A failure to communicate

Two years ago, during my APR* oral exam, I was asked how I might counsel the Mayor of Toronto on a certain issue of the day. I replied that I did not practice public affairs, would probably suggest the Mayor call someone else, and then offered a few general principles that I thought might apply to the situation.

I’m going to do the same today.

First some background. Toronto City Council defeated (by one vote) two civic tax increases that Mayor David Miller believed would bring in some much needed revenue.

All of a sudden we’re in dire straits with the Mayor urging various departments to slash their budgets. Heck, he even said he’d have to put a hold on the $1 million+ reno to his office (tsk, tsk).

Suddenly there’s a looming crisis at the Toronto Transit Commission and the proclamation that the Sheppard subway, our new, underperforming line, might have to be shut down.

Now with everything we know about global warming, suggesting a subway line be shuttered (and by extension encouraging more cars on the road) seems like the exact wrong message to be sending out, regardless of our short-term financial situation.

Mr. Mayor, it sounds like you’re engaging in fear-mongering, with a touch of sour grapes thrown in for good measure.

I think what we have here is ‘a failure to communicate’.

So here’s a PR perspective that might help steer you back on track:
– Stop grumbling and start working toward a positive (re)solution.
– Initiate a dialogue with your opponents, share your point of view and listen to what they have to say. Bring them onside. This budget shortfall is not a partisan issue. It affects all of us.
– Engage your constituents, educate us, hear our voices, refine your ideas, win our support.
– Do the same with your other stakeholders (business, government agencies, unions, provincial and federal governments).
– Once you have this support and a viable plan, put it to a vote.
– Do it quickly (if indeed we are in a crisis).
– And please, curb the histrionics.

Pretty simple, really.

And if you want some cost-cutting ideas from this blogger, why don’t you start in your own backyard. Perhaps you could trim city workers (by attrition and retirement). Reduce the number of bureaucrats and, except for some union grumbling, I bet we wouldn’t even notice any change in the level of (civil) service.

*Accredited Public Relations designation. Disclosure: I’m the CPRS Toronto accreditation chair. If you’re interested in any information about the program, please contact me.


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