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Lobbying and municipal relations: Proactive strategies to avoid going back to square one

Pedestrian stop signal

Municipal elections typically bring changes, some expected, others not. The elected officials who either did not run or were defeated step down, leaving their unfinished business to their successors—newcomers brimming with enthusiasm but who also have much to learn. The teams not only have to adjust to the new political configuration but to each other as well.

The adjustment not only concerns the municipal administration but all the stakeholders affected directly or indirectly by the city’s activities and the projects on its territory. For developers, organizations, lobbyists and citizens alike, the election results could have a major impact on their respective projects. Although they rarely have to go back to square one, their projects may have to be modified. So now that democracy has spoken, what’s next?

Here are some questions you should ask yourself in order to take the right actions in the weeks and months following the election:

Are you dealing with a new administration?

You should check whether the ruling party was re-elected. Depending on the answer to this question, you may have to adjust your approach. If the ruling party was re-elected, a reminder about the project’s main features is a good way to keep the dialogue going. If a new administration is in power, you might want to do some research on the new official’s past and recent positions in connection with your project or its theme. In order to make sure your relationship with the new administration gets off on the right foot, it might be a good idea to familiarize yourself with its election platform.

Is the elected official with whom you previously dealt still in their position?

In the case of a project in a specific district or borough, you should check whether the councillor was re-elected. If the elected official sat on the executive committee and your project was under its responsibility, you should wait until the composition of the executive committee is announced to see if you will still be dealing with the same person.

When will the new executive committee be announced?

This is the prerogative of the newly elected mayor. Usually, the appointments are announced about 10 days after the election to ensure continuity.

How do you contact the new councillors?

The day after the election, you can send congratulatory letters to the new councillors in which you can briefly mention your projects and ask to meet with them at their earliest convenience. How is the transition between the outgoing and incoming councillors carried out?

When the administration changes hands, the transition is not as automatic. Ideally, the incoming councillors keep the old files; however, since it is at their discretion to do so, it would be better for you to create and present a new file. This would give you with an opportunity to meet and make them aware of your needs.

Should you change your registration in the Registry of Lobbyists?

If the nature of your activities remains the same, you do not have to make any changes because your registration is associated with the institution or function and not an individual. As such, the activities in the registry are sent to a municipal councillor or mayor and not to Mr. X or Ms. Y. Regardless of the person in office, your registration in the Registry of Lobbyists does not have to be changed unless you want to change the nature of your activities.

Remember that you are not the only one who is pondering these matters and who will be taking these steps. At the start of a new four-year mandate, the new municipal teams will have to deal with many projects, handle countless requests, and adopt a variety of policies, programs and by-laws. It is therefore imperative that you make sure they know you and that you state your interests, goals and needs in accordance with the law, beginning with registration in the Registry of Lobbyists. This step creates a sound, respectful and legitimate foundation on which to build a constructive relationship and have your projects evaluated.

As Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.” That’s why after an election, everyone should take action, be proactive, be a stakeholder and have a clear understanding of the situation. Because elected officials, their teams and public service representatives are all essential partners, it is important that the new mandate begins in a spirit of openness and respect.

You want your voice to be heard in the corridors of municipal power? NATIONAL can get you there. Contact our public affairs and government relations experts to learn more.