The Ontario Election is over: Now the work begins

The past six months have provided Ontarians with an entertaining, terrifying and action-packed election campaign. Many who follow politics regard the time in advance of an election as the ‘silly season’ and with no exception, the political parties and candidates in this 2018 campaign have certainly lived up to the hype. 

The pre-writ period saw tremendous support and energy from the Ontario PC’s. The November 2017 launch of ‘the People’s Guarantee’ that, while light on detail provided a brilliant strategy that positioned the PC’s in the middle of the political spectrum. The package included a host of progressive nuggets of public policy, enough to court frustrated Liberal voters and ensure the PC base in Ontario. Consuming this middle ground also forced the governing Liberal’s to scrape away further at the left, which continued to reinforce the PC’s positioning them as ‘tax and spend’ and poor managers of the public purse. Perhaps more significantly, the strategy helped the very likable PC Leader Patrick Brown create distance between comparisons to conservative leaders like Trump, Harper and Harris.

As we watched 2017 come to a close, there was a strong sense that voters in Ontario wanted a new government. The Liberals went into full damage control focused their legislative agenda on delivering incentives to court voters. The spring budget included a host of financial and public policy leavers they felt necessary to win the election. The cornerstone of the agenda hinged on revised labour legislation that included a historic 32% increase in minimum wage and more than 60 changes to labour and employment law. The Liberals strategy sought to use public spending to drive a wedge into the political narrative, as a means of overcoming diminishing popularity. 

The Liberals had previously committed to balancing the books for the 2018 election however Finance Minister Sousa’s ‘Fiscal Recovery Plan’ proved to be a sharp U-turn with massive increases in spending and projected deficits well out to 2025. Ontario’s debt to GDP ratio was projected to balloon to 38.6%, and firmly cementing Ontario’s status as the most indebted sub-national jurisdiction in the world. While the Liberals were ready to hand out ‘free daycare’, ‘free prescriptions’ and more, all polling indicated that the voters clearly just wanted to be ‘free’ of the Liberals.

Not to be outdone, the Ontario PC’s have a history of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Just weeks into the year, Brown faced a scandal that resulted in the leader resigning in January 25th, just five months from the election. Four candidates quickly emerged in the leadership contest, including the first to enter the race, eventual winner Doug Ford. The leadership contest was held March 10, and despite some concerns over the voting process, the party remained focused and united on defeating the Wynne Liberals. 

The uncertainty of a new PC leadership and redevelopment of a winning campaign for Team Ford, provided an opportunity for the Andrea Horwath led NDP to gain significant ground. Ford’s own lack of popularity both within the party and amongst the electorate at large created a significant window of opportunity for the NDP who remained predominately an afterthought until the 11thhour of the election. The NDP saw a considerable surge in support in mid-May as Horwath performed better than many anticipated in televised debates and found some momentum. In fact, 70+% of declared Liberal supporters indicated that that would consider throwing their support to the NDP as the next best alternative. 

The second debate provided a unique moment for the Premier and her team launched a ‘Sorry, Not Sorry’ campaign that sought to distance personality from electoral record, but this had little influence over voters. Support for the Wynne Liberals eroded so quickly during the campaign’s final days, that the Premier publicly announced on Saturday June 2nd, that a Liberal loss was inevitable.  In January, the Liberals were polling as high as 32% in a solid second position behind the PC’s and well ahead of the NDP. The incumbency of government is a natural advantage, however the Liberals declining fortunes met with a ‘change’ minded electorate as popularity dipped to less than 20%. The late-stage projections for the Liberals even had many within the campaign worried about retaining party status in the legislature. 

The results of the June 7 election to many, were unpredictable and provided for a wide array of predictions. Would the NPD win a majority? Would there be a minority government? Would there be a coalition? Could the PC’s and Team Ford possibly pull out a majority?  The PC’s early leads eroded into a statistical tie with the NDP within days of the election provided significant trepidation for volunteers and organizers in all camps.  The only thing that was absolutely clear, was that after 15 years of Liberal governments, Ontario votes were voting for change.

In the end, the Ontario PC party pulled out a clear majority delivering 76 seats with the NDP doubling their presence at Queens Park with 40. The decimated Liberals suffered their worst defeat in the history of Ontario politics, and will now officially lose party status managing only 7 seats.  Wynne immediately resigned as leader, setting the stage for a complete party rebuild. And, for the first time ever, the Green Party will have a seat in the Ontario legislature thanks to a convincing win in Guelph by leader Mike Schreiner. 

The circus atmosphere of the 2018 election campaign provided no shortage of mystery, wonder and its fair share of WTF moments.  The election results will be poured over by strategists and political sciences for years ahead. The challenge however for most organizations is to move beyond figuring out what happened and into the realm of how to deal with it. The new Ford government’s agenda will respond to the votes call for change. 

For many organizations this will mean retooling government relations and communication strategies. This will require re-engaging the array of new, untested and unproven MPP’s and political staff on all sides of the legislature. Ford is likely to move quickly to announce his cabinet, likely before the end of the month, and it is likely to be a smaller cabinet. Their agenda will be focused on creating quick wins by increasing economic opportunities and reigning in spending.

Premier-elect Ford and his transition team will be quick to will open the books and look for efficiencies. The question remains for you and your organization is how to influence the new dynamic at Queens Park. How does your organization maintain presence and focus with a narrow economic agenda? What will Ford and his government’s relationship with Ottawa look like and how can your organization benefit from that?  Give us a call, we can help.

Get American Investors’ Attention!

As a start-up founder or CEO in Asia, you are thinking about business growth in the biggest market in the world, the United States. To expand to the US you need the right investors. Most people think their only option is Silicon Valley. The fact is the US has many cities that are friendly to start-ups and also have investors. To get investors’ attention you need to think and talk like a them. In the US you get one chance to pitch a VC that you can’t waste. Nate Habermeyer has worked with large and small technology companies helping them create a brand and media coverage to help them achieve their business objectives. Nate will be presenting brand strategies for Asian start-ups to use to get noticed by investors and reporters in the US and Canada.

창업자 또는 CEO로서 세계 최대 시장 인 미국에서 비즈니스 성장에 대해 생각하고 있습니다. 미국으로 확대하려면 올바른 투자자가 필요합니다. 대부분의 사람들은 그들의 유일한 선택이 실리콘 밸리라고 생각합니다. 사실, 미국에는 신생 기업에 친숙하고 투자자가 많은 도시가 많이 있습니다. 투자자의 관심을 끌기 위해서는 그들과 같이 생각하고 이야기해야합니다. 미국에서는 낭비 할 수없는 VC를 던질 기회가 하나 있습니다. 네이트 하버 마이어 (Nate Habermeyer)는 대기업 및 중소 기술 회사와 협력하여 비즈니스 목표를 달성하는 데 도움이되는 브랜드 및 언론 보도 자료를 작성하도록 지원했습니다. Nate는 미국과 캐나다의 투자자와 기자가 주목할 아시아 스타트 업을위한 브랜드 전략을 발표 할 예정입니다.

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HOWE&WYE Helps Unlock Northern BC’s Post-Secondary Education Potential

The result of nearly a year’s work had HOWE&WYE leading stakeholder consultation and engagement as well as the development of the overall strategy and project management with the myriad vendors involved in the project. Aside from generating growth for the institutions, the campaign will promote and dispel myths about living, learning and loving Northern BC. The campaign elements included brand strategy, creative execution, multinational media buy, social media execution, website development and media relations, as well as broad stakeholder communication. 

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Do you have a strategy?

HOWE&WYE is often brought in to help evaluate how the current execution is aligned with business objectives.  Far too often we see organizations that get buried in the busy work of communications but fail to take a step back to align resources, expectations and objectives. In our practice, we often encounter organizations that have no strategy, they simply keep busy with the work of being busy. The book ends of success in our view are strategy and measurement, and far too often we see firms languishing without either.

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Municipal Government Communications

A communications plan is the backbone of any government. It doesn’t matter if it’s the Government of Canada or a small municipality, the need for an effective communications plan can’t be overstated, especially during a crisis.  It sounds simple and straight forward, but without a plan the process of communicating in the midst of a crisis can often be paralyzing.     

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SKYPE INTERVIEWS

Media interviews can be a critical vehicle to get your messaging out. It has become quite common for the media to use Skype and other technologies to perform interviews. Skype can provide a stable and positive platform for interviews, provided you keep a few things in mind.

CHIN UP AND KEEP IT CLEAN
The best results often occur when the camera you are using is elevated and you look up into the camera. Place your laptop on a stack of books to get the camera at eye-level or even a bit higher for a more flattering angle. Your surroundings are equally important. Set up a clean background with the best lighting you can manage. We recommend you avoid noisy, chaotic public spaces such as coffee shops.  

PRACTICE
Skype your mom or your buddy in Grand Rapids. Make a few test calls well before your interview to make sure your setup is working properly. Ask them how you sound, what it looks like and if they can see you clearly, etc.

KNOW WHAT TO SAY
You're being asked to provide comment because your an expert or have some unique knowledge, so we recommend you know what youre going to say in advance. If you’re acting as a spokesperson and need key messages or specific facts, tape them securely to the monitor or beside the camera for reference. However don’t read them verbatim.   

EYE CONTACT IS KEY
It’s hard to do an interview staring at your computer. And while it can be awkward to stare at your webcam, you will give a better interview if you do. Looking into the camera will make you seem all the more authentic and genuine. It will also ensure your eyes don’t stray to the video of yourself, or the email notifications or other distractions.

DRESS APPROPRIATELY
For those who work remotely or in a home office, or even for those who work in office environments that don’t maintain strict corporate dress codes, we always recommend you think about your interview similar to a job interview. Dress the part. Always good to keep a suit or change of clothes in the office for such an occasion.

USERNAMES
Think very carefully if you want that 10+ year-old username to be public.  If your handle resembles 1awesomedude, UnicornDreams85 or HarryPotter79, perhaps it’s time create a ‘business’ account. It’s ok for it to be your actual name or company name.

PLUG IN
No question, image is important and while it may look a bit goofy if you have one of those over the head, McDonald's drive-through configurations, what you say is as important as how you look. The purpose is for the audience to hear what you’re saying clearly.  The mic on your computer will likely pick up a lot of background noise and using a headset can help to mitigate that.

MINIMIZE DISTRACTION
To the point about coffee shops above, try and be in control of your environment. Tell your office colleagues not to burst into your office by sticking a sign on the door “INTERVIEW IN PROGRESS”. Turning off your phone or mute your ringer and any notifications on your computer. Silencing your phone. Closing your email, Facebook and anything else that may pop up during the interview.

USE THE LOO
One thing to remember, while interviews are relatively short, they are often delayed and don’t start on time. We recommend you ensure you’ve used the washroom before going live. Nothing like someone fidgeting through an interview.

RELAX
While this can be difficult, for the best of us, try your best to relax. You don’t want to come across as stiff, or over prepared, but comfortable. This can take some getting used to, and we recommend practicing and getting some professional media training as part of your own professional development.

And while we can all laugh at it now but recognize what happens in this video can happen to any of us. 

 

 

Advocacy and Engagement

By Cailey Murphy
Managing Director, Western Canada

I recently spoke on a communications panel at the Association for Mineral Exploration’s Roundup Conference in Vancouver.  Topics ranged from online presence to community engagement, public communications and crisis communications. I was there to speak about government relations and while, at first glance, the topic might seem to some a little out of place on a marketing and communications panel, there were no more important topics to be bookended by.  

Government relations is increasingly requiring proactive public awareness and community engagement building exercises alongside traditional dealings with policy and decision makers.  This is particularly true for resource industries.  In resource development there is a lot of talk about ‘social license’, a term which is often misunderstood, misconstrued or overused but refers, generally, to the level of acceptance or approval at the community level for resource development projects.  

We have heard the decades-long debate between the environment and the economy and, in Canada, parties on all sides of the political spectrum seem to be coalescing around consensus for a balanced approach.  The current federal government is using the following language around the need to “protect our environment, fight against climate change, and grow our economy.”  

These are certainly not new ideas, however, as the concept of social license and its role have evolved over the years and, as communities become more engaged and governments more responsive, we are seeing a general trend towards a demand for robust multi-stakeholder engagement.  

How has this manifested itself? I think if we look at the events leading up to the federal government’s pipeline plan, we can see this trend, at a high level, in action.

On November 8th, Prime Minister Trudeau came to Vancouver to re-open the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station.  During that same visit the PM announced a $1.5 billion Ocean Protection Plan which included the following tenets:

  • Create a world-leading marine safety system
  • Restore and protect our marine ecosystems
  • Strengthening partnerships with indigenous communities
  • Invest in evidence-based oil spill response methods

    Less than a month later (November 29), the government announced its pipeline plan which included the approval of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion Project, a rejection of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline Project application and a new Tanker Moratorium on the North Coast.

While these pieces were announced separately and in isolation of each other, they create a compelling case when viewed as part of a whole.  There is no doubt that there was a considerable amount of engagement, consultation and lobbying by parties on all sides in the lead up to both the Ocean Protection and Pipeline Plan and the outcome seems to indicate the government trending towards a holistic approach to policy development that takes into consideration a diversity of interests; they do not just want to engage with proponents or opponents, but seek to hear from broad multi-stakeholder groups, weigh the challenges and balance the interests.

So, what does this all signal?  You need to have a total plan.  You need to know all sides of an issue and your plan must be responsive.  No, you are not going to please everyone, but you have to demonstrate that you have taken the concerns raised into consideration and your plan must address them with a balanced approach.

We have seen this approach in action in BC for a number of years.  An example is the Code Review, the government led review of the Health, Safety and Reclamation Code for Mines.  In this case the BC government brought together representatives from industry, labour and First Nations to provide input in the review process - bringing all parties to the table on the best way forward.

What does this mean for you in the context of public relations and communications?  External communications can be an absolutely critical tool in government relations.  Ultimately governments are responsive to the public, to the voter, and the more you invest in public relations, the more you will help your cause.  If you can get public buy-in, you will have a much easier go of getting government buy-in.

As such, it means you should not and cannot just reach out to your allies, you must reach out to all interested stakeholder groups.  Not engaging is not an option and as governments turn to communities as a measure of the merits of a project, so too must industry increasingly engage with broad communities of interest.

International Relations

Steve Virtue
President & CEO

After a recent trip to the State of Zacatecas in Mexico, it is now abundantly clear just how the uncertainty and instability created in the United States has provided substantial motivation for national and state level governments to solidify and expand existing economic relationships and plenty of incentive to search out new global opportunities.

Mexico has benefited from billions of dollars in the auto sector investment due to its geographic proximity to the United States market. For several decades, this close relationship with the United States has provided beneficial trade relations. The depth of the relationship has provided Canada and the United States with access to strong production quality and the ability to leverage positive economics while Mexico has gained billions in social and physical infrastructure investments. In fact, prior to the 2016 US election, Mexican officials estimated the domestic automotive sector growth included the productive of more than five million light vehicles across 13 different auto-brands through more than 30 facilities by 2020.

Currently, more than 80% of the domestic production is intended for export given generous access not only to North and Latin American markets but growing demand in both Asia and Europe. My trip to Mexico demonstrated the eager interest of States such as Zacatecas for diverse growth, not only in the auto sector but in information technology, Aerospace, tier two manufacturing among many others. The resource economy remains a strong counter with mining and agribusiness remaining strong in the State as well.  

I witnessed first hand the massive facilities built by Nissan in neighbouring Aguascalientes. The complex was built in 2013 at a cost of roughly $2 Billion ($US) and created more than 9,000 direct and indirect jobs. This plant is nearly 6.5 million square feet of state of the art production facility. The Aguascalientes complex is just one of 3 that Nissan has in Mexico and typical of the kind of investments auto manufacturers have been making in Mexico since the mid-1990’s. Every major automaker has a substantial manufacturing and assembly presence, including the North American ‘Big 3’. However, this level of production has caused very public concern north of the Rio Grande.

President Trump’s protectionist policy framework has proposed that all import vehicles would be levied with stiff tariffs is meeting with substantial resistance, and not just from Mexico. Former US auto executives are helping to spell out what this would mean for the US economy, and the results would appear to contradict Mr. Trump’s intentions. A CBC report highlighted how Mr. Trump's threat to "wall off the import of Mexican-made cars with a 35 per cent tariff would be a disaster for the U.S. auto industry, according to Marina Whitman, a former vice-president of General Motors".   The report goes on to note that 40 per cent of the parts that go into cars built in the U.S. come from Mexico.  

Mr. Trump’s ongoing rhetoric of dismantling NAFTA remain a concern for both Canadian and Mexican officials. Trump recently noted that he has “very serious” concerns about NAFTA, stating that the agreement has been “a catastrophe for our workers and our jobs and our companies”. However, the Michigan-based Center for Automotive Research(CAR), concluded that dismantling NAFTA could cost more than 31,000 jobs in the US. Mr. Trump’s rather undisciplined approach to floating trial balloons on public policy are creating far more chaos than value.

The ongoing discussions about destabilizing of existing agreements in North America, and the potential for further dilution of the EU with several key elections this year in Europe, has created intense concern about the existing economic world order. At the national and state levels, progressive leaders such as those in Zacatecas are developing new strategies and approaches to developing progressive economic development and searching out new partnerships. Zacatecas continues its progressive approach to economic development, looking for diversification across a variety of sectors. In the face of this uncertainty, progressive leaders continue to pursue economic security and long-term development by building new relationships. 

HOWE&WYE PUT TO THE TEST; DELIVER STUNNING VICTORY

Public Relations is a competitive business and the media landscape is shrinking.  Early in 2016, HOWE&WYE secured the win in an RFP to communicate Chile’s economic interests, particularly in the mining industry in Canada during the PDAC Convention in March 2016. Winning the RFP was only the first in a series of victories for HOWE&WYE.

 “Our competitive analysis demonstrated that the results we achieved for Chile propelled their voice dramatically above their competition, in this case two other countries competing for mindshare and voice,” says Steve Virtue. HOWE&WYE research indicated the evidence was compelling and overwhelmingly in Chile’s favour with a stunning ratio of 38 to 1 in terms of impressions over the closest competitor.

Total impressions of earned media coverage for Chile exceeded 35.8 million. Part of HOWE&WYE’s analysis of the execution, we compared our coverage for Chile against the two other country sponsors at PDAC 2016: Peru and Ecuador. Both countries used PR firms. Peru earned 1.4 million impressions, Ecuador earned 700,000.  Read the case study...

HOWE&WYE EXPANDED SERVICES

HOWE&WYE is pleased to announce the expansion of strategic service offerings. New services include strategic counsel in the development of communications and public affairs strategy, deep program or overall communications audits, management consulting specific to team, budget and performance management.  "We expanded these services after an audit of what our clients were really asking for," says Steve Virtue, president and co-founder. “In today’s market there is a heavy emphasis on value for money, and we play a very objective role in evaluating operations and providing thorough analysis of an organization’s performance relative to their business objectives,” he added.   

 

HOWE&WYE’s deep leadership experience has been valuable to associations, non-profits and startups, who rely on the firm’s breadth of practice knowledge gained from a variety of industries and sectors to provide expert counsel on communications and public affairs best practices. “The most important thing for clients is to ensure they are generating a substantial return on their communications investments,” says Virtue. "Our clients have come to appreciate the deep expertise we have and rely on us to ensure alignment and that expectations are being met.

 

Market conditions and uncertainty having a lot of organizations, regardless of size, looking inward to evaluate their operations,” says Virtue. “Given our deep expertise, we play a valuable role for organization’s looking to improve and gain a competitive advantage by maximizing their efficiency.” HOWE&WYE’s senior team brings more than 50 years of leadership experience and practical expertise to the table.