The Feedback Is In!

We polled participants from our October 2015 “Refresh your Government Relations” Seminar, and the feedback was so positive we thought we would share it with you.

Each of the speakers – three panellist and the key note, scored at least a 4 star rating, and the facilitator was rated 4.5 stars out of five.

Participants really enjoyed the real life examples and the seminar was called; “insightful”, “interesting”, “credible”, “thoughtful”, “encouraging”, “informative” and perhaps most importantly, “comfortable.”

Thank you to everyone who participated in our exit poll, we look forward to seeing everyone at our next seminar, Successful Government Relations on April 8th 2016.

CAS Advocacy on Drug Shortages seen as a “Text Book Example” of effective ethical government relations.

On February 10th, 2015, in Vancouver, BC, after more than five years of consistent advocacy from the Canadian Anesthesiologists’ Society, Federal Minister of Health Rona Ambrose announced a new federal policy affecting Canada’s drug supply.  From now on, it will be mandatory for pharmaceutical manufacturers to immediately inform government and the public of any events that may jeopardize Canadian drug supplies.

The Canadian Anesthesiologists’ Society was invited to attend that announcement in recognition of the fact that, since 2011,CAS Advocacy has been one of the main drivers, first putting the risk of drug shortages on the political agenda in Canada and then, with the February 10th announcement, achieving a giant first step towards true drug security for the Canadian health care system.

Leonard Domino has been a government relations professional in Ontario for more than 20 years, and he argues that the CAS’ five-plus years of work on the drug shortage file ranks as a “text book example” of the way government relations should work.

“Start with the issue itself.  The risk of drug shortages affects everyone in Canada, and no one was better placed to identify the problem than the anesthesiologists.  It was never a pocket book issue for them – it was all in the public interest.

“They used their scientific authority to raise the issue and explain it to political decision makers.  They reached out to any potential partners they could find, including other members of the medical profession.  They were persistent, and they were consistent:  during the years the CAS was pursuing this goal, the Society’s executive changed, membership changed, but their message was consistent.

“And they reasoned with the people they were talking to.  There were no political games.  They put the case clearly and authoritatively – and respectfully.  Both the political and the bureaucratic parts of the governments they talked to saw the CASas sincere, expert potential partners in solving the problem.

“The CAS has every right to be proud of what they’ve already achieved with this piece of advocacy.”

Leonard Domino says that, if the CAS persists with the same kind of positive, persistent and ethical advocacy that’s marked the last five years, there’s every reason to believe they will continue to influence government.



By: Dr Douglas DuVal, FRCPC


CAS received a call from the office of the Minister of Health on February 5 that we (CAS) were invited to be present and to speak at an announcement on the mandatory reporting of drug shortages, scheduled for February 10 in Vancouver. CAS President, Dr. Susan O’Leary, asked whether I would be able to go, and I was honoured to do so.

At approximately 9:00 a.m., the Minister made her announcement, followed by the other speakers, including British Columbia Minister of Health, Terry Lake, myself, and Suzanne Nurse, PhD, Chair, Canadian Epilepsy Alliance Drug Shortages Committee. Also in attendance was Dr Sukh Brar, President, British Columbia Anesthesiologists’ Society, who is well acquainted and on very cordial terms with Minister Lake.

Looking back, I note that CAS’ involvement in initiatives leading toward this important legislation really started with former CAS President, Dr Richard Chisholm expressing in a January 2011 letter to the Federal Minister of Health concerns about CAS members’ reports of shortages of propofol and reductions in the supply of Sodium Thiopental. As a result, it then became evident that Health Canada was lacking in ability to monitor and manage drug availabilities.

Just over a year later, the Sandoz manufacturing disruptions affected dozens of critical medications and triggered a very real crisis in Canada’s drug supply. On March 29, 2012, Dr Chisholm appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health (via video conference from Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he was attending the World Congress of Anaesthesiologists!) and gave a powerful address which included the statement that “we need a requirement for industry to tell about events that might disrupt the drug supply and an acceptance by government of a requirement to ask, to monitor, and make sure.”

On February 7, 2014, then President, Dr Patricia Houston, made a presentation on the problem of drug shortages to the Specialist Forum of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA). This presentation had an impact, and led to the creation by the CMA Board of Directors of a Drug Shortages Working Group in June 2014. When Dr Houston became CAS Past President, I “inherited” the drug shortages “file” and was committed to doing what I could to maintain its momentum.

As it happens, I reside in Minister Ambrose’s Edmonton-Spruce Grove constituency. I was fortunate to be able to arrange a one-on-one meeting with her on August 20, 2014 through the CMA MD-MP contact program ( As was reported about this meeting in the last issue of Anesthesia News (, Minister Ambrose mentioned at the time that consultations about a mandatory reporting requirement for drug shortages had already wrapped up, and she anticipated that the requirement would be forthcoming.

We have made great progress. Mandatory reporting of anticipated drug supply disruptions is an important step, but we intend to continue to advocate directly and also through the CMA for processes that will be helpful in minimizing the impact of such supply disruptions when they occur. Specifically, we would like to see a process established whereby Health Canada, in the face of anticipated shortages of essential drugs in the domestic marketplace, may “fast-track” the approval and importation of alternative equivalent drugs that are being safely used in other jurisdictions. This could perhaps be accomplished through a broadening of the parameters under which the existing Health Canada “Special Access Program”1; is permitted to be invoked, or through a new and distinct process.”

1The Special Access Programme (SAP) provides access to non-marketed drugs for practitioners treating patients with serious or life-threatening conditions when conventional therapies have failed, are unsuitable, or unavailable. The SAP authorizes a manufacturer to sell a drug that cannot otherwise be sold or distributed in Canada. Drugs considered for release by the SAP include pharmaceutical, biologic, and radio-pharmaceutical products not approved for sale in Canada.





“Leadership” commonly has wide-ranging definitions. Broadly, the dictionary defines it as “to lead a group of people or organization” but really it doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all definition.

The fact is that the definition of “leadership” varies as it is a complex concept.

In the CAS context, I believe that our leadership means we are organizationally proactive and responsive in serving our members’ needs and supporting the important work they do every day in all aspects of their patient care.

Most recently, two important “successes” underscore CAS’ leadership on the national stage – Health Minister Rona Ambrose’s recent announcement about the federal government’s actions regarding drug shortages, and the Choosing Wisely Canada campaign to promote discussion between physicians and patients.


CAS Advocacy Efforts on Drug Shortages Yields Government Action

On February 10, 2015, Health Minister Rona Ambrose announced that the federal government is moving to make it mandatory for pharmaceutical manufacturers to notify government and the public of threats that could lead to shortages of essential drugs. Dr Douglas DuVal, Vice-President, represented CAS at this announcement, which is the culmination of CAS’ unwavering advocacy efforts over five years.

CAS’ leadership role in this initiative is particularly important because drug shortages significantly impact patient care and therefore have a broad public interest component. We were advocating on a national stage and we achieved results.

I would like to acknowledge the dedication and leadership shown by Drs Richard Chisholm, Patricia Houston and Douglas DuVal, and all of the other committed volunteers who – each in their own way – keenly demonstrated that their collaborative styles of leadership reaped significant benefits.


Choosing Wisely Canada

For several months, CAS members have been hearing about the Choosing Wisely Canada campaign and surveys have now been distributed to members.

In fact, this campaign is an excellent opportunity to take a leadership role. It is aimed at helping physicians and patients engage in conversations about unnecessary tests, treatments and procedures, and supporting physician efforts to help patients make smart and effective choices to improve the quality of their care. With the considerable media attention on patients’ rights and expectations, CAS’ involvement in this campaign is in the interests of both our members and our patients.


Looking Ahead

I am very proud of our efforts as a Society and look forward to embracing other initiatives that will require us to take action.

What’s also important now is to mark your calendar for June 19-22 in Ottawa for the CAS Annual Meeting!  On the scientific program is interesting and leading-edge thinking focused on the brain and anesthesia. On the social side, there will be plenty of “fun” activities. Many CAS volunteers are already working hard to deliver an outstanding 2015 Annual Meeting. Please register early!


Dr Susan O’Leary, FRCPC




Len Domino


Len Domino says he had learned a lot in the 29 years since he opened Leonard Domino & Associates to provide what he thought of then as “a different kind of government relations service”, but he also says he’s convinced that the basic idea he started with is even truer today.

“When I went into the government relations business, I believed – based on my own years of experience in politics and government – that most people inside government sincerely want to make things better, and they’re constantly looking for partners who will help them make that happen.

“We’re able to help our clients succeed because when we approach government, we’re trying to build partnerships, too.

“That’s what government relations should be all about. It’s not about asking for favors or special treatment. It’s not about pressure; it’s not about political threats or inducements.

“Successful government relations today is all about partnerships and coalition-building.”

Domino says the advice he gives his clients reflects the fact that he has been on both sides of the government relations table. In his late teens, Len had two hobbies – playing football and managing political campaigns. The football accounts for the bad knees that still slow him down on some days; the political experience helped him to build an understanding of and respect for the people who run for office to help improve their communities.

Before starting Leonard Domino & Associates, Len was one of the youngest people ever elected to the Manitoba Legislative Assembly (in 1977). He served as a senior policy and political aide to Senior Ministers in Ontario during the early 1980s. And he was retained by governments in Saskatchewan and Ottawa to manage consultative processes aiming to tap community opinion about health services and government programs to support the family farm.

“That was like government relations in reverse,” he says. “The people inside government were concerned they weren’t hearing clearly from health service users and farm families. So the governments reached out: it was another search for partners to make things better.”

“It may take longer to build a partnership than it does to plan a press conference attacking the government. But usually, the partnership works a lot better – for everyone involved.”

That’s the message Leonard Domino and Associates take to clients, and that consistent approach has helped earn the trust of people in government.

“The people inside government know our clients aren’t going to be trying to ‘pull strings’ or score cheap debating points. They know we’re genuinely interested in building partnerships and long term relationships. So we usually get a hearing – and that’s an opportunity to learn more about what the people inside government are trying to achieve as well as informing the government about our clients’ goals and concerns.”

“There are skills to government relations – and we try to teach our clients those skills.”

Obviously, Leonard Domino believes that government relations firms can provide real value to organizations: that’s the business Leonard Domino & Associates is in. But Domino believes one of the most valuable services his firm provides involves helping clients build their own understanding of how to deal effectively with governments.

“The more my clients understand about the needs and priorities and motivations of the people inside government, the easier it is for us to help them develop realistic long-term strategies for government relations.” That’s what led Domino to develop the series of seminars and workshops on government relations he holds regularly in Ontario and across Canada.

“Sometimes coming to our seminar convinces an organization to retain our services going forward. Sometimes, it just helps the people inside the organization to develop their own approaches to government relations. Either way – we think these learning experiences provide real client value”.

“No question about it: sometimes you have to take the gloves off. That’s fair enough as long as you’re realistic about the risks and costs of getting into open fights with governments.”

Domino has no hesitation in admitting that – sometimes – organizations have no choice but to go public to try to pressure government into paying realistic attention to issues. But he stresses two things: the first is that this kind of open fight with government should be a last resort; the second is that – when it’s necessary to get into a public conflict with government over an issue – it’s critical to keep the conflict about the issue and not descend into personal attacks or start acting like an opposition political party.

“You can always get into a fight with the government – so don’t rush. Take the time to learn about the government’s motivation and look for opportunities to have a partnership instead of a public conflict.”

“And when you believe you have no choice but to fight with the government, try to keep the argument about the issues and about the public interest.”

“If you attack people personally, you’ll get headlines for a day or two. But the government people you’ve maligned will remember your insults for a much a longer time. And the media who give you those headlines will very quickly mark you down as hotheads: being rude will get you a few headlines; it won’t earn you any long term respect – from the press or the public.”

Len is proud of the fact that – when his clients “go public” to pressure the government, they behave “politely and professionally”. When the Grain and Oilseed Producers of Ontario held a major demonstration at Queen’s Park, we made sure the government people know when we’d coming and what message we’d be carrying. There was no effort to ambush or embarrass the government. And our members even did a thorough clean-up of the area when our demonstration was over. Oh – and the demonstration worked and we ended up with a pretty good partnership with the government.”

What is Len Domino proudest about after 20 years in the government relations business?

“I’m proud of the fact that our clients – working as partners with governments – have helped governments do a better job of serving the public interest.”

Domino admits that some people will suggest his approach is naïve. But he says there’s one very important group who will agree with this message 100%: the people inside government – on both the political and the bureaucratic sides of government.

“I’ve been on the government side and I’ve been in politics. There’s a lot of competition. Partisan politics can be a rough sport.

“But at the end of the day, the people in politics and government are committed to making things better. That’s the same thing our clients are committed to. And after 20 years in the business that still sounds to me like the basis for partnership.”


Darwin Kealey


Darwin Kealey’s track record in Government, politics, communications/government relations and the voluntary sector spans more than 30 years in Ontario. In that time, he has gained an unparalleled understanding of all aspects of the workings of government, and of government’s relationships across the society.

Kealey has worked as personal staff for Ministers and other political leaders. He’s been a senior member of the bureaucracy – serving as Assistant Deputy Minister in both the Ontario and Federal Governments. He has served as President and CEO of a major national strategic communications firm. And he has a deep and personal understanding of the situation of those who work to influence government decisions from his years in the leadership of the Cancer Advocacy Coalition of Canada and the Business and Economic Roundtable on Mental Health and Addictions.

Kealey brings detailed understanding of the workings of the Provincial Legislature, hard-won experience in political campaigns, policy development and organization, a seasoned familiarity with the way bureaucracies really work – and a sense of how hard and how important it is to communicate effectively with governments.

A partial list of Darwin’s previous experience would include:

Staff Positions – served as Chief of Staff to the Leader of the Official Opposition

Party Executive Member – played a key role in the development and implementation of the Party’s grass-roots policy development process

Bureaucratic Experience – served at the Assistant Deputy Minister level in both the Government of Canada and Ontario Government

Private Sector Leader and Innovator – served as President and CEO of a major national strategic communications firm

Darwin Kealey has always believed that governments can be most effective when they are able to build open and positive relationships across the community and that’s a belief he shares with Leonard Domino. Their collaboration in efforts to help organizations develop effective strategies to deal with the reality of a Minority Government Ontario is a natural extension of shared values and a working relationship that goes back 20 years and more.

It’s a collaboration marked by respect for the processes and the people who make up government in Ontario and Canada, and a deep confidence that – by communicating clearly and honestly – organizations can help government do a better job of serving the community.

About Political Fundraisers – Part. 2

Question 5:  “Should we just give money to every politician we admire or agree with?”

Answer:  “That might be nice, but who can afford it?  So – we advise identifying a few relationships you really want to build, and use your contributions for that purpose alone.” 

You have limited time, money and other resources available to support political fundraising. Where´s the best place to invest those limited assets?

Here´s where we advise our clients to make a careful list of politicians that meet two criteria:

  1. That you respect them and the contribution they make in public life
  2. And that they are positioned to positively affect government policy or political debate affecting the issues that are most important to your organization.

Those are the people you should consider supporting financially.

Question 6:  “Do we just sit down and write cheques to every candidate on that list?”

Answer:  “No.  We´d normally advise you to select the situations where your involvement can have the biggest impact, and always to opt for fundraising events – where you can see and be seen.”

You don´t just mail in cheques – no matter how much money you have.  Instead, look for opportunities to attend fundraising events. Pick events held by the members or candidates you most respect or admire, who are most likely to be knowledgeable about or interested in your issues.

And think about which politicians need your support the most.

When senior cabinet Ministers hold fundraising events, there´s usually a crowd there. That doesn´t mean your organization shouldn´t be represented:  even if you get only a moment or two with the Minister, you may have a chance to talk to his/her staff (we often find that the politician´s staff are available at these events, so there´s an opportunity for you to build trust with them; that can be critical in the future). And even if you never exchange a single word with the Minister, your involvement will be noted and your organization will be considered “friendly”.

Question 7:  “Just going to these fundraisers can help us establish positive relationships with politicians?”

Answer:  “Yes.  Unless you get it wrong while you´re at the event.”

There are a lot of mistakes you could make once you get to the event.

You can start button-holing people to talk forcefully about your issues. You can “take the opportunity” to complain about a government policy or decision – or about bureaucrats you deal with who are frustrating you.

That kind of behaviour sends entirely the wrong message:  it seems to be saying that – because you´re at the fundraiser – you have special rights to make special demands of the politicians involved. Wrong.

You´re there as an expression of respect and support. There will be lots of opportunities to talk about your issues in the future – with the politicians, their staff and their colleagues – but fundraisers are not a place to initiate a negotiation. If you have an established relationship, and are engaged in negotiations, it can be of help to speak directly to the political decision makers, even if for only a couple of minutes.

Political fundraising events are places where you strengthen your relationships by showing tangible respect for the people who serve in elected office. They´ll remember.


Question 8:  “We look for opportunities to support members of the Government only – right?  They´re the ones who will make decisions on our issues.”

Answer:  “Wrong. No government is in office forever, and the political process involves both government and opposition – and politicians on both sides of the House know that.”

If you´re going to build a fundraising element into your government relations strategy, do not ignore the opposition.

Of course, if there are particularly bitter or partisan relationships between government and opposition on your issues, it´s best to keep your powder dry. But in most cases, it´s quite acceptable to the government to find that you have people going the Opposition Critic´s fundraisers, too.

After all, your long term interest lies in promoting the most thoughtful and knowledgeable possible debate on your issues so – assuming the opposition spokespeople meet your criteria for sensitivity to your issues – it´s just good common sense to support them too – just as you would Ministers or government members (and don´t think for a moment that the governing members don´t remember the people who were respectful to them while they were sitting in the opposition benches …).



At Leonard Domino & Associates, we´re believers in the democratic political process.

We respect and admire the commitment that candidates make when they run for office.  We know how hard and demanding the job of being an elected Member can be. We know it sometimes seems as though the whole world is cynical and no one appreciates the work and sacrifice people in the electoral world make.

Well, we appreciate it, and we encourage our clients to appreciate it, too.

We also appreciate the hard work and resolve of people who struggle to reason with government.  There´s a universe of frustration here – from bureaucratic roadblocks based on negativism or just a loss of motivation to “conventional wisdom” thinking that says the changes that are needed are just impossible to political staff who don´t always return their calls.

And there´s sometimes distrust between elected people and those who work to persuade governments to do the right things for the right reasons.

Political fundraising offers opportunities for the politicians we admire and esteem to meet and get to know the people who are struggling to reason with government (we admire and esteem them, too).

It can all add up to better government.

About Political Fundraisers – Part. 1

About Political Fundraisers – Part. 1


Over the past few months, more and more of our clients have begun to ask us for advice about political fundraising. In some cases, it´s because they´ve been approached and asked to make contributions to political parties or candidates. With others, it´s because they´re interested in exploring whether it´s possible to use political contributions to increase their organization´s influence or to help candidates who understand their issues to succeed.

Here are some of the questions we´ve been asked most often – along with the answers we´ve been giving. We hope you find them worth reading – and worth thinking about. And once you´ve read them, contact us if you like, so we can offer specific suggestions on how your organization can be strategically involved in political fundraising.


Question 1:  “Why should we be thinking about political fundraising now? We´ve never worried about it in the past.”

Answer:   “Two reasons. First – things have changed and today it´s much more likely you and your organization (or the members of your management or Board of Directors) will be asked for political donations. What will you do then?”

“The second reason is that – managed properly – participation in political fundraising can be a valuable part of your overall government relations plan.”

Election campaigns are expensive, so political parties and individual Members have always had to raise funds to meet their costs. But now, changes in federal, provincial and municipal election laws limit the amounts that big companies or unions can contribute. As a result, individuals, organizations and businesses across the community – including you and your organization – are much more likely to be contacted by people soliciting donations to political parties for candidates by inviting you to attend various fundraising events.

The choices you make about participating in political fundraising can have important implications for your overall government relations strategy and your relationships with politicians. So – at a bare minimum – you should be thinking now about how you´ll respond.


Question 2:  “If someone does ask for a political contribution, what would Leonard Domino & Associates advise?”

Answer:   “If you´re being asked to contribute to a provincial political party, we´d usually suggest you say ‘No thanks´.  But we´d recommend that you think long and hard about any opportunity to contribute to individual candidates.”

There are two reasons for that advice.

We advise you to say “No Thanks” to provincial party organizations because – although there are limits on contributions from big unions and companies to political parties now – they can still raise significant amounts and they also get taxpayer-financed support. The other reason we advise you to support individual members or candidates instead is that it is more difficult for you to have a relationship with a political party.

Also Individual candidates find it harder to raise funds:  your relatively small contributions can make a bigger difference for them. And combined with the other aspects of your overall government relations strategy, judicious financial support for candidates can help you build the network of relationships you´ll need to achieve your overall government relations goals.
Provincial Guidelines regarding donations


Question 3:  “Are you suggesting that our political contributions can buy influence?”

Answer:  “No. That´s not the way it works at all.”

We can´t stress this strongly enough:  do not ever make political contributions on the assumption that it will buy you influence or special favours. No matter what the cynics may tell you, that really is not the way it works, so if that´s what you´re thinking – forget it!

But political contributions can help build good working relationships with both government and opposition politicians. The politicians and their staff will see this kind of support as a mark of respect – especially if you make it clear that you don´t expect any special treatment in return for your contributions.

Question 4:  “If we´re not ‘buying´ special favours, why should we get involved in political fundraising?”

Answer:  “You should make political contributions because you believe in the people you´re supporting, and their ideas – and because it really can help you build relationships.”

It´s pretty simple:  do you believe this person makes a positive contribution to public life?  Would you like them to be able to continue?  Do you respect them and the things they stand for?

If the answers to those questions are “Yes”, then we´d advise you to give serious thought to supporting them financially. Then you have to decide if supporting them makes sense for your organization, too.

And that´s where we suggest looking at the way your fundraising activities will affect the relationships you need to meet your government relations goals.