August 2006
Print associations too political
Internal squabbling is hampering print
By their very nature, industry associations are political. A lot of their efforts are spent on talking to politicians and senior bureaucrats trying to get the industry’s point of view across. If they are not talking to politicians, then they are trying to promote their industry (or products or services of that industry). So it is not surprising that a little internal politics goes on in most associations. A certain amount of internal debate is good for a healthy association and industry.

Unfortunately in our industry, it has gotten way out of hand. The Canadian Printing Industries Association (CPIA) has been having on-going internal fights with the different regional associations for years. If it’s not Alberta pulling out then it’s Quebec, which recently went bankrupt. Or it’s Ontario, which recently threatened to pull out.

When the CPIA was restructured in the mid-nineties, the one dissenting voice, Matt Fyfe of Maclean Hunter Printing, said it would create nothing but internal problems that would never get resolved. Unfortunately, it appears he might be right. Both the health of the national and regional associations of CPIA are important to the health of the Canadian printing industry.

All printers in Canada (both members and non-members) have benefited from the lobbying of the CPIA. The removal of the “Printed in Canada” requirement on printing sold into the U.S. was a direct result of CPIA’s involvement in the NAFTA agreement. The recent creation of the printing sector council will have big benefits as available skilled staff starts retiring. The national association is lobbying for accelerated depreciation on presses, something our American competitors already have.

The regional groups help keep the various provincial governments from beating the industry up. On the environmental front (provincial jurisdiction), our industry appears to be a convenient target. Despite what some politicians have said, most printers do not dump ink down the drain.

The regional groups also give printers a chance to get together on a regular basis and share information and ideas.

Unfortunately the internal politics in CPIA is costing the industry big time. With all the problems facing the printing industry in Canada (rising dollar, loss of work to the Internet, environmental legislation, profit squeeze, and international competition) now is the time to stop the squabbling. Regardless of who is right or wrong, if you are not working together, both sides are wrong.

The association and industry are currently in a unique position; they have a very good president of the CPIA, Bob Elliot. He appears to be the right person at the right time.

He is well-connected in Ottawa, a real hard worker, bright, and knows what has to be done to help the industry. He can not do it alone, he needs all the resources that are available. If those resources are wasted on internal politics and squabbling, then he will not be able to get very far.

Special thanks to Duncan McGregor for the sales column he has written for Graphic Monthly Canada for the last 37 issues. This will be his last issue. In one of the best-read columns in our magazine, Duncan has shared his ideas and hands-on experiences for over six years. His ideas on selling are probably more relevant now than ever before. He summed up the ultimate sales professional as someone who customers treat as an unpaid consultant. I am working on convincing Duncan to turn his column into a book. I will keep you posted.

Alexander Donald is the publisher of Graphic Monthly Canada.
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