For Effective Advocacy, Align With Government Priorities

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Fourteen months into the pandemic, our governments continue to face significant challenges as they attempt to guide us back to a semblance of ‘normal’. Even after the COVID pandemic is brought under control, governments will still not be out of the woods. They must then turn their attention to additional crises that have emerged over the last year. 

One crisis involves the path back from historic deficits and debt. Last month, Minister Chrystia Freeland introduced a budget that contained a $354 billion deficit and pushed our national debt above $1 trillion for the first time in history. In March, Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy introduced a budget containing a $33 billion deficit and an accumulated debt of $430 billion. 

Many predict a looming mental health crisis that will remain long after the COVID pandemic. Surveys show a major increase in the number of adults who report symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression during the pandemic, compared with surveys before the pandemic. 

Small businesses across the country have felt the financial brunt of the pandemic, with some sectors shut down since last March. According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, smallbusinesses in Canada have accumulated an average of $163,000 in COVID-related debt since the start of the pandemic.

As governments continue to solve the COVID pandemic and begin to address the crises beyond, they will be looking for stakeholders who can come alongside as partners and help deliver solutions to these problems. Groups that can align their advocacy with government priorities will be the ones who maximize their chance of success.

The least effective approach to aligning your advocacy with government priorities is to simply communicate your issue(s) without providing solutions that the government could employ. This puts the burden on policy staff and bureaucrats to create a solution to your problem. Even in non-pandemic times, this approach should be avoided.

A more effective, but still less than optimal, approach is to communicate your issue(s), provide solutions that the government could employ, and then provide rationale that supports how your recommendations will benefit you/your members/your industry. This approach goes a step further by providing solutions, but it doesn’t demonstrate the benefits to government who is looking for allies to help solve its historic challenges.

Stakeholders who will maximize their chance of success are the ones who communicate the elements of the second approach and go one step further to explain how their recommendations will also help government achieve its priorities. Will your recommendations help spur economic recovery by creating brand new jobs? Will they help the province’s finances recover by providing new tax revenue? Will they help contain COVID by mitigating transmission of the virus?

When creating your advocacy positioning and messaging, put yourselves in the shoes of the government staff looking back at you on Zoom. They want to solve stakeholders’ issues, and they are also looking for stakeholders who can help solve our crises. Demonstrate how you can help. You will stand out from your peers, and you will maximize your chance for advocacy success.