All posts by Barbara Fox


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Ensight today announced the appointment of Gayla Brock-Woodland as President to lead the firm into its second decade in Canada’s rapidly evolving public affairs and government relations environment.

Brock-Woodland comes to Ensight from MSLGROUP, a division of Publicis, where she led the agency’s operations in Canada since 2004 as Managing Director, and since 2013 as President. Prior to joining MSLGROUP, Gayla was Senior Vice President and Partner at Advance Planning & Communications.

“Gayla brings a new and added dimension to Ensight and a clear direction for our future, in which intelligent public engagement is integral to our clients’ success in the public policy arena,” Ensight principal Jaime Watt said.

In her 30-year career, Brock-Woodland has established a national reputation as a versatile and trusted advisor to C-suite executives and front-line leaders of major Canadian companies in sectors including energy, retail, professional services, consumer products, telecommunications, insurance, financial services, pharmaceuticals, healthcare and education.

“I started my career in Ottawa 30 years ago, and it’s a thrill to be back full circle. I’m privileged to be working with a team I’ve long admired, and eager to leverage my experience to create a bold vision for Ensight’s next decade and ensure their clients achieve their public policy goals,” Brock-Woodland said.

Ensight, a strategic partnership of Canada’s leading communications and public affairs firms – Enterprise and Navigator – has worked successfully on some of Canada’s largest public affairs files since it was founded in 2006. In addition to its government relations expertise, the firm has expanded service offerings to meet the needs of clients in today’s public affairs environment including:

  • A digital campaign practice that has demonstrated the power of combining data-driven communications and engagement to achieve public policy goals;
  • An Indigenous affairs practice, led by Sara Monture of Six Nations;
  • An infrastructure practice with a proven track record in working on some of Canada’s largest infrastructure projects; and
  • A research practice led by Chris Kelly, one of Canada’s foremost researchers.

“We are delighted to welcome Gayla to the Ensight team. She brings proven leadership abilities, a track record in reputation management and a unique ability to facilitate and build rewarding relationships between clients and decision-makers. We look forward to working with her as we move into Ensight’s second decade and the future of public affairs in Canada,” Barbara Fox, Ensight principal, said.


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By: Barbara Fox

As my colleague Jaime Watt noted yesterday in this space, Canadians have in fact been paying attention to the federal election – evidenced by clear trends emerging from public opinion research.

But as the campaign heads into its final stretch, there’s no doubt the attention will intensify.  I think we can safely say that the proverbial “defining moment” – that point in time when the campaign comes into sharp focus, and undecided voters make their choice – hasn’t happened yet.

It doesn’t have to be a specific event or announcement, or an obvious misstep by one of the party leaders. While such incidents have often been marked as turning points in past campaigns, usually the shift is more vague.  For whatever reason, people who haven’t been watching closely, or have been only peripherally aware, suddenly tune in.

Each party needs to be ready for that moment.  Because once those voters tune in and make their decision, they just as abruptly tune out again. After that, it’s hard to reverse the momentum.

Get Into the Swing

As we drill down into polling numbers and other research, we really need to zero in those whose opinions might change.  The so-called “swing” voter, who does not necessarily support the same party from election to election.

It can be tough to find these people, through the cacophony of partisan viewpoints that make up most of the campaign. Again, it’s a change in voting intentions that provides the real insight, rather than the volume of noise made by a party’s hard-core supporters.  
For instance, of those advocating an “Anyone But Harper” stance in 2015, how many voted for him last time?  My guess is somewhere around none.  They didn’t like the Conservatives before, and still don’t. That’s hardly a revelation. Nor is it a trend.

What I want to know is, how many people who did vote Conservative in 2011 are leaning a different way?  What about those who didn’t vote in the last election but who will this time around – or vice versa?  

If everybody always voted the same way, every election would have the same result. Some of us – you know who you are – do consistently cast our ballots for a particular party.  Our votes are obviously important, but we are the base. It’s the swing voters who ultimately determine the outcome.

To Change or Not to Change – That is the Question

I know the idea behind all the partisan racket is to sway the swing voters. Whether it appears to be working is the driving force behind campaign design.  

So as they head into the last few crucial weeks – which will include, presumably, defining moments – party strategists face a critical decision. Do they continue what they’ve been doing, or change course?

Either option is risky. More of the same could leave voters feeling uninspired. A change in tone or direction could be interpreted as panic.

Between now and E-Day, those campaign shifts will tell you where each party thinks voters – specifically swing voters – are headed.

Barbara Fox is CEO of Enterprise Canada and Principal of ENsight Canada. Barbara is well known for her expertise and acumen in public affairs, issues management, communications, journalism and business. She works closely with a wide range of clients in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors, providing sound advice, developing lasting solutions, and leading integrated campaigns to successfully achieve their objectives.