SARM has worked with the government relations and public affairs firm of Hill & Knowlton since 2000. We have found the services of Hill & Knowlton to be very useful, particularly in terms of building relationships with key federal ministers and departmental officials. Hill and Knowlton’s consultants know the key people in Ottawa; they have well-established relationships with all political parties in Ottawa. They also work with the public service (bureaucrats) because this is where many policies originate and are developed.
The efforts of the lobbyist enable SARM to defend the interests of its members when engaging the federal government by:
Providing Strategic Advice
H & K advise the SARM directors on who they should be approaching on issues (eg. ministers, bureaucrats, standing committee members, other MPs, etc.), what the timing should be, and any procedural considerations. As residents of Saskatchewan, we generally think the first point of contact in Ottawa on an issue is the department immediately responsible for that issue. Hill & Knowlton recommend other departments and people that should be contacted. The broader the base of support for an issue in Ottawa, the better the chance it has of getting action.
Arranging Meetings In Ottawa
When SARM goes to Ottawa, SARM gives H & K a list of issues that are to be dealt with on the trip and then H & K makes the arrangements for most of the meetings. This enables SARM to maximize its time in Ottawa meeting with pertinent people. They have arranged for meetings with MPs, departmental officials, and bureaucrats.
H &K lets us know about issues that we should be aware of and who we could work with on those issues. The types of information they provide include upcoming issues, pending legislation, intelligence gathering and general happenings on the Hill. They are also able to get information, such as briefs, transcripts and national news releases, SARM might otherwise not be able to access.
Raising SARM’s Profile in Ottawa
This will continue to be an important activity for the lobbyist. In Saskatchewan, the provincial government knows who SARM is, what it stands for, and how it operates. This is not the case on the national political scene. The objective is to get the federal government and its officials to the point where they contact SARM on issues, rather than the reverse. We have seen results in this area, particularly with the Departments of Finance, Fisheries and Oceans and Agriculture.
It is important that, after SARM reps leave Ottawa, the lobbyist is still there to do the necessary follow-up. They also follow-up on SARM federal correspondence.
How We Communicate
H & K provides the Board of Directors with an update at every board meeting. They report on a list of issues they monitor on an on-going basis, as well as any other information requested by SARM, or information they feel SARM should know about.
Between board meetings H & K keeps SARM up-to-date via phone calls and e-mails with staff. SARM can also contact H & K any time. SARM realizes that the benefits of retaining a lobbyist are not always easy to measure, particularly in the short term. However, SARM feels that it is definitely beneficial to its members over the longer term and continues to be a valuable program for the association.