Vice-President, Communications and Advocacy
The Conference for Advanced Life Underwriting
Government relations should be thought of as a multidisciplinary field with connections to areas including policy, communications, stakeholder relations and even management more broadly.
Why government relations?
I’ve taken a keen interest in matters of politics and policy since my teenage years. This subsequently led to a pretty simple life plan: move to the epicentre of federal politics – Ottawa – get a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Carleton, get a job in the federal public service, and live happily ever after.
However, the Program Review budget cuts of the mid 1990s ultimately forced me to seek employment elsewhere. Before long, I found a job doing policy work for an association. The rest, as they say, is history. Even after three decades, I am still as passionate as ever about my career in government relations.
Describe a contribution in the field which you are particularly proud of.
I am proud to be a GR professional who brings experience from a very broad range of organizational, industry and issue perspectives. While I never worked on the Hill, I feel I made up for this lack of direct political experience by having learned about that world by osmosis – much like journalists and other political experts have done.
Complete this sentence. A best practice in government relations is...
Build your professional network. Get to know people from different organizations, professional backgrounds, demographics and general walks of life – and remember to look beyond your network as needed. Ask for help to grow your network and support those who are trying to grow theirs through yours. You’ll be surprised at the opportunities that can arise from those networks – even many years later.
Is there any wisdom you would like to share to other professionals ambitious to assume a leadership position in this sector?
Government relations should be thought of as a field suitable for people from different backgrounds – far beyond the popular view that it is primarily for those from the world of partisan politics. It should also be thought of as a multi-disciplinary field with connections to areas including policy, communications, stakeholder relations and even management more broadly.
How have you seen the profession evolve?
I think it’s become more challenging for GR professionals to engage with Parliamentary and government officials over the past few decades. This due to the introduction of a string of various measures including, among others, more stringent post-employment restrictions for former politicians and other public office holders, stricter registration and code of conduct requirements for lobbyists, the virtual elimination of interchange opportunities between government and the private sector, and even the imposition of public health measures due to COVID. While some of these measures may have been necessary – and even beneficial in some cases – their cumulative effect has been to reduce the dialogue between government and political representatives and the government relations community.
How do you see it evolving into the future?
I hope to see continued growth in academic programs to train individuals for the world of government relations – whether public policy and administration, political management or others – and more professional development opportunities for current practitioners.
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SHAUGHN MCARTHUR Associate Director of Government Relations | Nature United I'm guided by a single question: “Where can I have the most impact on the issues that excite me...