Managing Your Association’s Relationship with Government

By. Hon. Andy Mitchell

Recently, I had the opportunity to address the CSAE’s Trillium Chapter on the pressing issue of government relations. The session was attended by a diverse group of association members and produced an interesting dialogue, identifying and exploring a number of challenges and opportunities organizations face in dealing with government.

The session was particularly relevant given the recent change in the Ontario provincial government and the upcoming Ontario municipal elections in October.

During my presentation, I built on the experiences gained during my 45-year professional career. This has included time in the private sector as a financial services manager and senior political staff experience at both the provincial and the federal levels of government, including Chief of Staff to the Federal Leader of the Opposition, an elected municipal councillor and Deputy Mayor, Member of Parliament, and Federal Cabinet Minister including Minister of Agriculture and Minister of Indian Affairs.

A consistent theme through all my political undertakings was the importance of engaging people and organizations who were affected by the policies of government. I not only welcomed these interactions, but understood how important they were to effective policy and regulatory development.

Top 10 Government Relations Suggestions:

During my presentation, I presented my top 10 suggestions for effective government relations. These included:

  • Understanding the importance of engaging with government and why my organization needs to consider reaching out
  • Knowing who within the government to talk to and the best times within the parliamentary and budgetary cycles to do so
  • The importance of being prepared and appearing professional
  • Understanding what government officials are able to do (the possible) and not placing politicians or officials in difficult situations (avoiding the impossible)
  • Understanding the difference between policy development and politics, and acting accordingly
  • The importance of listening to officials and politicians and avoiding the temptation to dominate meetings and conversations
  • Maximizing any interactions you have with politicians and officials
  • Always make a specific ask
  • Knowing how to prepare effective documentation to leave behind after meetings
  • Knowing how to follow-up

At its essence government relations is all about people. It’s about respecting the challenges and pressures government officials and politicians are faced with and crafting interactions in a manner that meets both the government’s concerns as well as those of your organization.

It may be trite to say – but government relations genuinely need to be about creating win-win-win interactions.

Andy Mitchell is a Senior Consultant at Laridae. Laridae is a full-service strategy consulting firm serving not for profit and public-sector organizations. A proud B Corporation, Laridae helps an organization’s leadership to effectively interact with those officials and politicians responsible for the legislative and regulatory framework within which they operate. Andy Mitchell can be reached at [email protected]