Monday, June 25, 2007

Exerpt from our Recent Video Podcast

In my last post, I mentioned Action Strategies' most recent video podcast with Lesa Crowe of Itancan. The power of social media is really something else and with that, wanted to demostrate further what video and the internet are capable of. Take a look here as the first ten minutes of the vodcast is posted from a sharing link to You Tube:


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Cheez...I forgot!!! New podcast and other news...

It has recently dawned on me that in the flurry of getting out the next edition of the Magnifier, I neglected to get the word out on some great new developments.

To start, I invite everyone to check out my most recent podcast on how Public Relations can be leveraged for speakers, authors, and experts. With the benefit of the beautiful Gatineau hills in the background, I interviewed Bob Urichuk at his wonderful hide-a-way in Cantley, Quebec. Check it out!

In other news, I've been contracted for three days of the week as new the Chief of Communications for the Canadian Paralympic Committee. I'm quite excited about this new role as the Paralympic Movement is something that interests me greatly and they are a client I'm anxious to get to work for.

Action Strategies has also signed on other clients such as MarineBio.org to perform a website and marketing audit, Tony Gyenis of the Gyenis Group to develop a communications plan and we are in serious negotiations with the American Finishing School, a Chinese-based Etiquette school.

Great times are ahead for Action Strategies and we owe it all to the support of our clients, friends and family. Thanks!



Sunday, June 17, 2007

Changing GR Gears for Summer: Derrek Konrad, former MP

Action Strategies' newest affiliate and Magnifier, Derrek Konrad provides a brief insight into how organizations can influence government. As a former Member of Parliament, this article will be the first of many articles to come on best practices used by Action Strategies and its affiliates.

Summer is a great time to initiate or strengthen your organization’s government relations strategy. Members of Parliament are away from their Hill offices and back in the ridings. Government officials in Ottawa and across Canada have time to hear from industry representatives who have legislative and regulatory concerns and businesses wishing to do business with the federal government.

During the summer most Members of Parliament maintain regular hours in the office except for holidays when they will likely be away from the riding. While it may be a challenge to schedule time with an individual M.P. in his or her riding office, it is a great time to issue an invitation to meet over coffee to develop an open dialogue and to present your point-of-view on upcoming legislation in a one-on-one environment. Doing that can deliver many benefits: it puts the relationship on a less formal footing, and sends Members back to the next session better informed about the effects of legislation that may have been overlooked in the early stages of development. They will be equipped to suggest amendments to legislation to remove or mitigate sections that will harm a sector that has a significant presence in their riding. They may also lobby their caucus colleagues or a minister personally if they have come to believe in your cause.

Many caucuses also have retreats prior to a new session and getting your message to individual members and Hill staff before a retreat can make a difference in achieving your objective.

Officials in Ottawa who have input into ministerial briefings may have more time to meet with industry representatives in order to hear industry concerns and to develop the informal relationships that lead to productive meetings in more formal settings at other times.

One example of an issue that needs, and is getting, attention this summer is the federal budget. Budgets alter the economic climate in profound ways and the latest one is no exception. Entire regions of the country are upset by some provisions of the budget, and Ottawa is getting messages ranging from disgruntled provincial politicians to corporate Canada and everyone between. Now is a good time to let individual Members of Parliament know how the budget affects your sector and what you want them to do about it. A government relations specialist can help you prepare an effective message and a strategy for delivering it.

Derrek Konrad is a former Member of Parliament living in Ottawa and practices government relations. He is the principal of Konrad Group and can be contacted by e-mail at: Derrek.konradgroup@rogers.com or by phone at 613-822-9846

Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a Government Relations consultancy. You can subscribe now to his monthly public affairs newsletter by visiting the newsletter section of his website.

Monday, June 11, 2007

A welcome to our newest affiliate and Magnifier

In my ongoing efforts to keep Action Strategies a viable and relevant organization, I'm proud to announce the addition of another affiliate to Action Strategies: Derrek Konrad, former MP for Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.

Derrek was a member of the House of Commons from 1997 to 2000.

He was elected as a member of the Reform party, later serving as a member of the Canadian Alliance. After serving in the 36th Canadian Parliament, he left federal politics to pursue an number of initiatives in the private sector and now runs a strategic communications and GR consulting firm, the Ottawa-based, Konrad Group.

I'm excited by the chance to work with Derrek as his connections earned over the years have been notable. His addition to the list of affiliates with which I work will undoubtedly be a door opener to many offices on Parliament Hill.


Understanding the Taxman: Canada Revenue Agency

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is undoubtedly one of the largest departments any Canadian or Canadian business faces. Apart from the "dreaded" submission of taxes
every April, the CRA renders a number of tax rulings every month with enormous impact on businesses. Needless to say, it is in every association executive and business owners' interest to understand this agency and have expert advice in navigating this department.

Should your organization need review of an interpretation or regulation, the key in navigating CRA is understanding where to bring issues of contention and raise concerns. While the CRA is an independent agency, it reports to the Minister of National Revenue. The Minister responsible for CRA is Carol Skelton.

The Minister of National Revenue is accountable to Parliament for all the CRA's activities, including the administration and enforcement of the Income Tax Act and the Excise Tax Act. The Minister ensures that the CRA operates within the overall government framework.

Her responsibilities also include liaising with the agents who run CRA:

Role of the Board of Management

The Board of Management consists of 15 members appointed by the Governor in Council. Eleven of these members have been nominated by the provinces and territories. The Board has the responsibility of overseeing the organization and management of the CRA, including the development of the Corporate Business Plan, and the management of policies related to resources, services, property and personnel.

The CRA's Board of Management is not involved in all the CRA's business activities. It does not have the authority to administer and enforce legislation or to access confidential client information.

Role of the Commissioner - Chief Executive Officer

As the CRA's chief executive officer, the Commissioner is responsible for the day-to-day administration and enforcement of program legislation that falls under the Minister's delegated authority. The Commissioner is accountable to the Board of Management for the daily management of the CRA, supervision of employees, and implementation of policies and budgets.

Moreover, the Commissioner must assist and advise the Minister with respect to legislated authorities, duties, functions, and Cabinet responsibilities.

The Role of the Chair

As the presiding director of the Board of Management, the Chair manages the affairs and functioning of the Board and guides the Board to ensure it meets its responsibilities.

Lobbying for policy change

Tax rulings and the understanding of them in their application is a complicated process. If your interest is in affecting change on a macro level, your best focus would be on the above apparatus. As with most other departments, it's important to know your 'targets' and focus on relationships. Because the board of the CRA, is of a provincial nature with appointments coming from the provincial capitals, your best bet would be to think of your issue along regional lines.

For those concerned with micro levels of concerns or disputes more specific to an individual company's interest, there are a number of interesting initiatives. For example, the Minister had recently announced the creation of the Office of the Taxpayer's Ombudsman. Other interesting links can be found at: CRA's website.
Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs & marketing communications consultancy. He brings a number of years of understanding of working with the Canada Revenue Agency and was the Executive Assistant to the Official Opposition Critic for National Revenue at the time of the agency's creation. You can subscribe now to his monthly public affairs newsletter by visiting the newsletter section of his website.