PHOTOS: Lobbyists head out to provide “strategic counsel” to Alberta’s new NDP government. Can you spot the recently hired New Democrats among them? No? Well, neither can I. Actual Alberta lobbyists may not appear exactly as illustrated. Below: Former CLC president Ken Georgetti, former B.C. NDP party president and cabinet minister Moe Sihota, and former Alberta NDP campaign press secretary Sally Housser (Twitter profile picture).

The morning after the May 5 Alberta provincial election, the proprietors of a number of successful lobbying and political strategy firms awoke to the horrifying knowledge they hardly knew any New Democrats, let alone any NDPers who were likely to have any influence over Alberta’s new majority government.

Now some of them are starting to take measures to try to fix that serious deficiency.

On Friday, while I was enjoying a break from the sunny Prairie weather in cold and rainy Halifax, Hal Danchilla’s Canadian Strategy Group sent out a press release saying it had eased its paucity of NDP types by persuading Ken Georgetti, the former president of the Canadian Labour Congress, and Moe Sihota, a former B.C. NDP cabinet minister and party president, to swell its ranks as “strategic counsel.”

To those unfamiliar with the argot of lobbying, strategic counsel are lobbyists, or slightly less politely, schmoozers with an agenda. No matter what anyone tells you, they are paid – and often paid very well – for their connections.

Canadian Strategy Group was one of the companies mentioned in this space a few days after the election that’s done very well from its rich connections with the nearly 44-year-old Tory dynasty defeated on May 5 by Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s New Democrats, and which up to then not seen much need to hire a lobbyist with Dipper connections.

So as Mr. Danchilla, the principal (which in lobbyese means “the boss”) and founder of Canadian Strategy Group, put it: “Ken and Moe bring to our firm a new dimension not found in other Western Canadian government relations firms” – i.e., known New Democrats with names that actually sound familiar.

“In addition to assisting our existing clients,” he went on in his news release, “they enhance our offering to social organizations, the not-for-profit sector, environmental organizations and trade unions.”

I guess that means the company will be looking for what’s known as “new opportunities” in the business world. Now, unions, environmental organizations and civil society groups tend to do this stuff through boots on the ground provided by committed volunteers – and a lot of them are pretty good at it. Indeed, their skills are a big part of why the Alberta NDP won the election on May 5. But what the heck? Maybe there’ll be a new market if enough of such groups’ leaders sign up to work for the political level of the Alberta government. Then again, maybe not.

Whatever happens to CSG’s hopes, Messrs. Georgetti and Sihota are not without supporters and detractors alike in progressive circles, or controversies in their personal histories.

Mr. Sihota stepped down as B.C. NDP party president in the fall of 2013, the day after party leader Adrian Dix voluntarily walked the plank. Both had been harshly criticized for the campaign that led to the NDP’s unexpected defeat by Premier Christie Clark’s Liberals on May 14, 2013. Mr. Georgetti was defeated after 15 years at the helm of the CLC by Hassan Yussuff a year later in May 2014.

Another company mentioned in this space as long relying on its PC connections for success, Navigator Ltd., has recently hired Sally Housser as Senior Consultant in Edmonton. Ms. Housser was Ms. Notley’s press secretary through the election campaign.

As reported by author Dave Cournoyer and picked up without credit by other media, Impact Consulting, run by former premier Ed Stelmach’s chief of staff, hired former NDP caucus communications director Brooks Merritt to provide an orange tinge to its business.

Daveberta also reported that former NDP MLA Leo Piquette went into business with two former Wildrose MLAs, Guy Boutilier and Shayne Saskiw, in a lobbying venture called Alberta Counsel. Mr. Piquette is the father of newly elected Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater MLA Colin Piquette, and Mr. Saskiw is the husband of Shannon Stubbs, Conservative candidate for the Lakeland riding in the next federal election.

As noted previously in this space, one of the oddities of the PC dynasty that ran Alberta for 43 years, seven months and 25 days until Ms. Notley was elected as premier on May 5, was that it actively discouraged professional and amateur lobbyists alike from even talking to opposition parties.

Amateurs not tied into the PC Establishment could cause themselves a lot of grief by not being aware of this reality. Professionals knew better and happily ignored the Opposition, especially the New Democrats.

Canadian Strategy Group, according to Mr. Danchilla, offers among its services “strategic planning through a changing environment.” So you could say the present change in Alberta offers them an opportunity to demonstrate the quality of their strategic planning through a changing environment.

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  1. David,

    Thank-you for shedding some light on this murky area of provincial and federal politics (creeps into municipal too I guess) that has such an impact on procurement, PR, and god knows what else.
    Ol, PM Harper has him some real smarty strategies guys too. How is that working out?
    For those who think the path to progressive success is by *mirror benchmarking* “strategies” Harperists and Liberals, you may find out the hard way that bumper stickers and slick PR is not selling the way it used too. I am really, really sick of it.
    And no, I do not think it is good for politics to mash all the PR up together and sell it to either business or government.
    Sorry, if that is your business, think of another way to use your talent – Really.

    Pretty sure, I am not alone in this opinion.

    OK RANT OVER FFS WTHYTYA from a little Canadian Movie – Hard Core Logo

  2. Neither of these two people knows anyone in the Alberta NDP government. And nobody in the Alberta government has any interest in talking to either of them.

  3. I agree with everything you wrote. Plus I like the Headstones, but I digress.
    On the face of it, networking and using relationships to facilitate progress to consensus or even a personal agenda can be an admirable pursuit. The problem is the old opportunistic “quid pro quo” when that is combined with end justifies the means grease to the skids. Politicians should be well aware by now that there are no friends who try to influence. Period. Family be damned. Period.

    Rant ends here ffs. Heh.

    1. Pogo,

      Boy, I sure was Leranting there.

      How many times will I drink the hopy-changy Kool Aid. (Obama) (Federally)

      Agreed that it is fair enough for folks make a living our system, go for it.

      We are going to need a directory, with links to keep track of all the variations of PR and “strategies” companies and who owns them. (On-line j

      I have a few working titles that are questionable taste to post here. So here is working title acronym D.W.Z.W. “the Directory of Who is *ZOOMING* Who” – Canadian Edition. If you are related to politico, mandarin or appointee your name will be in PURPLE hypertext.

      Chillin, all rant anger dissipating. Love to all.

      1. Now besides the 2 named above I will try and name (without the google machine) all of the “Strategies” companies that I can remember:
        $ Hill & Knowlton – cough cough
        $ Crestview – Hi Rob & Chad
        $ Navigatior – How much does pcaa owe them? or How much does some one owe Albertans
        $ Summa Strategies NDP/Tory
        $Ken Boessencool thing formerly KOOLTOPPGUY
        $ Alberta Counsel see Article above
        $ Canadian Straegies Group
        $ Media Styles
        $ Blue Sky Strategies/Communication
        $ The Stephen Carter he has a company see The Strategists podcast on iTunes)
        $ The many small technical polling companies. @BFSingh is no slouch
        There are many more. Maybe we can name more, people could read the biographies of the owners and staff of these “Strategies” companies and especially read what they pitch to sell to private industry or in some cases foreign clients.

        They often infer that they have special access to power because of their past political or civil service assignments.

        Yes all of that is for sale, just like this whole island has been for many

        Then we get to see all of these ” Strategists” on the radio, TV, Twitter, Facebook everyday trying to get us to eat pablum about political horse races and how a communications gaffe should have been handled. It is kind of a make work project in a way.

        Who has more names?

  4. With the mainstream parties all gravitating towards the mushy middle it’s not surprising to see all these lobbyists are “crossing the floor.” Thumbing thru the bios posted on the websites of these various lobbying firms it was heartwarming to see how many have liberal arts degrees.

    Futurists keep telling us that robots on the factory floor are going to displace large portions of the workforce. What is this unused pool of labor going to do? (idle hands are the devil’s playground). One possible answer is there will be a boom in lobbying work. All these consulting firms hired by giant corporations are going to need plenty of bodies to get in front of cameras, telling us how wonderful this brave new world is.

    To make a long story short. Thinking about getting a liberal arts education but hesitating because everyone keeps telling you its practically worthless. Fear not.

    1. RonMac,

      Now there is a bright side to this. Yes, everyone possible do get a Liberal Arts degree. You never know where exactly you will end up. Creative writing and communications skills will help immensely. As a matter of fact, one of my best managers was a U of L liberal arts major. He worked for Bill Gates for awhile, then ended up doing project management and continuous improvement in printing production. Get that degree, top it up with other skills later if you need to. I wish I had a do-over. I could be sitting right there at a major Canadian “strategies”/PR/communications group this morning, cooking up spin for the end of fossil fuels production in 85 years per the G7 communication sighed by the Canadian Prime Minister June 8, 2015. (2100). But instead to improve my life skills for that event, I am taking wifey to see ROAD WARRIORS. Oil & Gas guys: “We’re here for

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