© Diane Crocker
Bill Hickey addresses a Greater Corner Brook Board of Trade luncheon at the Greenwood Inn and Suites on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013.
CORNER BROOK — Government public policy decisions and their implementation play a role in every part of our lives, so it comes as no surprise to Bill Hickey that people want to have input into those processes.
“I think that society has become more complex and there’s more, perhaps, direct influence of policy decision on our lives and as that gets broader people feel that they want to have more input on those decisions that get made and on their implementation,” said Hickey.
President of Tamarack Enterprises Inc., Hickey spoke about “Public Policy and Decision Making: Stakeholder Engagement” during a Greater Corner Brook Board of Trade luncheon at the Greenwood Inn and Suites on Tuesday.
He said one of the key factors in stakeholder consultation is that the interest level tends to be driven by stakeholders who see themselves as being directly and immediately impacted by what’s about to be decided.
“It’s one of these things that you have to feel some impetus to be involved on that particular issue,” he said.
As an example, Hickey said a school closure is an impetus that will get people out, whereas a change in government policy on mining more than likely won’t.
Hickey said there are stakeholder groups that are well established and that regularly comment on public policy and there are others that “happen like that” in that their formation is driven by an issue.
“What may cause them to make the transformation from a quiet observer to an active stakeholder is very difficult to predict, but when they actually do and when they do so in large numbers, decision makers usually take notice,” he said.
Just as there is more interest from the public, Hickey said there is also a growing response by government to provide venues for stakeholders to have that input into public policy making such as the pre-budget consultation sessions that are now a regular part of the budgetary process.
Hickey said stakeholder consultation can take place through formal and informal processes.
The formal, most likely public consultations, are usually structured events where comments are presented in an orderly fashion and views noted. Generally a proposal has been presented and comments are generated around that, though it could be a more open process where this is no proposed solution, but rather a discussion on an issue.
Hickey said informal contact can be difficult to quantify as stakeholders use various opportunities and mediums to provide information and comment on a wide variety of matters. It could involve a discussion with a political official or use of the media and social media.
Most often, Hickey said the informal consultation is driven by the implementation of the policy once people see how it may impact them.
“It’s important, however, to realize and recognize this stakeholder consultation process is not designed to give stakeholders the decision making role.” Hickey said the decision making is still ultimately left to people elected to do so.