It might be the peak of summer – when Canadians are all at the lake, the beach, the cottage or camping, and the engagement world is pretty quiet – but a national consultation on the future of Canada Post is heating up.
Official public hearings aren’t getting underway until September, but online engagement opportunities are open, and some MPs have already been holding public meetings. Search #CPReview2016 on Twitter for a quick snapshot of the conversation. Current options for providing input include answering the Question of the Week, or submitting general comments via email, fax or regular mail. Soon, you’ll be able to sign up to speak to the parliamentary committee, and an online survey is coming in September.
The government website on the review and consultation process gives a strong indication that public input will have a real impact on the ultimate decision. While that remains to be seen, it’s quite a different approach than what Canadians have seen in the past when it comes to decisions about our mail-delivery system.
Under the past federal government, it was a firm “Decide – Announce – Defend” approach. You could argue that even then, things were pretty light on the “defend” part. Decisions were made behind closed doors and announced. Despite significant public outcry, nothing was changed, and Canadians were not asked for their ideas, thoughts or input. Community mailboxes are clearly disliked by many Canadians, but the transition away from door-to-door delivery just kept right on going.
Cue the Liberals in damage-control mode. While we’ll likely never know to what degree the decisions about Canada Post had to do with the defeat of the Conservatives, a major campaign promise of the Liberals was to restore door-to-door mail service. While some have said, “Why not just get on with it, then?” we think it’s a more sustainable approach that no decisions will be made until Canadians have had a chance to weigh in.
Without asking, who can say what Canadians really want, or what other ideas are out there?
Here at Delaney + Associates, we talk a lot about “durable” decisions. These are solid, long-term, sustainable decisions that include the people who are affected by them.
When you engage stakeholders in a meaningful way before the decision is made, report back on what you heard, and genuinely work to incorporate their input into the decision, the outcome will be something that most people can live with.
There may not be cheering in the streets or lots of pats on the back, but there will be a decided lack of push-back and public outcry.
In the longer term, public involvement in such big decisions means there won’t have to be another long, angst-filled, public debate about the issue again next year, or the year after that. Engagement leads to sustainable decisions, which in the case of Canada Post will likely mean that mail delivery won’t be a hot election issue next time.
Engage meaningfully first, genuinely listen to what stakeholders have to say, and then decide. It’s a recipe for better relationships and more trust, only having to decide once, and a clear, long-term direction that has public support.