In his speech, Richard Gauthier, CADA president and CEO, said the Canadian public and policymakers “need to understand that the auto industry is really the engine of the entire country's economy and not just a single province.”
The press conference, which attracted national media, comes as Ford, GM, and Chrysler seek roughly $3.5 billion in loans from the Canadian government—about roughly 14% of the amount they are seeking from the US. And while the Big Three have upped their PR outreach in the US as they try to explain why they are seeking government assistance, the PR effort in Canada has been, at least so far, relatively mute.
“I don't think the automakers have really had any public messaging [in Canada] at all,” says Keith McArthur, senior director of media innovation at Toronto-based Veritas Communications. “Any good government relations strategy involves a broader PR strategy. Nothing happens in a bubble, and governments make those decisions based on where public sentiment is headed.”
While the three automakers are seeking money from Canada, they may be relying on the US to do most of the talking for a reason, said Mitch Joel, president of Montreal-based Twist Image, a digital marketing communications agency.
“The PR approach might recognize that while this is a North American issue, let's not drag Canada down into this,” said Joel. He said that is why, for example, there is a lot of content explaining the need for help on GM's US Web site, but nothing on the Canadian one. The thinking is that the US messaging will naturally speak to the Canadian situation, but on a smaller scale. “They may also feel there isn't quite the demand to respond [as there is in the US], and so they are waiting for the right time,” Joel said.