Pleased to Meet You

Octane is a public affairs firm with offices in Montreal, Ottawa and Quebec City. Our team is best known for its proven capacity to manage complex issues and for the depth of its expertise. We develop custom-made strategies aligned with each project’s unique characteristics. We also display creativity and innovation to meet clients’ objectives, using a personalized approach that goes beyond ready-made formulas.

  • About 20 seasoned professionals
  • Special advisors who are leaders in their fields
  • Approximately 100 active clients, of which 80% from the private or not-for-profit sectors
  • In-house graphic design studio
  • A+ member of the Alliance des cabinets de relations publiques du Québec
  • A member of Montreal International
  • Eligible to be awarded major public contracts in Canada

Our Services:

Government Relations: We communicate effectively with policy makers, public servants and elected officials to move your projects forward. 

Public and Media Relations: We work with purveyors of information and opinion—journalists, influencers and networks—to get your message across.

Consultation and Social Acceptability: We master the intricacies of community relations and public consultations for complex projects.

You want to know more ? Send us an email and we will reach out to you soon. 

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Proposed cannabis legislation: Plenty of work in store for Quebec

On April 13, the federal government tabled the highly-anticipated and historic bill to legalize cannabis. Given the legislative process and inter-government negotiations in the offing, it’s hardly surprising that the bill leaves so much to be determined, such as permissible concentrations, the federal excise tax percentage, prices, and what information can and must be provided to consumers.

The provinces have quite a few decisions to make between now and July 1, 2018, the date legal pot goes on sale. Where should the Quebec government, a newcomer to the politics of pot, focus its energies? In addition to the aspects that fall fully under its jurisdiction, like distribution, several important issues merit further reflection and dialogue with the parties involved.

Developing a processing industry

Edibles (brownies, gummies, and teas) represent 50% of the Colorado market for both medical and recreational users. Now largely excluded from the bill, if added in the future, these products could potentially turn Quebec into a processing hub, making up for the slow start of its production industry. Beyond brownies, processing harbours significant potential for innovation not only in the agri-food sector but also in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. Standardized doses and effects and the fast absorption of ingested cannabis will constitute decisive developments for this emerging industry.

Local production

To develop processing expertise and retain a maximum of recreational cannabis sales revenue, Quebec should work with producers who are already established in the province, in addition to encouraging new players. Fully 22% of pot consumers nationwide call Quebec home. Why ask other provinces to produce our cannabis?

Consider the various possibilities in terms of recreational production licenses

If it’s logical for Health Canada to oversee production licensing for medical marijuana, several different bodies might legitimately supervise recreational cannabis production. Currently, that authority resides with the Ministry of Justice in Ottawa. However, as the Union des producteurs agricoles recently pointed out that, cannabis is a crop. Provincial governments might thus govern production licenses much as they do for tobacco, another regulated crop. Would provinces benefit from pushing the legislative process in this direction?

 The government and stakeholders must raise these questions during the upcoming public and legislative debate this year. There remains a great deal to be clarified in both the federal bill and Quebec’s future framework law, but many opportunities to sway the outcome also exist. And while the national cannabis legalization policy has the potential to make Canada a world leader in the industry, the ability of the different jurisdictions to work together in negotiations will play a critical role in the success of the project.

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Government Relations and the Budget Lock-up: the Art of Voluntary Confinement

“You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave!” Hotel California, Eagles.

Every spring, hundreds of Canadian reporters and influencers go on a pilgrimage to capital cities for budget day. They hit the road at dawn and drive for hours to spend the day locked in a windowless room, without phone nor Internet access, to get a sneak preview of government finances. Sounds like a nightmare? Think again. In Quebec City as in Ottawa, it is THE day of the year. Octane Strategies’ team is a regular participant to this weirdly exciting event.

A Beginners’ Guide to the Budget Lock-Up 

We should in fact say lock-ups, since there are a few. Usually, there is a very long one for reporters and shorter ones, for elected officials and stakeholders.

Unless they are invited as experts by a media outlet, stakholders, lobbyists, economists, tax experts and consultants usually attend a stakeholder lock-up. In Quebec, it lasts approximately six hours. In Ottawa, it is typicaly two hours long. Departmental officials are always on site to answer technical questions, and the Finance Minister sometimes drops by. 

Participants can usually enter the lock-up whenever they want, but they cannot communicate with the outside world, or leave the room before the Minister of Finance starts his Budget Speech, usually when financial markets close at 16:00.  

Rules surrounding budget secrecy are very strict, but there have been major leaks, including one about income trusts, which likely cost Paul Martin’s Liberals some seats in the 2006 election. This year, the Federal Budget Speech was delayed because the House of Commons’ pages started distributing budget documents before the Minister had begun his presentation. Opposition parties complained and the Speaker had to rule on the issue from the bench. 

Why go to the Budget Lock-Up?

  • To get media coverage: stakeholders who participate in the lock-up gain an advantage since they can prepare behind closed doors, and hit the media circuit as soon as the embargo is lifted, in person or through a press release. Reporters are on location to gather reactions. It is a maelstrom of improvised media scrums and interviews that lasts about two hours after the Budget is tabled. After that, it is too late to appear in the evening news. 
  • To ask pointed questions and gather intelligence: there is no better opportunity to ask detailed questions about tax measures or new programs. The majority of civil servants who attend the lock-up know the budget by heart – in fact they usually drafted the tax measures found in the budget – and are very happy to answer requests on the most obscure minutiae.
  • To network: it is funny to observe how people start talking to each other when they are stuck together in a room for hours, without access to their phone, email or social media. Lobbyists, stakeholders, allies and opponents are all under the same roof. It is a great opportunity to listen, discuss and influence – on the budget of the day or on next steps.
  • To lobby: capital cities are abuzz on budget day. And after the lock-up, people get together, often with a beverage in hand. It is a great opportunity to reconnect with former colleagues, to meet key stakeholders and to chat with elected officials. It is not necessary to register for the lock-up to attend those post-budget receptions. 

How to prepare for the lock-up?

The best is to walk in with a list of specific issues to look out for in the budget. Having draft lines, press releases or a backgrounder ready is also useful. When in the lock-up, one only needs to scan the budget for the relevant information and to update the documents so they are ready to distribute as soon as the embargo is lifted. 

True surprises are rare. But if the budget contains bombshells, it is very useful to find out about them before everyone else does to make the necessary course corrections. And since there is no Internet access in the lock-up, it is essential to have reference documents handy.  

The Minister of Finance traditionally buys new shoes to wear on budget day. Others do not need to do the same. But budget day is a long day, so a good night’s sleep and comfortable footwear is not a bad idea! 

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Karine Fortin joins Octane Strategies in Ottawa

Octane Strategies is proud to announce that Karine Fortin has recently joined its team as Senior Advisor in the Ottawa office, offering its clients detailed knowledge of the federal political apparatus and its influencers, as well as a valuable expertise in complex issues management and in strategic communications.

“With Karine in Ottawa, Octane Strategies is better positioned than ever to advise clients with complex projects that require an in-depth knowledge of both Quebec and Canada, as well as a network of contacts with influencers in the federal capital,” said managing partner Daniel Charron.

 

About Karine Fortin

Before joining Octane Strategies, Karine held senior management positions in federal politics where she honed her skills in human resources management, financial management and crisis management. She previously was a national reporter at Le Devoir and The Canadian Press for a decade. She covered national and provincial politics, as well as business news in Montreal. She was also the editor of Le Trente, a monthly magazine published by the Quebec Federation of Professional Journalists. Known as a sharp analyst and as a skilled writer in both English and French, she holds a Graduate Diploma in International Journalism from Université Laval and City University (London, UK). Very involved, Karine was Treasurer of the Parliamentary Press Gallery and sat on the board of the Association des journalistes indépendants du Québec (AJIQ). She volunteers for the Breakfast Club.

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Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for the New Year

‘Tis the season for cheerful times and winter magic… but some things are beyond your control. Octane Strategies offers you a glimpse of what to expect during the holidays with its awkward moments bingo. 

Click on the image to see it in large format.

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