George Mallay says Sarnia and Lambton County need to spend more time wooing federal and provincial politicians.
The general manager of Sarnia Lambton Economic Partnership recently convinced Lambton County to spend $75,000 to create a government relations strategy.
Mallay says it is increasingly becoming important to talk to decision makers to get funding and influence policies.
“The Chamber of Commerce is going to Queen’s Park, that happens every couple of years but it’s not on an ongoing basis. We meet with people from the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, but we don’t have a deliberate strategy.”
Mallay says SLEP wants to figure out what are the important issues the region has to pursue with the upper levels of government. “We want to be able to say these are the five important things for the next few years, now who is going to pursue it?”
And he says in the long-term, the region might want to hire someone to be the face of Sarnia-Lambton at Queen’s Park like other municipalities do.
“If you have a resource person dedicated to government relations, you’ll be getting more face time with government,” says Mallay. “You’ll be getting meetings you can’t get on your own and advice on how to pitch to government.”
Mallay says London and Ottawa both have representatives of the communities working full time in Toronto to lobby the government.
That active voice is becoming more important in tough economic times says Mallay. “We do the best we can (to get government help) but we can’t find everything. And what we do find is getting harder to get because the provincial government is not in a great financial state.”
County council will consider the request during budget deliberations March 18.
Mallay, who has a budget of just over $1 million, also asked for an additional $50,000 to update SLEPs website and $30,000 to help make the heavy haul corridor a reality.