Faye Roberts, Scout Public Affairs

Faye Roberts, Scout Public Affairs

Last week, the Canadian Cancer Society did something for the first time in its 77-year history: It publicly called on Canada’s federal political parties to define their commitments to cancer care and research.

The timing was no accident. We are, after all, in what is called the pre-election phase, a time when political parties are actively meeting with businesses, consulting experts and taking feedback from constituents as they craft and refine their platforms for the Oct. 19 federal election.

Similar to the Olympics, a federal election comes around once every four years. This creates a unique opportunity for Canadians and Canadian business to influence how our country will be run for the next four years.

For a political party, a campaign platform is similar to a sports team’s playbook. It maps the party’s ‘plays,’ or in this case, policies that will underpin strategy and priorities during the campaign, and spells out the issues the party will address should it be voted into government.

The platform is like the ‘song sheet’ from which all members of a political party will sing.

Those in tune with politics will know this is the pre-season, when the playbooks (or platforms) are being ironed out and team lineups are being cemented.

Veteran politicians need to decide now if they are committed to another four years in office (either as the governing party or in Opposition, depending on feedback they get from the ‘judges’ – that’s us, the voters).

If members of the current team wait until the campaign has started to make that decision, they risk damaging their party’s efforts. That’s why now is the time when we see veteran politicians announcing retirements and a batch of rookies added to team rosters.

The election pre-season can feel a little bit like the NHL draft, in which all teams are vying to attract star members to give them the best chance of securing the most seats in Parliament. Everybody wants Sidney Crosby on their team.

If you’re an entrepreneur, the pre-election phase is a good time to look for opportunities to shape the parties’ platforms based on what’s important to your small or mid-sized business.

If you are passionate about a specific policy or issue, now is the time to get to know your local candidates and reach out to them to make your voice heard.

Your concern may already be on the radar of one or more of the parties. You may also learn that your issue hasn’t yet been raised by others, and needs to be voiced.

And don’t forget to find and rely on your ‘coaches.’ Friends and colleagues who are involved politically will be happy to provide perspective about the upcoming campaign.

Your company may also be a member of an organization like Communitech or the Chamber of Commerce. These groups provide a collective, non-partisan voice for Waterloo Region businesses with common interests and challenges. Learn what priority issues they are advocating for and how you can contribute to their efforts.

At a minimum, this pre-election season is a time to gain a baseline understanding of each party’s platform and where they plan to spend time and energy if elected.

There’s a reason the Cancer Society is speaking up right now – you don’t want to miss this once-in-four-years opportunity to speak up for your business.

Photo: Sierra Football @ CCSF-198 by Matt Folsom is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Politics Plug-in is a guest column that looks at the importance of political awareness for entrepreneurs in the lead-up to the Canadian federal election on Oct. 19, 2015.