she knows she is the only progressive on the call and it would be naive to think LePage is acting solely out of sentimentality for Canada. But as she reminded the International Trade committee on Monday, the jobs of 38,500 Maine residents depend on exports to Canada in a small state where jobs are scarce. Therein lies the Trudeau government’s NAFTA strategy in a nutshell with its focus on American jobs and our integrated supply chains.

Despite their political differences, when Freeland talks jobs, she is speaking LePage’s language and tapping in to the cold calculation that—like her—his own self-interest and the economic health of his state are hanging in the balance as NAFTA negotiations get underway.

Freeland does her homework, and would know that when Canadian fishermen mounted barricades to block Maine lobster exports from reaching New Brunswick processing plants in 2012, the usually explosive LePage did nothing to cause an international incident. Instead, he calmly identified an opportunity for his state to build up its seafood processing capacity and keep more of its resources, and jobs, at home.

Likewise in June, the pro-jobs governor took the extraordinary step of writing U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to lobby against new tariffs on Canadian lumber that would hurt his state and its workers.

“He understands very well the intense and interconnected relationship between Maine and Canada. He happens to have a personal background in the forestry sector and that informs his point of view in a very useful way,” said Freeland.

For now it appears both Freeland and LePage need each other, and so when Canada’s progressive foreign minister calls, it is likely Maine’s Republican governor will continue to pick up the phone.

Jesse Robichaud is a consultant with Ensight, an Ottawa public affairs firm. He served as an adviser to former Progressive Conservative New Brunswick premier David Alward from 2010 to 2014.[:]

Freeland sets the tone with enthusiastic, progressive vision for NAFTA

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[:en]Chrystia Freeland is optimistic about the outcome of the North American Free Trade negotiations the United States has forced on Canada and Mexico.

We know that, because she said so multiple times ‎earlier this week, the week the NAFTA negotiations begin in Washington.

The Foreign Affairs Minister struck her upbeat pose as she outlined the ‎things Canada will be seeking in what she called a “modernized” NAFTA. Those items will include the positioning of both labour and environmental clauses in the text of the agreement, as well as recognition of indigenous people and feminism in the NAFTA treaty.

How those second two objectives will go over with the Americans and Mexicans are unclear, and the U.S. is also likely to object to any direct mention of climate change in an environmental clause.

Outlining negotiating objectives was forced on the Trudeau Government by the Opposition parties. Under American law, the Trump administration had to reveal its negotiating objectives to Congress a month before the talks were to begin, and so Conservative and New Democrat MPS wanted the same thing‎ here. While the American objectives filled eighteen pages in a fully prepared document, Canada’s were spelled out in a couple of paragraphs in a ministerial speech.

And the presentation of the objectives explain the true nature of the negotiations.

These talks are being held because the Americans insisted they be held. Donald Trump campaigned and was elected on a promise to either change trade agreements to be more favourable to the United States — or end them altogether. In his inaugral address he made it clear. From then on it was to be “America First.”

The negotiating objectives revealed in July underline that approach. The Americans want greater access to our markets, while placing more restrictions on our access to their markets. Such a one sided approach would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious.

So while Canada will have a wish list for the NAFTA negotiations, the real job of our negotiators is to limit the damage of American demands. We are playing defence throughout this game. How well we play it will determine the future if NAFTA — and to a great degree the health of the Canadian economy.

There is an adage in sports that the best defence is a good offence. Unfortunately, in the NAFTA negotiations beginning this week, that adage doesn’t seem to be true.

Instead, ‎ Canada may well be put in the position of telling the Americans that any new restrictions to Canadian access in the United States will be matched by new restrictions on U.S. Access here. Of course, very much of that tit for tat type of exchange and the whole concept of a free trade agreement would become meaningless.

If that is the way the negotiations develop, then to save NAFTA it will be up to America‎ politicians and business to intervene with the Trump administration.

The Canadian Government has spent the past six months in an unprecedented campaign in the United States trying to convince anyone who might matter in this process how important NAFTA is to America.

There have recently been favourable signs that campaign has been having a positive effect. Perhaps that is why Chrystia Freeland is now so optimistic.[:]

Don Newman In Conversation On NAFTA

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[:en]Members of the Standing Committee on International Trade sat down at the table today with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland for an open discussion on Canada’s objectives and approach to NAFTA negotiations. When the meeting ended, MPs spoke with Ensight’s Don Newman about what they heard and what it means for Canadian businesses as they await the start of negotiations Wednesday in Washington.

Watch the clips:

1. Hon. Andrew Leslie, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs (Canada-U.S. Relations), Liberal MP for Orléans

2. Hon. Gerry Ritz, Conservative Trade Critic, International Trade Committee Member, Conservative MP for Battlefords—Lloydminster

3. Kyle Peterson, International Trade Committee Member, Liberal MP for Newmarket—Aurora

Stay tuned for more this week from Ensight as NAFTA negotiations unfold!

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NAFTA talks aren’t an isolated issue for Trump, and that matters to Canada

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[:en]When the negotiation to renew the North American Free Trade Agreement between Canada, the United States and Mexico begins August 16 at a Washington Hotel two miles north of the White House, it will probably pass under the radar in the American capital.

That is because there is so much controversy swirling around President Donald Trump and his administration that unless the President himself decides to highlight the start of the talks, the media, politicians and the public will likely be more focussed on the possibility of a nuclear confrontation with North Korea or the investigation of Special Council Robert Mueller.

But while the President may want to herald the start of the NAFTA talks to divert attention from his administration’s other problems, will he ultimately be driven to end them for the same reason?

Will Donald Trump ultimately blow up the ‎NAFTA negotiations in a desperate bid to save his beleaguered Presidency?

Trump campaigned on repealing or replacing NAFTA. He called it “the worst trade deal” ever signed by the United States.

He also campaigned on replacing the health insurance plan know as Obama Care, cutting both personal and business taxes, launching a multi-billion infrastructure program and building a wall along the United States border with Mexico.

So far, no progress on any of these promises.

Instead, the Trump administration ‎is mired in a scandal over whether it colluded with the Russian Government and Vladimir Putin in the election campaign he won to beat Hilary Clinton.

So, desperate for a political “win” to show to his political base, will Trump disrupt and the destroy the NAFTA negotiations?

Never interested in the substances of issues, it wouldn’t take much to convince Trump ‎to do just that.

Remember in April Trump attacked Canadian dairy policies in a speech in Wisconsin. That was the headline in the newspapers and on TV.

The real story went much deeper. I was told that when Trump returned to Washington that evening he told Commerce‎ Secretary Wilbur Ross that he wanted to pull the United States out of NAFTA.

The reason; before his speech attacking CANADA a small group of Wisconsin dairy Farmers told him they had been adversely affected by a change in Canadian dairy regulations.

It took the combined efforts of the Prime Minister, the Global Affairs Minister and the Canadian Ambassador in Washington to talk the President out of killing NAFTA.

That was before Trump’s current problems had reached the boiling point.

Now the water is getting really hot for the President. Will the NAFTA negotiations be a victim of all the other problems besetting his troubled Presidency?[:]

Pivot, Pivot, Pivot: The dog days of summer have arrived, pivot but don’t halt your GR efforts

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[:en]The Ottawa bubble has all but emptied and we have arrived at the dog days of summer. MPs are at BBQ’s and ribbon cuttings, political staff are recovering from a gruelling parliamentary session and Ministers are on hiatus and basking in the glow of no daily question period. And while the actual machinery of government doesn’t completely grind to a halt, it certainly slows to a snail’s pace. But your organization still has government relations goals and priorities, so how do you advance them?

The answer is not halting your GR efforts, the answer is pivoting and looking regionally.

If you are like me, you can’t hear the word ‘pivot’ without hearing it yelled by Ross Gellar from Friends while trying to move a couch up a stairwell and while pivoting didn’t end up working for them, it will work for your organization.

When MPs are in Ottawa they are typically inundated with national priorities. Legislation, motions, committee responsibilities, but in general those things don’t always help ensure an MP’s re-election. Their summer ‘break’ is their opportunity to reconnect directly with their constituents and frankly is not a break whatsoever, for as much as these MPs enjoy being associated with a party, it is there dedication to their constituents that is essential to their re-election.

So for your organization, engaging with MPs locally should be high on your priority list. During the summer months, instead of asking how the government can help you, ask how your asks can help advance your MP’s re-election goals? If you have members across the country, this is the perfect time to motivate them to meet locally with MPs in their constituency offices.

Secondly, the summer months provide a great opportunity to work on re-tooling your asks of government. Work on your pre-budget submission, dig into legislation that you didn’t have the capacity to review in detail in the spring, map out the parliamentary calendar throughout the upcoming year and take the time to ensure your priorities match up with the government’s agenda. If your organization isn’t talking about NAFTA, then maybe it’s time to enter the conversation since it is literally seizing everyone in government?

Third, how can you use the summer months to build the social capital you need to build political capital in Ottawa? While business Ottawa may be asleep, that doesn’t mean that the government isn’t listening.

How can you dust off your digital arsenal to ensure that you can build broad based public support and use research to bolster your asks and give the government the confidence they need to say yes to you.

For many of us in government relations, the summer months represent a reprieve of the daily House of Commons drama and while you may need to take a much needed and deserved vacation, don’t take your foot off the gas of your GR goals during the summer. Pivot to meeting your MPs regionally and retooling your asks, but don’t halt all together, because the effort you put in during the summer months will pay off dividends in the long run. And to close with a final Friends reference, remember that you’ll never be ‘on a break’ from government![:]

Trudeau’s Troubled MMIW Inquiry Requires a Reset – and Fast

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[:en]The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIW) was one of Prime Minister Trudeau’s many election promises aimed at the Indigenous population. The promise is one of the few he has delivered on, launching the inquiry shortly after the 2015 election with the promise to listen to families.

The recent resignation of inquiry commissioner Marilyn Poitras is, however, just the latest sign that the inquiry is struggling to fulfill its mandate and in need of a reboot. Many Indigenous leaders are calling for an inquiry grounded in cultural beliefs and processes led by community members. They want the existing framework to be dismantled and replaced with a more community driven model; the inquiry must also focus on the resiliency of the Indigenous community as much as violence against its women. Ultimately, for these leaders, the process must be about healing just as much as a quest for answers.

Since its inception the inquiry has been flawed. Bureaucracy is driving the process, losing sight of the inquiry’s goal: justice for the victims and increased safety for Indigenous women and girls. Families feel ignored and frustrated.

The election of Prime Minister Trudeau brought hope for Indigenous people. His promises of reconciliation and renewed nation to nation relationships certainly evoked the best of those sunny ways. The Prime Minister’s thoughtful and fresh approach to working with Indigenous Canadians was such a departure from the status quo that it was burned into the minds of Canadians hopeful for meaningful change.

Many governments struggle to deliver on key promises in their early days, even when those commitments are deeply important to its leader and rank-and-file. But nearly halfway into the government’s mandate, there should be an urgent push within the government to understand why the inquiry has stalled and what is required to renew its momentum.

To borrow a metaphor from the long road trips of summer, the current struggles of the inquiry is a flashing check engine light for the Trudeau government. The responsible driver knows to get the light checked and address the problem. Other drivers simply ignore the light and hope for the best. This issue is simply too important to carry on with business as usual.

The missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and their families deserve answers and healing. This inquiry must move forward and it must be done right.

Sara Monture is Ensight’s Indigenous Practice Lead. A results-oriented strategist, Sara is a skilled organizer, researcher, writer and facilitator from Six Nations of The Grand River Territory.
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Milestones You Need To Know For NAFTA

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[:en]The NAFTA negotiations are only a month away. But next week we should find out at least some of the changes the U.S. Government will be trying to make in the 25 year old three way trade deal between Canada the United States and Mexico.

July 17th is the deadline for the Trump administration to notify Congress of its broad goals in the trade talks. For most of June, the Commerce Department and the Office of the Trade Representative heard representations from virtually every sector of the U.S. Economy‎.

The groups that made those representations are now about to find out whether their issues will be on Washington’s negotiating list.

Those that make it, and those that don’t, ‎will get a chance to make their case publicly. That is because the Trade sub-committee of the House Ways and Means Committee will hold public hearings on July 18th to hear representatives from the manufacturing, agriculture and service sectors of the American economy.

These hearings are important, because any final NAFTA agreement will have to be approved by the full Ways and Means Committee and by the Senate Finance Committee before being sent to the ‎House of Representatives and the full Senate for a vote.

The second date to watch for is August 14th. That is when NA‎FTA negotiations ‎can legally begin. August 14th is a Monday. Washington usually does not like to work in August, but in this case it probably will.

That is because of a third date, December 15th. That is when the Mexicans would like the talks finished. Both Canada and the U.S. are doubtful that can happen, but the Mexicans are pointing out that Presidential elections will be held there next July. A left-wing candidate has been leading in the polls and they don’t want the NAFTA negotiations to become the dominant issue in the polls.

Don Newman is Senior Counsel at Ensight, a Member of the Order of Canada, and a life-member and past president of the Canadian Parliamentary Press Gallery.[:]

Ready, Set, Spend: Six questions to ask if your organization is ready to participate in the 2018 Pre-Budget Consultations

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[:en]Earlier this month, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance launched their 2018 Pre-Budget Consultations.  This is the venue for organizations, corporations and Canadians alike to submit their ideas for where the government should be spending money in 2018.  The 10 Members of Parliament on the Finance Committee, chaired by MP Wayne Easter, will devote a considerable amount of time to reviewing all the submissions, hearing from witnesses and ultimately tabling a final report in Parliament.  The report will be considered by the Minister of Finance as he develops next year’s budget.

So if you are an organization in Canada with an idea, why should you participate in this process?  Here are six questions to ask your organization:

1. Why should we bother making a submission?

This is the Government of Canada’s formal mechanism for collecting information from Canadians on what to include in Budget 2018.  All the submissions are shared with a committee of 10 Members of Parliament and you may also have the opportunity to appear as a witness before the committee. While not every item eventually included in the final budget will have gone through this process, it does allow for you to formally put your request on record.  For your organization, your pre-budget submission becomes an important tool to showcase your asks of government and provides an opportunity to bring your issues forward through all media channels; you can frame a release or op ed around your asks and your rationale.

2. Does our proposal align with current government initiatives?

Early in the life of Justin Trudeau’s government, the Prime Minister took what was an unprecedented move by releasing the cabinet mandate letters to the public.  These letters included the specific initiatives that each Minister would be responsible for. The priorities draw heavily from the commitments in the Liberal campaign platform and Ministers are expected to track and report on the progress of their commitments in order to get results. Fast forward 18 months and the mandate letters continue to hold sway, to the point where stakeholders who cannot align with the mandate letters are virtually ignored.

Not every ask of government will always align nicely with the priorities of the middle class, nor do they always need to, but where possible, every effort should be made in your pre-budget submission to remind MPs and Ministers on how you can help them deliver on the objectives articulated in their mandate letters.

3. Do we have cross party support for our asks?

This is a majority liberal government, so ultimately the Liberals can pass anything they choose, but that’s not good politics and is certainly now how sunny ways is supposed to work.  Your pre-budget submission allows you the opportunity to reach out to MPs on all sides of the aisles for support.  You’ll need that support when MPs have to agree on a witness list and you’ll need that cross party support to have your recommendations included in the final report that is reviewed by the Minister of Finance.

4. Do we have public support?

In addition to MP support, you need to ask yourself if your proposal has public support amongst everyday Canadians. Will what you’re asking for be well received by the public?  Is it an easy sell for the Government? Also for a government committed to evidence-based policy, can you point to a body of peer reviewed research or data that supports what you are asking for? Additionally, this pre-budget period is used by the government as a way to identify high priority community projects that they can greenlight and roll out over next summer – just months before the next campaign begins, and the more you can point to broad support from other stakeholders and Canadians, the easier it will be for the Government to include in the budget. Social and civic capital = Political capital.

5. What does success look like?

It’s actually not the norm for specific companies or organization to be named in a Budget, unless there is a politically safe and legitimate reason to do so.  In general, it is the role of the federal government to create the right programs and funding mechanisms, to allow as many organizations as possible a chance to succeed.  So instead of asking what you could do with 1 million dollars, ask how the government could invest 1 million dollars in a fund that you could access.

6. What will it take to achieve our ask in the budget?

Finally, if you are an organization committed to making a pre-budget submission, you’ll want to know what it will take to drive it across the finish line.  Ultimately you will need an internal champion within government, someone who will push to see your wish list realized. Many stakeholders assume that they need to lobby the Department of Finance, but ultimately the Minister of Finance will be receiving recommendations from his cabinet colleagues.  So if the lead Minister in your portfolio doesn’t include your item on their wish list, it becomes a much harder sell with Finance.  Your efforts need to be focused on relevant MPs and Ministers to ensure that they all support your asks and in turn that your lead Minister places your project on their priority list that they submit to Finance.  After that it will just take a determined and sustained effort to get in front of the right audiences and ensure that you have the right buy in from Canadians.

Conclusion

Ready, Set, Spend!

This may seem like jumping through hoops, but it is an important part of the democratic process.  The Government is sincere in its desire to hear the feedback from Canadians, but given the competition for a limited pool of funding, make sure your organizations asks yourselves those key six questions if you want to stand apart from the rest.[:]

Walking Trump tightrope gets trickier for Trudeau: Watt

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[:en]Last week, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan announced the Liberal government’s commitment to increase defence spending by more than 70 per cent over the next 10 years, boosting annual spending from $18.9 to $37.2 billion.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has positioned the increase as Canada stepping up to play a leadership role on the world stage — just as the United States turns inward.

As the U.S. rapidly transitions away from its commitments as a global leader, Freeland argues that Canada must step up, do its part, and chart its own course.

Increasingly, it appears the U.S. has become an international laggard lining up on the wrong side of history.

The world’s largest economy is threatening to leave the World Trade Organization. The U.S. president refuses to formally commit to respecting NATO’s foundational principal. The country has formally withdrawn from both the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the Trans Pacific Partnership. And Donald Trump’s bromance with the globe’s autocrats is increasingly pushing the United States to the sidelines of international multilateral organizations.

Freeland foreshadowed the increase in defence spending in her remarks in the House of Commons on Tuesday when she said that, “to rely solely on the U.S. security umbrella would make us a client state,” and that “such a dependence would not be in Canada’s interest.”

Freeland’s speech and Sajjan’s announcement are acknowledgments that the U.S. is no longer a predictable and dependable ally, that it is heading in a fundamentally different direction than both Canada and the rest of the developed world, and that it is time for Canada stand up for what it believes in.

Freeland’s point is clear: it’s time for Canada to lead.

In short, that is the narrative the government wants Canadians to latch on to. And, to the government’s credit, that message is beginning to work.

But maybe something else is at play.

Since the presidential campaign, Trump has aggressively challenged NATO’s Article 5. He has called NATO obsolete, has argued that 23 of the 28 member nations are not paying what they should toward defence, and has suggested that even if these countries began paying their pledged two per cent of GDP, this wouldn’t be enough.

Last year, Canada’s contribution reached 1.19 per cent of GDP. Last week’s announcement will boost Canada’s defence spending to 1.4 per cent — a significant increase.

In response, senior White House officials quickly welcomed Canada’s announcement. U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis said he was “heartened by today’s release of Canada’s defence policy,” and a White House spokesperson tweeted that Canada’s increase in defence spending indicated that Trump was “getting results.”

Trump, who never tires of reminding us that he is a master negotiator, will undoubtedly see Trudeau’s commitment to increase defence spending as an opening gambit in not only the upcoming NAFTA negotiations, but in future dealings with the American government.

In a stroke of strategic brilliance, Trudeau and his ministers were able to successfully develop a narrative about Canadian independence and multilateralism — the “Canadian Way” — while appeasing Trump with a commitment that is central to his administration.

Political operators know domestic politics trumps foreign policy.

And domestically, Trudeau would like nothing better than to be seen as the anti-Trump.

However, Trudeau doesn’t have the same luxury as his counterparts in France and Germany, who have been publicly critical of the president. There is simply too much at stake for Canada — on issues such as trade, continental security, and the economy.

When it comes to U.S.-Canada relations, it is now harder than ever for the prime minister and his government to keep their domestic audience on board without being entirely offside toward our southern neighbours.

What we saw last week was a prime example of that challenge. Looking ahead, it’s clear Trudeau’s balancing act isn’t going to get any easier.

Jaime Watt is the executive chairman of Navigator Ltd. and a Conservative strategist.

(As published in The Toronto Star on June 11, 2017)[:]

Sunny ways for the Conservative Party: Watt

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[:en]The Conservative leadership election has come to a close, but it has opened a new chapter for a party that needed renewal.

Any party that has served in government faces challenges following an election defeat. Its brand has been buffeted by years of criticism from the opposition parties and from the media. Its players are tired and the recriminations come quickly.

Renewal can be a long and challenging process that takes several election cycles. The situations faced by the federal Liberal party in 2006 and the Ontario Progressive Conservatives in 2003 show how what seems like a temporary exile can turn into a long stay in the wilderness.

The Conservative Party of Canada has much to celebrate after last weekend.

Through the long leadership campaign, it seemed the party wouldn’t have much to rejoice about at the end of it. Media commentators and pundits panned the field of contenders as has-beens or never-weres, and dwelled on the fact that major players had opted out of running for the leadership. They panned the policy proposals as uninteresting.

But, today, the Conservative Party finds itself well-positioned.

Its already prodigious fundraising has been increasing, even in the midst of a leadership campaign populated by 14 candidates raising money from the same pool of donors.

Those major players the media called out for staying out of the race have merely gone on to other things. Jason Kenney has moved to Alberta and united the conservative movement there, creating an immediate opportunity for the province to return to the conservative fold in the next election.

John Baird and Peter MacKay have returned to the working world, but have signalled their intention to strongly support the party moving forward.

And, more importantly, the candidates that were dismissed as the second tier have demonstrated that they are capable of carrying the mantle forward.

The conservative movement in Canada has a tendency to break at the seams from time to time. The split between the Progressive Conservatives and Reform Party in 1993, and the split in the parties on the right in Alberta are the most recent examples of the fragility of the movement.

Once, a result as close as 50.5 per cent to 49.5 per cent in a leadership contest would herald, at the very least, increased tensions and frustrations in the party. But party leaders and activists seem to understand the fundamental importance of maintaining a united and strong party to challenge the Liberals if they are to be successful.

The leadership contest brought to the fore fresh faces. A number of MPs who were less than prominent during the Harper era have emerged as important players.

Erin O’Toole, Maxime Bernier, Michael Chong and a host of other contenders may have lost the leadership election, but they have certainly boosted their profiles. Each can boast that they have shared their perspectives with party members, gained followers and boosted their media profile. They struggled to emerge from the shadows of the bigger Conservative players in Stephen Harper’s government, but they have demonstrated that they are ready and able to help steer the party.

Importantly, Andrew Scheer’s election as leader heralds the end of a sometimes cold Conservative Party. Scheer seems intent on reframing his party as one that is positively focused on growth for Canadians. Party members will welcome this tone.

Leadership contests often leave bruised egos and open wounds in their wakes. The aftermath produces periods of introspection and frustration.

None of that has been evident this week.

To the contrary, the new cadre of Conservative frontbenchers seems content with the results and pleased with the direction of the party. There has been none of the usual discontent and grumbling.

Many of the Conservative MPs are newly elected, since generational renewal was a goal of the Harper political machine as it approached the 2015 campaign.

That path was chosen with foresight. Today, the Conservative Party is led by a young leader who is working with a number of promising young MPs and a nearly absurd stockpile of cash.

Sunny ways, indeed!

Jaime Watt is the executive chairman of Navigator Ltd. and a Conservative strategist.[:]