Navigating a new federal minority government introduces a unique set of challenges for communications and government relations professionals. It requires everyone to be a little bit more creative with how they develop new relationships with Members of Parliament (MP) and ways to maintain a strong working relationship with them. What’s the best way to achieve this? IABC Ottawa and the Government Relations Institute of Canada (GRIC) co-organized a panel on November 19 to hear from the experts in this field – Jeremy Wittet, Director of Government and Public Affairs at Edelman; Rachel Curran, Senior Associate at Harper Associates; and Ken Polk, Public Affairs Counselor at Compass Rose. They discussed strategies and tactics of engaging with a new minority government, which we’ve summarized in three important takeaways below.
Build strong relationships with other parties
Canadians sent a clear message on October 21, the Liberal Party is here to stay, but they will have to collaborate closely with the Conservative Party, the Bloc Québécois, the New Democratic Party (NDP), and the Green Party of Canada to achieve any of their goals. Ken Polk put it best, “the beauty of a minority government is a majority agenda.” Other parties will now have the opportunity to influence the government’s agenda and try to push for real change. Polk suggests that the Liberal Party will have to be strategic as not to alienate any of the other parties.
For example, when the Liberals talk about fighting climate change or developing a national pharma care plan, they may turn to the NDP or the Green Party for allies. In your communications/government relations role, learn what issues matter most to each party and try to position your organization in a way that capitalizes on that momentum.
Focus on re-election
Re-election in a minority government is anticipated to happen within 2-3 years of government being formed. With the notion that re-election is on the horizon, all of the parties will be looking at what issues they should be addressing and taking a stance on. The prevalent question being “How is this going to help during our next campaign?”
Communicators/government relations professionals have to identify the priorities of every party and advise clients of how to navigate the new government. The key is to propose solutions to issues that matter to Canadians and secure votes at the same time. Communicators/government relations professionals can offer manageable solutions to policy dilemmas alongside an implementation plan that focuses on parties’ re-election potential.
Prepare for the new budget
The coming weeks are essential for anyone looking for financial support from the government. As the new Cabinet prepares the budget, there is still time to make a budgetary ask before the January cut-off date. The budget is central to the Liberal party’s election promise, so all MPs will focus on how the budget will influence their portfolios. The panel suggests that you use the weeks before the holidays as an opportunity to develop relationships with MPs to help you navigate the government’s financial goals.
Communicators/ government relations professionals in Ottawa have the advantage of operating steps away from Parliament Hill because it means you have direct access to Members of Parliament and other political stakeholders.