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Profiling Excellence: Alain Madgin


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Partner | TACTIX

"Establishing trust between a client and the consultant is paramount, and this is so that we can develop an approach that is achievable and to the benefit of the parties involved."

Tell us about yourself.

I consider myself a generalist in terms of public affairs and government relations in Quebec. As far back as I can remember, I've always been interested in public affairs, even though my family wasn't involved or even that interested in politics. I remember sending letters (yes, real letters) to the embassies of countries I wanted to discover from a distance and receiving brochures in the mail about their different forms of government.

What is it like to lobby in Quebec?

The practice of lobbying in Quebec, while similar to that in Ottawa or elsewhere in the country, is distinct in several respects. First, there's one characteristic we all know: the French fact. It is necessary to address Quebec government authorities in French. This is all the more true since the CAQ (Coalition Avenir Québec) came to power in 2018. 

I can also confirm, after 33 years of practice in Quebec, that there is also a more negative perception of the private sector on the part of the public service in the province than anywhere else in the country. Major projects are often entrusted to public or quasi-government organizations, rather than to the private sector, despite the lack of expertise sometimes found in the public service. Another very important feature is the role played by unions in public life in Quebec. 

I would also venture to say that formal and informal networks are by nature more developed and stronger in Quebec. Interprovincial migration is much less prevalent in Quebec than elsewhere in the country.

Proud contribution?

I've had the good fortune to work on a wide variety of mandates over the past 33 years in Quebec. One mandate that comes to mind is regarding margarine colour. The UPA, Quebec's farmers' union, was pushing the government to maintain regulations so that the colour of margarine would be different from that of butter. Our client, a company involved in the manufacture of margarine, was trying to have the regulation on the differentiated colour of the product withdrawn in Quebec.  The goal was to achieve harmonized regulations across Canada. Since margarine is often produced in round plastic tubs and butter is distributed in aluminum foil, we would have thought that consumers would be able to tell the difference between the two types of products!

This is a perfect illustration of how even niche files conceal fascinating complexities, involving a variety of players, and carry considerable repercussions on public policy.

Hack for working in this post-COVID online environment?

At the start of the pandemic, people in the public service or in politics didn't always turn on their cameras during virtual meetings. As a standard practice, I regularly request that virtual meetings are conducted with all cameras on, so that we could at least see people's reactions on screen. On at least one occasion, I have even refused to take part in a meeting because the people we were talking to didn't have their cameras on. 

The human dimension is inseparable from our profession. Despite the distance imposed by screens, government relations remain fundamentally a matter of personal contact, where non-verbal communication is just as essential to relationship-building.

Wisdom for other practitioners?

Be patient and encourage clients to be patient also. Constantly pushing one level of government for a decision can sometimes do you a disservice. 

We also need to be able to explain how governments work to our clients who are less familiar with the government environment. As you know, the public and private sectors are so different that it sometimes helps to explain the differences. 

Finally, and most importantly, preserve your reputation - not only with clients, but also with our colleagues in the public sector. Building a positive reputation takes years, destroying it takes minutes.

If I weren’t working in GR I would …

I would probably practice law in private practice with the hope of being appointed as a judge!

Final thoughts to our community?

Let's continue our efforts to make our industry more equitable and diverse. When I began my career, we were all white men. Now, we can count on a great deal of diversity and, above all, a more egalitarian practice between men and women. In these respects, we still have work to do, but I think the will is there. At least on my side!

About TACTIX Government Relations & Public Affairs

For over 25 years, TACTIX has been a trusted advisor to prestigious Canadian and international companies. TACTIX offers unrivalled experience in resolving complex public affairs threats and opportunities.


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