Roads, bridges, roundabouts. Pipelines, pools, parking, performing arts centres. We’re kind of infrastructure junkies here at Main Street. What’s the big conversation in Canada about infrastructure? How much it needs replacing. How much it costs. Who governs it. Who pays for it. How it impacts wetlands, forests, neighbourhoods and quality of life.
We support infrastructure development and we believe in creating conversations that are informed, respectful and inclusive. We’ve done referenda, too.
We’ve got loads of experience when it comes to communications planning and consultation on the Big Projects that keep our country moving.
Which ones? The Golden Ears Bridge. The Millennium Line. Prospera Centre. The ACT Arts Centre. The Highway 9 Roundabout. The Lonsdale Street Parking Study. The Pitt Meadows Community Centre, to name a few.
Public consultation is increasingly a regulatory requirement for private-sector developers and public agencies, and a political requirement for governments. Properly managed, public and stakeholder consultation will reduce organizational risk and increase the organization’s profile and credibility. Undertaken at the wrong time or in the in a spirit of haste, consultation can make a bad situation worse.
Main Street provides sherpa services for organizations engaging with communities. We guide you through the narrow spots and up the steep slopes, supporting you to listen carefully and respond with respect even when you’re outside your comfort zone.
Main Street principal Ian McLeod was recruited by Karyo Communications, now Edelman Vancouver, to support the general contractor on TransLink’s billion-dollar Golden Ears bridge and road project.
Working with Context Research, representing TransLink, Ian and Karyo finalized a comprehensive communications and community relations program. For more than three year’s Ian served as the contractor’s primary contact with businesses, residents and local governments in four municipalities affected by the project. Ian designed terms of reference for a community liaison committee and a shipping industry panel, organized open houses and hosted regular check-ins on construction planning with municipal staff. He also managed a communications program that included a website, traffic bulletins, and regular stakeholder updates.
There was a continuing risk that individual complaints around noise, business access closures or traffic delays might escalate to neighbourhood-level discontent and then become a regional-scale bad news story. In this case, the solution was to maintain an ongoing schedule of contacts between the construction team and residents to look for ways to minimize disruption. Public support remained strong, and more than 50,000 people attended the opening day event in June 2009.
Not every project can be a billion-dollar job, but small local issues also matter to the people who are affected.
In the Fraser Valley, the B.C. Ministry of Transportation decided to fix a high-crash location by installing the provincial highway system’s first modern traffic roundabout. The idea was seen by some local residents as an unwelcome import.
How does a roundabout work? Main Street, contracted to support the Ministry, gathered roundabout video footage from across North America to run in two continuing loops at an open house. More than 200 people attended. In 149 response forms, 54 per cent expressed support for the roundabout concept, 43 per cent were opposed. A few people complained that the video footage was obviously bogus since it failed to show crashes or conflicts at any roundabout location.
Elected officials insisted on a second meeting, town hall style. Open house attendees were contacted by phone. Main Street and the project team set up an expert panel and found local supporters who would speak. After an open dialogue, a show of hands indicated that support for the project had increased, and it proceeded to construction.
Public consultation programs, as part of a comprehensive program of external relations, can build relationships between organizations and communities and build a sense of public ownership of and accountability for project or policy decisions.
Main Street offers training in public consultation techniques with a focus on B.C. issues and audiences. We help clients consider benefits and risks of public consultation and the appropriate level of contact, ranging from informal stakeholder surveys to multi-day deliberations or collaborative content development. Some of our public consultation clients have included: