From defence to offence: Posture change needed in the COVID-19 fight

It’s amazing where conversations with really smart people will lead.

A few weeks back, our president, Chris, spoke with Dr. Paul Lem, a microbiologist by training who is also CEO of a company called Spartan Bioscience.

Dr. Lem was leading a corporate pivot to mass-produce mini-test kits that can give COVID-19 results in minutes, not days (which is what it takes to get results from traditional – polymerase chain reaction, or PCR – test labs).

That conversation led to a number of others and some reflections on Chris’ own time at senior levels of federal and municipal governments.

And that eventually led to this column published today in the National Post.

If you and your organization are doing something to assist in the fight against COVID-19, we would love to hear it about it and get it the attention (and possibly funding) your efforts deserve.

Going on the offence in the face of this generational challenge is a whole lot more satisfying that sitting back and taking what comes.

And, you never know where the conversation will lead.

Parliament, politics + pandemic

Canadians awoke this morning to news that their Parliament worked as their Parliament should – in their interests.

An all-party political deal reached overnight allowed for expedited passage of a COVID-related stimulus package through the House of Commons. The Senate considered it during the morning and by 1:30 this afternoon it had received royal assent.

In extraordinary times, an extraordinarily swift agreement. And an extraordinarily rare showing of unanimity (a rather large speed bump in the road, aside).

The legislation contains an array of measures for individuals and businesses.

The government is pledging to get cheques to those who need the support most within days.

It is also promising more to come, including support for businesses who are willing to shift their operations to COVID-19 cure and prevention efforts.

Ontario’s provincial government has made similar pledges. And today, as the federal government celebrated passage of its stimulus package, the Doug Ford government unveiled an economic and fiscal update that included COVID-combatting measures of its own.

Making the most of these stimulus programs (and the opportunities of this extraordinary time) requires swift action and smart pivots by organizational leaders – regardless of sector.

We’ve got your back.

We’ll help you navigate the patchwork of programs, craft a plan unique to you, and implement it brilliantly.

Advocacy, strategy, marketing-communications solutions. And that’s just to start.

These are, indeed, extraordinary times. They call for extraordinary measures on the part of leaders everywhere.

Take your first step by getting in touch today.

COVID Crisis: We’ve got your back

It’s remarkable how the world has changed in a matter of a few weeks.

The COVID-19 pandemic has sent the world into a panic.

Health systems that were already overworked and on the edge have struggled to cope with the rapid spread of cases from China’s Wubei province outward.

The World Health Organization’s pandemic declaration has prompted border closures, quarantine / self-isolation measures, and states of emergency.

Measures to encourage ‘social isolation’ have shuttered businesses, schools, and public spaces.

World markets, which hate uncertainty, acted predictably and erased trillions in wealth.

Millions of layoffs have hit household budgets – leaving the perennially vulnerable and precarious even more so.

Tens of thousands of families have lost loved ones.

And, since there is no vaccine yet, there is no end in sight.

It has all seemed very bleak, indeed.

But public health officials and governments here in Canada have, so far, performed generally well.

Municipalities, provinces, and the federal government have unveiled a wide range of temporary support measures, grace periods, and stimulus packages to help individuals and businesses survive the current crisis – with more to come.

A federal stimulus package (roughly 3% of the national GDP) is the most generous so far. And even it is being characterized as a first step.

What comes next is still very much up in the air.

That’s where we come in.

If you or your organization are feeling the pinch or have been hit by COVID-uncertainty and you have a way a government – any government – could make your life easier, let’s discuss how to make your case most effectively to whom.

If it’s not government, but another entity entirely…we can help there, too.

That’s what our targeted and tailored advocacy is all about.

It’s about figuring out what you need to succeed – in good times and bad – and helping you find success, however you define it.

We’re like water to rock: we’ll find a way through.

So get in touch for a free consultation today.

Everyone counting on you as an organizational leader will thank you for it.

The world is your oyster : We’ve got your back

By far the #1 reason our president, Chris, loves to travel is for the learning.

Seeing first-hand where and how people live/work/play. Getting close-up to what is important to them. Tasting daily life — challenges and all. That’s the power of travel done right.

Working with embassies also provides great learning opportunities – for us and for our clients. It’s a chance to build bridges, to find solutions and mutual benefit, to make a difference, and to create value in new and interesting ways. That’s the power of advocacy done right.

Ottawa is home to more than 125 foreign missions – just one of the great attributes of being a G-7 capital.

If you have business or potential opportunity abroad, chances are good we can find you people here who can help. You just need to know how to go about it. That’s where we come in.

Recently, we were honoured to be invited a national day event by contacts at the embassy of the Dominican Republic to Canada.

We had done some work on behalf of a client who is doing some amazing things in that country, and will soon employ 800 people there (while providing education and health benefits for employees’ families).

They were having a slight issue getting a permit. We helped them resolve that. That’s what we do.

But the key to going further and doing more is in building relationships. And that’s why being invited to the national day event was so meaningful.

It was an opportunity to meet the ambassador for the first time, other embassy staff, and people from Canada’s diplomatic service who are responsible for further strengthening relations with that country.

The conversations we had were very enlightening, and may allow us – and our client – to do even more, sooner and more smoothly than would otherwise be possible.

Long story short, there was value in deepening the relationships with people in that room.

Our approach, our advocacy will help get things done.

We can help you and your organization do something similar – in a way that is unique to you.

Let’s discuss what that could mean. Get in touch today.

The world is your oyster. We’ve got your back.

Teck talk: Reading between the lines of a CEO’s letter + finding opportunity

It was a Sunday shocker to be sure.

After nearly 10 years of effort to make the proposed Frontier oil sands project a reality, Canadian resources firm Teck announced suddenly it was taking its application for federal approval off the table.

A lot has changed since the application was first submitted.

The company’s application was adapted to keep pace with market realities and to secure buy-in from governments, Indigenous communities, and others.

But, in recent months, the project had also become a lightning rod of sorts.

For some environmental activists and others, it was a line in the sand that, if crossed, would have spelled political trouble for Justin Trudeau’s minority Liberals.

Several members of the Liberal caucus were reportedly pushing hard for Cabinet to kill the project as a final regulatory deadline loomed and as cross-country rail blockades continued.

Teck moved first saying, pointedly, “we are not merely shying away from controversy… It is our hope that withdrawing from the process will allow Canadians to shift to a larger and more positive discussion about the path forward.”

In essence: ‘forget the 7,000 jobs, the billions in revenues for public services, the world-leading technology we were ready to put in place to make Frontier one of the cleanest projects of its kind, *AND* the myriad benefits for Indigenous communities. You guys talk it out, and get back to us.’

The Teck twist is the latest in a national conversation that has been taking place for decades.

How best to reap the benefits of Canada’s resource riches while also preparing for the economy of the future?

This was, in fact, as good a project as any to prove to the world that Canada was a good place to invest capital into resource development.

It could also have provided tangible benefits to Indigenous communities and public funds to incentivize economic activities that will be key to Canada’s future prosperity.

Teck’s decision is the result of 40-year thinking. (It can wait.)

Governments – and especially minority governments – are often challenged to think beyond horizons one-tenth that long.

But the issue of sustainable economic growth and using our resources for maximum good should compel deep reflection from all thoughtful Canadians.

We clearly haven’t got it right yet. And if we don’t get there soon, it may be too late. There are only so many Tecks, and very few will be so willing to wait for us to sort ourselves out.

We love working with organizations that are engaged in big thinks and purpose-driven discussions. If you and your organization want to change Canada or the world for the better, we would love to work with you to make it happen. Get in touch today.

Navigating the politics of Canada’s rail blockades

With protesting blocking major Canadian rail arteries now entering their third week, pressure is mounting for a solution.

Despite restarting service on some routes yesterday, VIA Rail temporarily laid off 1,000 of its employees.

Those lay-offs are on top of the 450 announced by CN earlier this week.

Job losses and other economic costs mount by the day as the protests idle $425 million worth of manufactured goods.

Provincial premiers are pressing the federal government for action.

And frustrations threaten to boil over into vigilanteism as everyday Canadians, too, begin to say enough is enough.

The federal government has pleaded for patience as it has tried to find a way forward.

Earlier this week, the Prime Minister convened a meeting of so-called progressive opposition party leaders to ask them to support his approach and continued “dialogue.”

But with pressure mounting and polls showing a majority of voters opposed to the blockades, the government may be forced to change course.

One thing is clear: the politics of the blockades are as volatile as the situation itself.

The government is seeking a solution that maintains its tenuous electoral coalition and preserves its fledgling Parliamentary minority.

The opposition Conservatives, embroiled in a leadership race, have (rightly) called the blockades illegal and urged decisive action, without offering very many concrete ideas about ‘action’ actually means and what happens longer-term.

The Conservatives are virtually isolated as the Bloc Québecois, the NDP and the Greens have all essentially endorsed the government’s approach for now.

But with looming shortages of propane (used for heating and cooking) and chlorine (used to treat drinking water) threatening to impact people and communities across the countries, that support could easily shift.

All of this underscores the very fluid nature of Parliament Hill politics on matters critical to the national interest.

For now, it’s rail (and related issues surrounding the environment, economy, and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples). It will surely be another issue once this situation is resolved. Will you be ready?

When politics and public policy collide, effective advocacy becomes more critical than ever. We can help you and your organization navigate through the most challenging of public affairs environments.

We’ve got your back to stay on track and moving forward. Get in touch today.

In a leadership vacuum, speak up + seize the narrative

That it should come to this…

That’s the headline to which Canadians awoke this past Saturday morning.

Granted, the National Post is not a fan of Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, at the best of times.

But Trudeau has had a particularly rough few weeks (and, at times, he hasn’t helped his own cause).

Since emerging from his Christmas vacation in early January, Trudeau has been tested by a series of major incidents and events, domestic and international:

The rail blockades – in particular – are more than an issues management challenge for the Trudeau government. They are potentially an existential threat.

They involve matters of indigenous relations, rights, and governance – self-declared priorities for the reconciliation-minded Trudeau Liberals.

They test the notion that the government – any government – can balance economy and the environment while keeping everyone happy.

The people behind them and those impacted by them are voters Trudeau needs to keep as part of his tenuous electoral coalition.

All of this makes the Prime Minister’s handling of the protests even more curious.

For the first week of the rail crisis, Trudeau was travelling in Africa and Europe trying to shore up support for Canada’s bid for a temporary seat on the United Nations’ Security Council. (The election in question is in June.)

As Canadians’ frustrations over interrupted travel plans and idled goods mounted by the day, they were treated to an endless stream of photo ops and funding pledges by Trudeau – half a world away.

(Clearly stung by criticism over his handling of affairs, Trudeau cancelled a planned lobby trip to the Caribbean this week to stay home and attend to the rail crisis.)

Smart and savvy leaders of industry groups and professional associations whose members were most affected by the rail impasse took their message directly to the media (hungry for fresh angles on the blockades) and the public (frustrated by perceived government inaction).

The best of these spokespeople seized the narrative, and drove it to their own ends. Their members and stakeholders were well served.

At Winston Wilmont, we can help you navigate volatile situations like the one still unfolding along Canada’s rail lines.

We craft messages that will get noticed, prepare you for media interviews and stakeholder calls, plot out social campaigns, and help you advocate effectively on behalf of those counting on you.

In short, when it’s vitally important that you been seen and heard, we’ve got your back. Get in touch today.

#CdnAgDay and ag-vocacy

Canada’s farmers and agri-food producers feed cities and people around the world.

Beyond their vital contributions to Canada’s economy, their work also contributes to Canadians’ well-being.

Despite all that, though, Canada’s farm families have had a very rough couple of years.

Trade disputes, bad weather last season, and other factors have led to real hardship on several fronts.

Winston Wilmont knows this because we are proud to have worked with several associations and organizations involved in getting Canada’s top-quality agriculture and agrifood products to the world.

Now that House committees are struck, policies surrounding and programs supporting agriculture and agri-trade can again be advocated and studied.

Now is also the time to make the case for specific assistance in the upcoming federal budget.

If you have a case to be made to federal decision-makers, we would love to work with you. When it comes to ag-vocacy, we’ve got your back.

And when if comes to farmers, agri-food producers, and their families, we give thanks every day of the year.

The business of committees

The Hill is buzzing with activity this week.

House of Commons committee membership lists are being finalized, and Chairs and Vice-Chairs being elected!

(Pause for reaction)


(Wait, are you actually *yawning?*)

Okay, granted, this may seem like particularly process-nerdy, North-of-the-Queensway, inside baseball stuff.

Like, OMG, what does that have to do with Canadians’ daily lives?

Committee business is, in fact, incredibly important. And, in minority Parliaments like good ol’ #43 (the current one, Canada’s 43rd), committees’ work is even more important.

That’s because the government of the day doesn’t have dominance of committee processes it once did. (Gone, too, is the control. Ahem – LavScam.)

Committees study departmental spending, legislation, and other issues related to their mandate – in much greater detail than is possible in the House itself.

They produce reports that go to the House, and can – in a minority setting – force the government’s hand.

Some committees are already working on:

  • the new NAFTA pact (International Trade);
  • the coronavirus (Health);
  • and pre-budget consultations (Finance).

Given the results of last November’s election, each Commons committee will have 12 members. Most will have 6 Liberal MPs, 4 Conservative MPs, and one member each from the Bloc Québecois and the NDP.

But four oversight committees will be Opposition-controlled; the government will have fewer members than the Opposition parties. And those could get very interesting, hyper-political, and even nasty. (How quickly may influence the timing of the next election. À suivre.)

Regardless, for organizations large and small, minority parliaments can spell opportunity.

The opposition has more power; the government needs to secure support from at least one other party to get things done (and survive votes of confidence).

Parliamentarians of all stripes will be looking to advance ideas and policies that have broad support.

Committee agendas can be influenced differently.

Meetings and advocacy take on greater importance.

Understanding nuance, procedure, and (small- vs. large-p) political positioning is critical.

That’s where we can help.

If your organization and field of work is on a committee’s radar, let’s chat.

We can help you navigate the process, decide how and where best to pull the levers of power, prep you for big meetings and appearances, and ensure you make the most of the limelight.

That, after all, is the business of committee business. It’s how things get done. And if they catch you yawning, someone else is always right behind you to make the most of their opportunity moment.

We’ve got your back. Get in touch today.

World Cancer Day

World Cancer Day 2020 reflections from Winston Wilmont’s Chris Day

February 4 is World Cancer Day – a day for awareness, education, action about a disease that still claims more than 9.6 million lives worldwide each year.

That’s the entire population of Belarus. Every single person living in Bogota or Seoul.

And that doesn’t include the millions more people fighting brave fights against cancer each year.

My stepfather is one of the people in the latter group.

He was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer (mesothelioma) in 2016. Since then, he, my mother, and our entire family have been on quite a journey. He’s had some amazing care and is doing well at the moment. He is one of the very lucky ones.

We are very lucky.

Millions upon millions of families are perhaps not as fortunate. Their cancer journeys may have had comparatively few ups, and many more, deeper downs. Cancer takes way too many people much more quickly and without dignity.

So far, that has not been our journey. So far. So we are thankful.

A global campaign to mark World Cancer Day bills it as a positive movement.

That may seem odd to some. But when you consider the progress made, and stories like my stepfather’s, and every family gathering we still get with him because diagnosis, treatment, after-care, and monitoring are all much better than they used to be… there is reason for optimism.

Cancer tests optimism, to be sure.

Even the best cancer journeys have very dark moments.

But, collectively, we are making progress.

Over the years, I have met some incredibly brilliant and amazingly dedicated people moving the cancer yardsticks forward – on research, on treatment, in other areas, too. On this and every day, I salute their work and their results.

They are among the reasons I LOVE working with health-care organizations.

The best of these orgs have people at the centre of everything they do. They work tirelessly and daily to make a positive difference and to make progress on the big issues that matter.

When we talk about working with organizations that are purpose-driven, there is no purpose higher than the betterment of the human condition.

Today, and every day, we salute those working toward a cancer-free future.