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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Corporate Canada to the Rescue

Just yesterday, I posted that Stephen Harper is no strategic genius; I stand by that.  There's genius in this, but I don't think it was all Harper, or even all intentional.  And as with everything the Harper Conservatives do, there will be unintended consequences that bite them in the ass.

First - Bronwen Evans is right.  Corporate Canada should be out there supporting our military.  The reason it's safe for them to do business other than munitions is because we have a semi-thriving democracy - that's in no small part due to the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform.

It's in the Private Sector's best strategic interests to support our military.  A bit of advertizing on the side makes them feel good, like they're getting their money's worth.  I have no problem with that, so long as there are no pushy sales tactics being deployed against the vets and their families at the same time.

If I were to hear that Air Canada or VIA followed up with sales letters to these families ("we looked after you, now you should be using us exclusively") I'd be pretty pissed and hope you'd be, too.

Canada's a bit behind on the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) game, so that's not impossible.  If you look beyond our borders, though, you'll see that smart companies are recognizing that doing good for good's sake is strong enough advertizing in and of itself.

Two of my favourite:

Companies like Apple have recognized that supporting Gay Marriage actually helps build brand loyalty  
NASCAR Nation has recognized the community-building value of supporting a social cause, like environmental sustainability.

We're seeing more of this kind of thing in fits and spurts across the board - Open Data initiatives that are designed to inform and engage the public, changes to labour practices that empower and better support employees, angel investment of money but, even more importantly, time and expertise to help boost good-concept Not For Profits that lack the resources to organize or outreach properly.

In short, we're seeing the Private Sector step up in fits and spurts at a time when Government funding for Not For Profits is dwindling.

This is Score 1 for the Conservatives - they dislike government and prefer the private sector anyway.  

They'd love to see a minimalist government strictly focused on policy, with implementation being done by other parties.

But here's where it gets interesting.

While the Harper Tories are all about promoting traditional Conservative values (tough competition at the front-end of labour, with would-be employees needing to aggressively market themselves to employees, no social services so people are forced to up their game, minimal environmental protections so as no to impede maximum profit through maximum extraction), the Private Sector is moving in the other direction.

And NASCAR Nation is all about climate change and how to green our communities.  The Corporate Sector is picking up where government leaves off, but not in the way I think the political right intended.

Outside of the industries the Harper Government prefers, like the Alberta Oil machine, we're seeing, dare I say it, more centrist and even socialist approaches to engagement from the very people the Conservatives hope will carry forth their message.

There's no surprise in this - a changing economy requires a new approach and businesses that are looking past the four-year election cycle really have no choice but to consider the impacts of less oil, poverty or climate change on their operations.

So in a way, Team Harper are getting what they want - government does less, the Private Sector does more, even if it comes with sponsorship opportunities attached.

Should the Private Sector start looking more to the Centre for their own best practices, however, I can only say this - Team Harper shoulda seen that coming.

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