Tag Archives: Elan MacDonald

The Uber versus Taxi fight goes provincial in Alberta

The debate over alternative car services gripping city hall in Edmonton may spill over into the Alberta Legislature. According to Lobbyist Registry reports, both Uber and a union representing taxi drivers have acquired the services of well-known lobbyists to help the corporation navigate the halls of the provincial government.

Impact Consulting principal Elan MacDonald is registered as a lobbyist for Uber, with listed activities including lobbying the departments of Transportation, Treasury Board and Finance, and Municipal Affairs with respect to ride sharing, licensing and insurance policy directives. Also working for Impact, though not mentioned in the lobbyist listing, is Brookes Merritt, a former communications director for the Alberta NDP Caucus.

Teamsters Union Local 987 has hired Alberta Counsel Ltd., which readers of this blog may recognize as the company headed by former Wildrose MLAs Shayne Saskiw and Guy Boutilier and former NDP MLA Leo Piquette (father of current NDP MLA Colin Piquette). The company recently hired former NDP Caucus outreach director Pascal Ryffel as a Senior Associate. According to their listing, the company will help the Teamsters lobby the government on many of the same issues as Uber’s lobbyists.

In May 2015, Uber Inc. registered some of its own senior employees as lobbyists in Alberta, including public policy lead Chris Schafer, who was executive director of the Calgary-based Canadian Constitutional Foundation from 2010-2014. Mr. Schafer’s successor at the CCF has taken a hard-line in favour of Uber in the pages of the National Post.

The May 2015 listing declares the company lobbying activities would focus on the Insurance ActTraffic Safety Act, and a provincial regulatory framework for ride sharing in Alberta.

A strictly regulated taxi authority in Edmonton has posed difficulties for Uber expansion into the capital city. Edmonton City Councillors are expected to discuss a draft by-law about this issue on Wednesday, September 16, 2015.

Although the NDP government has not taken a public position on the expansion Uber in Alberta, Transportation Minister Brian Mason has expressed concern about whether the company’s drivers carry proper commercial insurance coverage.

The election of Rachel Notley's NDP has turned the lobbyist industry on its head.

Navigator hires Notley’s press secretary. Former NDP, Wildrose, PC MLAs go into business.

The realm of government relations and lobbying is a world that most Albertans will never be exposed to. The industry of influencing elected officials and government policy as practiced by private lobbying companies and government relations departments has been turned on its head by the recent election of the New Democratic Party in Alberta.

Faced with the reality that the government had not changed since 1971, most companies and lobbyists ignored the opposition parties and focused their efforts entirely on influencing politicians associated with the Progressive Conservative Party.

A search through the public Lobbyist Registry reveals dozens of former PC cabinet ministers, MLAs and staffers working as lobbyists for various companies and organizations. For many decades networking within the PC Party was the only strategy that could produce changes in government policy. That business plan is now obsolete. It is completely shattered.

Now with Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP as government, many companies and lobbyists with deep PC Party connections are searching for and reaching out to any New Democrats who may have connections and influence with the new government and, perhaps most importantly, have some insight into how Alberta’s new political leaders will operate.

  • An email circulated by Navigator Senior Principal Jason Hatcher last week announcing that Sally Housser, Press Secretary to  Ms. Notley during the recent election campaign and former deputy national director of the federal NDP, had been hired as a Senior Consultant in Edmonton. Navigator is known for its political connections to the PC Party, with Managing Principal Randy Dawson serving as the 2015 PC Party campaign manager and Mr. Hatcher as a spokesperson for Jim Prentice‘s 2014 leadership campaign.
  • Impact Consulting, a company run by Premier Ed Stelmach’s former Chief of Staff Elan MacDonald, recently announced the hiring of former NDP Caucus Communications Director Brookes Merritt. Mr. Merritt was a well-respected journalist in Alberta before working for the NDP Caucus and more recently in communications roles with the Government of Alberta.
  • Former NDP MLA Leo Piquette, former Wildrose MLA Shayne Saskiw and former PC and Wildrose MLA Guy Boutilier have joined forces with federal Conservative candidate Shannon Stubbs (Mr. Saskiw’s wife) and former Wildrose Party executive director Jonathon Wescott at the “Legal and Lobby” company Alberta Counsel Ltd. Mr. Piquette’s son, Colin Piquette, was recently elected as the NDP MLA for Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater, which raises questions about how much influence the father might have over his son in this new role.
  • The Hill Times reports on the response to the NDP election win by some of Canada’s larger government relations and lobbyist companies.