Businesses, associations and public sector entities can strengthen their government affairs strategies by aligning them with the governing mandate cycle.
Provincial political parties start to send signals about their approach to governing well before taking office.
Here’s how to take advantage:
There are five stages that each government passes through as they develop a mandate and execute decisions.
5 Stages in the Election Mandate Cycle
1. Election Campaign
Election campaigns are the starting point of government mandates. Campaigns are where parties make specific platform commitments and send signals about their approach to governing.
Parties make specific commitments in two ways: public election commitments and via written or oral communication to certain stakeholder groups. These pre-vote commitments are aimed at securing votes in order to win the election and are only a slice of a complete governing mandate. Commitments span the spectrum from specific (e.g. proposed Greenbelt amendments, allocation of HST revenue) to the general (reviewing the Construction Lien Act).
Party leaders can send signals by managing and responding to emerging issues and crises during the campaign. The most prominent recent example of this was the different approaches Barack Obama and John McCain took in responding to the 2008 financial crisis. Obama showed a sense of calm that reassured voters he was ready for the job while McCain’s urgent actions (including a request to postpone a Presidential debate) fed into the notion that McCain may not be the best leader in uncertain economic times.
2. Mandate Development
After election victory the governing party gets to work by selecting a transition team to help set up the machinery of government, as well as Executive and Legislative governance oversight, to help them deliver on their agenda. In a minority government, this will include negotiations with other parties to ensure that the government can move forward with an agenda.
Concurrent with the development of these structures, the leader will select a cabinet and develop mandate letters for each member of Cabinet. The mandate letters will include key platform commitments, along with other initiatives that the Premier, their advisors and the respective Ministers deem essential to achieve over the course of the term in government. In the case of a minority government, these letters would likely include key priorities of one of the Opposition parties as well as a letter between the Premier and the Opposition Leader.
Mandate letters focus and prioritize the government as ministries adjust to a new mandate and shifting objectives. These letters may also telegraph the government’s renewed thinking on issues after the election, given that the politicians are less compelled to directly appeal to voters at this stage. Ideas that are not included in mandate letters can still move forward, but they are usually of secondary importance unless outside factors (media, social or economic changes, cabinet shuffles) emerge.
3. General Government
On top of elected government priorities outlined in mandate letters, governments handle a host of general issues that come to decision points for a variety of factors. Contract renewals, labour negotiations, media and opposition pressure are all causes for government to undertake decisions that can affect business. New technologies can put long standing processes into the limelight as government considers what to do with legacy capital and HR resources in the digital age. Back bench Members of Parliament can also move agendas by introducing Private Member Bills that can become law with the support of the government.
4. Mandate Shrink
As the next election appears on the horizon governments look to finalize the commitments in their mandate letters and manage general government initiatives more closely.
Files that cannot be completed before the election or files that would cause the government challenges if finalized are given convenient reasons to be decided upon after the election.
5. Election Prep
Along with managing down the active files that government has to deal with, the government will also turn towards shaping an agenda for the upcoming election campaign. While campaigns matter, sitting governments have the resources and access to information to provide an impactful head start against opposing parties in the election campaign.