Kick-off 2021 with the first in a four-part series by PoliTraQ founder Chris Moffatt Armes, on positioning your advocacy efforts. Published every Monday in January, this series will offer practical tips to apply to your next pre-budget submission or general advocacy campaign.
Part 2: Are we in alignment?
When a government announces a new program or funding stream, our immediate reaction is to take the objective at face-value. This isn’t to imply that governments have ulterior motives, but rather that we need to look beyond the immediate impacts and look to second-level (and deeper) effects of their actions. If we look only at the “what” of a government policy announcement, you can end up missing a lot of context as to “why” a particular measure was implemented.
For example, in Ontario, the provincial government has announced several measures over the past year to offset some of the additional costs families have incurred due to online learning. At face-value, direct transfers like these (the “what”) have an education focus - the aim of the announcement is to bolster student learning. By going beyond the “what” of a policy proposal, we can understand the government’s motivation and choice of action more clearly - lending insights to help position your own proposals.
Parents and families are a key voting block for any party looking to form a government. The COVID-19 pandemic touches on two crucial concerns for nearly every provincial voter - healthcare and education - and has led to broad disruptions to everyday life, as well as new and unbudgeted costs. A direct transfer to this constituency serves both to alleviate some of these concerns, as well as to provide a signal to this constituency that the government is responsive to their concerns.
We can also get a sense of the relative importance of an issue from the way the government frames a policy announcement. Using the example above, there is an implied emphasis on so-called “pocketbook issues” - the focus of the policy measure is to alleviate unexpected costs faced by parents.
If the aim of the measure was to stimulate the education technology and telecommunications sectors, we’d expect to see further changes - for instance, direct transfers replaced by a consumer rebate, as we saw with the Wynne Liberals and the home heating retrofit program.
As a second example, consider how the framing (not to mention, the actual mechanics of the policy itself) would change if the government’s primary focus for this measure was access and equity?
Finally - though less important in the age of COVID-19 - understanding where the government is in its mandate, as well as its potential in/stability, helps shed light on exactly what a government intends to do with a particular budget.
In ordinary times, a majority government’s first and last budgets serve both policy and political interests. The first budget provides the first opportunity to implement the policy agenda of the last election, while the pre-election budget serves to tie-up loose ends and preview the government’s re-election platform. The middle budgets of a government’s mandate, therefore, would offer the greatest opportunity for stakeholder consultation and influence on the measures to come.
All of these examples show how a government’s policy approach to a particular issue can shift dramatically, based on the underlying aim of said policy and the key constituencies for said government. By reading beneath the surface, GR practitioners can better understand what a government may be intending to achieve - both explicitly and implicitly - and position their advocacy asks to align with these end goals.
Understanding the “why” be can make a substantial impact on your advocacy goals, and elevate the stature of your client in the minds of your target audience. Leveraging and continuing this momentum becomes much simpler when you have an effective way of tracking your engagement activities.
By using a GR-focused CRM like PoliTraQ, you and your team will be able to make real, data-driven decisions, monitor progress on KPI’s and demonstrate the value of your advocacy efforts. To learn more or to arrange a demo, please visit PoliTraQ or email Chris@PoliTraQ.com.