Friday, September 01, 2006

Is a federal election coming?

Ok, so the word is out. It seems the Prime Minister has drawn the battle lines along the softwood lumber deal. This fall, Parliament will be called upon to ratify the treaty signed earlier this year. The vote will be a confidence vote.

Chances are the Tories will lose the vote and the Liberals will be thrown into a frenzy trying to manage an election campaign at the same time as the party is seeking a leader. What's the PM's motivation?

The answer is simple. At no time sooner than now will he have a greater opportunity to secure a majority government. The polls seem to be confirming this fact. Interesting huh?

But here lies the crux of the problem if you're an organization head trying to get attention for your agenda: time is unfortunately, not on your side!

If you've managed to get attention for your issues up until now, my congratulations go out to you. My guess is that depending on how far along matters have progressed, you have a reasonable chance of seeing matters through to the end. The government will be anxious to demonstrate it has accomplished things and pushing initiatives through parliament in anticipation of an election is the way to go.

If however you've experienced challenges thusfar, you may want to consider shifting gears away from the bureaucracy of committees and parliament. Getting to know the potential campaign kingmakers of the various political parties may be the more appropriate route.

For example, how many of you have been plugged into the Liberal Leadership campaign? Yes, I know...they're in the opposition and don't influence day to day policy directly. BUT they can influence the direction of the governing Tories in how they perceive policy issues. Just as when the Alliance and later the Tories were in opposition, I maintain that it is sound government relations professionalism to maintain relationships with the opposition parties regardless of whether there is a majority or minority parliament.

Regrettably, many other practitioners don't see it that way but I digress.

Now is the time to push for recognition of your issues in the platforms of political parties. Far too many times, I have seen pressure groups attempt to get their issues recognized during an election. Beyond the attempt in getting media attention, WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS???? By this point, it's TOO LATE!!!! Doing your work in advance of an election gets the parties to adopt your ideas once the election is taken forward. From there, you can watch the politicians talk up the importance of your concerns on a national and regional level.

If your issue is selling services and goods to government, my suggestion to you is to do everything possible to speed up the process. My experience has shown that government tends to go into buying paralysis during, just before, and after an election.

Let me know your thoughts.

Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs & marketing communications consultancy. You can subscribe now to his monthly public affairs newsletter by visiting www.action-strategies.ca and dropping down the newsletter menu.

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