Policy Development

This information is designed to help our members design and develop policy. This manual was developed by the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce.

Issues must:

  • be of significance to the Chamber's membership;
  • be timely;
  • be specific and actionable, (can be impacted by the actions and initiatives of the Chamber and its partners);
  • have a direct relationship to the Chamber's vision, mission, values, goals and priorities;
  • be clear and understandable.


1.     Definitions

1.1.   Advocacy
Advocacy is a system of actions directed at changing attitudes, policies, positions, practices or programs in society. Advocacy refers to any activity that attempts to change mainly government policy, but also attitudes and perceptions within society.

1.2.   Lobbying
Lobbying is a subset of advocacy that aims to influence specific legislation. Advocacy covers a much broader range of activities, which may or may not, include lobbying. Almost all social change has started with non-lobbying advocacy but ended with major lobbying efforts. Examples include the protection of women's rights and child labour laws. Each initially combined a broad spectrum of non-lobbying advocacy activities, with lobbying employed somewhat later to achieve the needed change.

1.3.   Policy
Policy refers to the positions that define business problems and propose solutions. These policies are approved by the chamber board and remain chamber policy until amended or revoked by the chamber Board of Directors. The majority of policy positions of the Chamber are available to the public. In very rare circumstances the chamber board may create a policy in anticipation of events and those policies may not be made public unless the anticipated events materialize.  Advocacy policy is distinctly separate from chamber operational policies regarding the operation of the chamber (harassment policies, privacy policies etc.)

1.4.   Policy Development
The activity of developing policy generally involves problem definition, research, analysis, consultation and synthesis of information to produce recommendations. Chamber policy is designed to represent business interests and to that end the recommendations are largely outcome focused. The decision making authorities/regulatory bodies are expected to create the detailed policy required to support their operations.

1.5.   Consultation
Consultation refers to seeking input (i.e., advice, reactions, clarifications, etc.) during the policy development process. The amount of consultation will vary based on the policy and time available. 


2.1.   Environmental Scan
The Environmental scan is a constant process that involves but is not limited to member input, media monitoring, board input, annual surveys, and input from partner organizations.

2.2.   Initial Assessment
The issues are constantly assessed by board and staff for their relevance to the business interest. If a clear connection cannot be made to the business community, the issue is not addressed further.  The issue may be monitored or referred to other organizations but the Chamber will not pursue policy development.

2.3.   Initial Research
In the event an issue does affect business, initial research is conducted. This initial research normally involves contacting the party who drew attention to the issue and determining the scope of business affected. The complexity of the issue is estimated and a review of existing policy in the Chamber and partner organizations is conducted.

2.4.   Secondary Assessment
The information gathered during initial research is discussed and the following criteria are used to determine if further policy work should be conducted and resources committed to significant policy research. The criteria include considerations such as:

  • fit with chamber priorities;
  • fit with existing chamber policy;
  • fit with business principles;
  • scope of businesses affected;
  • evaluation as to partner activity;
  • Is the Chamber the best organization to take on this issue?
  • complexity of the issue;
  • What resources are required to research a policy solution?
  • the likelihood of success.


2.5.   Policy Research and Drafting
The creation of a policy document requires considerable research and consultation with involved members, stakeholders and identifying possible solutions. The solutions are assessed and collateral effects of each solution considered. The chamber policy will be focused on the best solution for the business community.

2.6.   Policy Review
Policy review is conducted by the policy committee and the Board of Directors. The policy is amended until it is approved or rejected by the Board of Directors.

2.7.   Board Approval
Policies approved by the Board are kept in the electronic policy binder and posted to the chamber website. The approval of policies will be listed as a motion in the board minutes. The policy remains in effect until rescinded by the Board of Directors.

2.8.   Advocacy
Once the policy is approved, chamber staff advocates that policy on behalf of the membership. The process of advocacy will depend on the specifics of a policy and will relate to:

  • who the decision making authority is;
  • who the affected stakeholders are;
  • the publicity value of the policy; and,
  • partners in support of our position.
  • These factors are considered by staff and the policy included in chamber communication activities.
    These activities include but are not limited to:
    • meetings with stakeholders and decision makers;
    • media releases;
    • news articles;
    • letter writing;
    • public / member information sessions;
    • political candidate forums; and,
    • media appearances.


2.9.   Monitor and Adjust
The effectiveness of the advocacy efforts is assessed and the policy tactics changes to suit the political and business environment.

2.10. Evaluate Situation
Once the policy is created and the initial communication process is conducted the situation is evaluated. In particular the response from the decision- making authority is considered as compared to the scope of businesses affected. The chamber can only actively advocate on a handful of issues at any one time so only a very few undergo active advocacy. The circumstances regarding the policy are monitored and if circumstances change, active advocacy may be reinitiated.  A policy will continue to be part of the chamber's policy portfolio until success is achieved or the policy is rescinded by the Board of Directors.


3.     Reactivates of Process
In order for the Chamber to meet the needs of its members in a dynamic global economy the process must be capable of adapting quickly to changing circumstances. The time period involved in many of these steps can be reduced to a very short turnaround. The time from environmental scan to board approval can be measured in days. The process of advocacy and active lobbying allow policies to be lobbied in relation to one another and policies that have not recently been active to move very quickly if circumstances change.


4.     Lobbying
The active advocacy of an issue includes lobbying government to take particular action. The Chamber seldom lobbies a particular piece of legislation but rather advocates a business issue. The Provincial Lobbyist Registration Act requires that someone who spends more than 20% of their time actually lobbying must register under the Act. Actual lobbying does not include policy research or meetings outside of government. Chamber employees to do not spend more than 20% of their time meeting with Government and as such we are not registered as a lobby organization. Lobbying by persons who are not employees of the Chamber falls under different sections of the Act and should be considered on an individual basis. The senior officer of the organization (chamber CEO) is responsible under the Act for registering, if necessary, and ensuring that rules related to lobbying are followed. It is essential that the senior officer be informed of lobbying that takes place on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce.


5.     Summary
The advocacy process is designed to identify issues of concern to the business community and allow for informed review and decision making by the Board of Directors. Once the Board has decided to adopt a particular policy the chamber staff advocates for changes to be made