Business, marketing and politics: Lobbying and elections

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Provincial leader Kathleen Wynne has won majority control for the Liberal Party

Shrill marketing techniques are magnified during election campaigns. The intense process, with attack ads, sometimes sneaky tricks, and layers of local and regional (and for national elections, country-wide) marketing overtake the day-to-day routines. This stuff consumes the attention of major industry associations and the business community, especially when the elections are fought over polarizing industry-specific issues.

We’ve just gone through an election in my home province in Ontario, Canada, where the left and right divide — and the implications for business interests and industry expectations — could not be seen in a starker light. In the end, what traditionally has been a centrist party — the Liberals — won a resounding return-to-office mandate with a majority government. (The Canadian, multi-party system, results in circumstances where a governing party can be knocked off by “gang ups” of the opposition parties. Of course, these conflicts also happen in the two-party U.S. model, with its more complex bicameral legislative structure.)

In Ontario,there were extensive debates about the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT), designed to create self-regulatory authority for the skilled trades, primarily in the construction industry. The Carpenters District Council of Ontario (CDCO) — the Carpenters Union — has been leading the charge for this new institution, in part because it has now started the process of reviewing compulsory certification for general carpentry, much like is generally required in most jurisdictions for the mechanical and electrical trades. Not surprisingly, non-union employers and associations dominated by these employers have been hostile to the idea, and have supported the Conservative opposition, which planned to abolish the OCOT.

The political marketing issues, of course, relate to power — and of course news media and publications such as ours have an important role in the process. We’ve tried to be neutral in our coverage of these matters. Perhaps, however, the Carpenters Union made a strategically wise decision in supporting some extensive advertising features in our Ontario publications. While we won’t sell out to the highest bidder, I’ll still practice good customer service — and that means our business will treat advertisers with respect. Nevertheless, while we republish news releases provided by the union, I’ve done my fair share of genuine investigative reporting, uncovering some of the hidden story behind the OCOT — to the point that some industry leaders quite to the right of the Carpenters Union have respected our coverage.

Obviously, the Ontario election only has regional relevance, but the same stories extend across the states and provinces (and federally) across Canada and the U.S. As political battles are won and lost, the industry adapts to different power structures and relationships. These affect business and ultimately marketing decisions.

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