Nelson Quarry engages sophisticatred teams of lobbyists - the community has yet to react to what any aggregate expansion will do to them.

background graphic greenBy Pepper Parr

August 9th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

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The top block in orange is the current quarry – the smaller orange block is where they want to expand. In 2014 their application was denied. Nelson has come back with a different approach.

The good people of North Burlington, those from ward 3 in particular, met last night at the Conservation Halton offices to hear what their ward Councillor, Rory Nisan, could tell them about the plans Nelson Quarry has for the quarry that is close to mined out.

In a separate new story, the Gazette reports on what took place at a meeting that was basically Standing Room only event

While the Nelson Quarry people have yet to make an application – and thus there isn’t much the city can react to – the company has been active. They have a web site in place with a lot of pretty drawings and a considerable amount of detail on what they plan to do.

They have engaged two lobbying firms that are amongst the best in the business, to help in creating the story they want to be in the public’s mind as this project works its way forward.

Project Advocacy Inc. is Canada’s only public affairs firm that specializes in supporting project developers facing community opposition and government challenges.

Here is what they do: They take an innovative approach based on citizen advocacy.

“We use grassroots strategies combined with government and stakeholder relations to earn and maintain the social licence required for a project’s success. “

“We help developers find, organize and give voice to otherwise silent supporters of your project in host communities.

“Our sophisticated campaign strategies help identify local citizens supportive of your proposal and help organize them into an effective political force. They sign petitions. They show up at public hearings, and they act as local advocates for your project.

“This approach, paired with government and stakeholder relations, has proven key to getting large developments approved in Canada’s increasingly challenging licensing and regulatory environment.

“Whether it is an energy and infrastructure project, a mine, or a commercial real estate proposal, Project Advocacy Inc. will build an effective advocacy program that will counter NIMBY opposition and drive support for your project among local citizens, elected leaders, government officials and the media.”

Project Advocacy had their man in the room last night.

Motivated and sophisticated best describes the Project Advocacy group. They are supported by colleagues who are just as good at a slightly different level. Barry Campbell, founder of Campbell Strategies sets out the role that lobbyists play.

Pay attention to what this man has to say – he is very good at what he does. He was once elected to Parliament and has practiced law with two of the major firms on Bay Street.

Barry Campbell

Barry Campbell, founder of Campbell Strategies

“At Campbell Strategies, we have two types of clients”, explains Campbell: “those who have issues they need resolved. And, those who have opportunities they need realized. Despite this difference, there remains a constant between them. The need for wise counsel from people who understand their unique situations. Completely.

“As a bonus, our clients find themselves working with a team of government relations and communications professionals who are not only highly experienced, but without the hyperbole and self-importance that – in our industry – so often comes with it.

“We’re connected, of course. But it’s deeper than that.

“We treat our network of government, media, and regulatory leaders as relationships, not just connections. Our reputation is based on the right ask, at the right time, of the right people, with the right message.

“You’ll get no bullshit from us, and we’ll deliver none to our network
Campbell explains: “Lobbying at its best is vital to the flow of information and ideas. It bridges a significant gap between the public sector and the private sector and can lead to more informed public policy decisions and better corporate decision making.

“Lobbying is often attacked by the left as a way for powerful voices to “have their way with government”. Lately, the attack is coming from the right where libertarian voices have suggested that if government would only get out of the way (read deregulate everything), companies wouldn’t need to lobby anyone for favours. Both attacks are predictable and wrongheaded.

“There are many examples where information provided to officials seeking to regulate this or that has resulted in more effective regulation. Without lobbying, officials and elected officials would only know what they knew when they got to the office and I would suggest that is very often not enough of a baseline for serious decisions. That’s why officials consult and take meetings.

“When I was an MP, some wondered why I would ever meet with lobbyists. The answer was self-evident. If I never met anyone, I wouldn’t know anything other than what I already knew, which often wasn’t enough to help me understand complex issues. The strict lobby registration rules in Canada which require registration of most interactions with important public officials and provide a public record of same, are a pretty good check on what some worry about. The strict constraints and low permitted financial contribution rules are another check on the influence many worry about.

“And lobbying can be a public good or accomplish much public good.

Tandia

Tandia, an area credit union can now offer service that are basically the same as a bank. They lobbied to get the changes.

“Lobbying can result in better and appropriately targeted tax or regulatory policy that achieves important public policy goals while removing the risk of collateral damage. A public policy goal to eliminate a practice believed to be adversely impacting consumers, such as pay day lending, might initially paint too broad a brush ensnare legitimate players who want to play by a coherent set of rules that don’t blow up their business model. Lobbying by credit unions resulted in changes to the Bank Act so that credit unions could expand nationally and provide more competition at the retail level. Lobbying by financial institutions and emerging ‘fintechs’ will shape a better financial services sector offering the choice that consumers want.

“As officials think about public policy and ready recommendations to “take to the Minister”, they are informed by the consultations with and entreaties by corporate and other stakeholders. That is a good thing.

“I have been a “lobbyist” for two decades and have never had a meeting with a Minister where he or she made a decision, then and there, to do something just because I asked. And I would never have that meeting (and it usually isn’t even ever required) without working first with the relevant departmental officials to do the tough slogging respectful of the job officials have to do to provide their bosses with the best and most informed advice.

“I know, and the best lobbyists know, that effective lobbying isn’t about setting up a meeting with someone important. That the easy part. Effective lobbying requires the right ask, at the right time to the right audience. It is research based and considers how the ask can dovetail with the government’s priorities by solving a problem or making my client’s problem a problem government comes to understand they need to solve because by doing so they will accomplish a goal they have.

“The problem can’t ever be putting relevant and contextual information in front of officials and decision makers. What they do with that information is their responsibility. To constrain the flow of information, between the public sector and the private sector and to close the door on that vital exchange will isolate public policy decision makers and inevitably lead to poorer decisions.”

Beach 1

Nelson has released drawings of what they maintain the quarry could look like if turned into a park.

This is what the people of North Burlington are up against. These are smart people who have been engaged by clients with a problem. Nelson Quarry needs the aggregate – it is there right underneath the surface and they believe they can convince the public that giving them access to that aggregate in exchange for parkland will work.

During the Thursday evening meeting there were a number of people who stood to speak – were they speaking for themselves or representing the interests of the lobbyist?

The first attempt by Nelson Quarry to get access to more aggregate failed. It started in 2004 and ended with a decision in 2012 that denied their application.

PEARL, a community organization formed to fight the application has basically disbanded. They fought the good fight and won. They are tired, they raised and spent a lot of money. The City of Burlington spent more than $2 million in legal fees.

But in the end the public will prevailed.

It will be a tougher fight this time around.

Background links:

Nelson quarry opens the park project web site.

The PERL web site

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