Over the past several years, my name and number have been added to just about every focus group database in existence.I've always had a keen interest in marketing, and I enjoy being paid $50 to $75 to...
Over the past several years, my name and number have been added to just about every focus group database in existence.
I’ve always had a keen interest in marketing, and I enjoy being paid $50 to $75 to rant about any given product in a forum where my comments may mean something.
Because of my demographics, I’m usually invited to participate in focus groups involving beer, vodka coolers, microwave popcorn … real glory groups I assure you.
However, just prior to putting this issue of Truck News to bed, I received a mysterious call from a Calgary-based market research company seeking my valuable opinion on a confidential matter.
Well, the subject matter may not have been entirely confidential, but it seemed to be closely guarded by the person who screened me over the phone before giving me the secret password needed to take part (well, the address of the facility, that is). Needless to say, I was intrigued.
I arrived at the meeting half expecting to be asked my opinion on the secret affairs of the CIA or top-secret space agency documents that confirm life in outer space.
This feeling was reinforced by the wall of one-way glass used to hide the mysterious onlookers paying for the gathering – to say nothing of the microphones, tape decks and video cameras placed conspicuously along the ceiling.
Perhaps my imagination got the better of me.
I wasn’t about to participate in any top-secret government studies on the supernatural. However, it turned out to be the next best thing.
This particular focus group was to revolve around international trade, and where our federal government excels and lags behind in that department.
Behind the silver surface of the mirrored glass was a pair of government reps who wanted to know what I, and eight other Calgarians from every walk of life, had to say about our government’s efforts.
Was I prepared or what? Softwood lumber disputes, poor infrastructure, inadequate compensation for truck drivers – these are all trade barriers that truckers have been lamenting about for months, if not years.
I was quick to bring the softwood lumber dispute to the forefront of the discussion and the rest of the people in the room agreed the government should have done more, sooner.
Then it was time to rant about infrastructure, trucking, international trade missions and a host of other related topics.
I relished the opportunity to take the government to task on such issues while giving credit where credit was due.
By the time the two-hour session ended, I was actually disappointed we had to leave. There were so many other areas of concern that I wanted to address. But alas, my moment in the sun had passed.
I will likely never again be asked by any sort of prominent government representative what I think about anything of any significance.
There’s no way to determine for sure whether the government is listening to any of our concerns.
But the entire session gave me hope.
After all, they were asking for our opinions. If they don’t take anything we said over those two hours to heart, then it would certainly be a prime example of government spending gone awry.
I think the fact the Canadian government is conducting these focus groups across Canada provides plenty of reason for optimism.
We were asked to rate our federal government on a national and regional basis and to comment on their efforts of promoting international trade.
At the end of the session, the moderator asked us for any final remarks.
Bearing in mind all the lumber haulers who have been without freight for the past several months, I appealed to the federal onlookers to be quicker to go to bat for industry.
I commended their tough talk and threats to take the U.S. to task through NAFTA, but pointed out that if it was done a lot sooner this whole issue could probably be over with by now.
One can only hope that some of the comments, suggestions and criticisms aired throughout the focus group will trickle through to the folks calling the shots in Ottawa.
It’s not very likely that International Trade Minister Pierre Pettigrew, was one of the mystery men behind the glass. However, if Pettigrew listens to any of the opinions voiced at the session, it’ll be the most productive two hours I’ve ever spent in the company of government officials.
– James Menzies heads our western news bureau and he can be reached at 403-275-3160.