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Saturday, February 20, 2010

With the budget coming, new Ministers & parliament prorogued, where does your agenda stand?


After 3 months of Parliament out of session and a state where bills need to be re-introduced, organizations need to review where they stand with the government. 70 pieces of legislation will need to be re-introduced this Spring. The coming budget will also make a time for association executives to be more vigilant than ever. Contract lobbyists can be a great benefit to any government affairs program. Larger associations can use them to handle big projects and even mentor staff. Smaller associations may find that they can gain instant access and quickly match the clout of political adversaries. To that effect, the value of legislative monitoring comes to point.

The measure of success for many association executives, like it or not, has gradually become increased member services and stronger finances. This is especially true for small associations; although their resources may be strapped, they still carry the burden of members with high expectations. Since they can't be at the legislature or on Parliament Hill and managing member services simultaneously, keeping on track of developments is a tall order. Sometimes, even one small or undetected aspect of a piece of legislation otherwise unnoticed can make a difference.

When Parliament was prorogued in late December and new Ministers were nominated thereafter, the hard work your association may have undertaken in the past may need to be repeated. The situation however may even mean that legislative monitoring will be required to take a double take on where your organization finds itself. When Parliament returns on March 3 the Harper government could introduce a motion to restart its legislative agenda right where it left off, but the Liberals say they won't necessarily support it. If this occurs, the possibility of your association going before parliament again is very high and identifying once again before legislators and their staff will require a ramp up strategy.

Start by asking yourself a simple question: What are you trying to accomplish? Are you trying to pass legislation, which is often a demanding job, or defeat legislation, which is typically easier? Many associations face obstacles as they seek to affect the actions of government, particularly rulemaking or administrative actions. Both the legislature and the civil service will follow specific but often very different rules.

Your success will depend largely on how relationships are managed and nurtured. Small lobbying firms such as Action Strategies should never be discounted. Our solitude often makes us nimble enough to keep up with big firms and we have usually, out of necessity, developed excellent information networks. We can also nicely round off a team of lobbyists that an issue may require and quickly become part of your team.


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Mark Buzan is Principal of Action Strategies, a GR Consultancy for non-profits. If you have questions on how you feel your organization could benefit from legislative monitoring services or even undertaking a grassroots advocacy initiative. Subscribe now to his Lobbying tips newsletter at www.actionstrategies.ca

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