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Advocacy Suffers When The Protest Is Louder Than The Cause

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BLACK LIVES MATTER
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Modern advocacy has changed from the so-called good old days. Marches and blockades were de rigueur, but today, they are as fashionable and effective as mullets in attracting supporters.

As it happens, inconveniencing people, being rude, screaming in their faces and generally pissing them off is not very successful in rallying them to your side. Funny how that works.

Yet, in Ontario, three very passionate groups have used these tried-and-failed techniques in an attempt to force public opinion -- and thus compel governments to change policies and practices in their favour.

Taxis, tow trucks and Black Lives Matter are the latest to buck this fashionable trend.

Predictably, the legitimacy of their causes gets lost in the behaviour. Black Lives Matter is particularly regrettable because their mission's importance is profound. Racism against black people is real and needs to be addressed. Positive change by governments and institutions is far too slow and, at times, even stagnant.

Amidst all this negative noise, voters don't hear arguments -- even if they are valid.

Nonetheless, change can happen with good advocacy. On the other hand, some actions are counter-productive.

Recent protesting at the premier of Ontario's home crossed a line. Aggression such as the in-your-face verbal attacks on the premier when she went to talk to them outside the Legislature only served to drown out the real issues.

The narrative was lost in the negative noise. Ironically, this is the same premier who formed an anti-racism directorate.

Taxi and tow truck drivers have a right to earn a living within a fair regulatory system. There are many legitimate ways to advocate effectively for fairness. Instead, both groups like to block traffic to make their point.

It is unclear how inconveniencing thousands of fellow citizens advances their cause. Add to this that both groups want to use regulations to maintain a status quo that is unsustainable.

uber protest toronto

In the case of taxis, too many still refuse to bring their cars and service levels up to a standard acceptable in a service industry. As a regular user, I can say enough cabs are dirty and in questionable mechanical shape to beg for reform.

Some drivers still will resist short trips and, even after the threat of Uber, credit card machines seem to be broken far more often than any other retail business. And a negative brand does not get better by causing traffic jams.

Tow truck drivers have got themselves into a branding problem as well. Many people already have negative thoughts about them.

In part, this is because they usually arrive on the scene when bad things have happened. Your car won't start. You have just crashed on Highway 401. Most will handle the situation fairly and professionally.

Blockading traffic on two major Toronto highways in protest against the government only serves to reinforce the negative image of drivers as "pirates."

There are enough, however, that give the industry a bad rap. These are the ones who force governments to act.

Enter Bill 51, an Act that, among other things, would require drivers to accept credit cards and to clearly display their rates.

Blockading traffic on two major Toronto highways in protest against the government only serves to reinforce the negative image of drivers as "pirates."

Again, amidst all this negative noise, voters don't hear arguments -- even if they are valid. The drone of inconvenience, frustration and being appalled by bad behaviour drowns them out.

There are countless alternative tactics that go a long way in modern government advocacy -- only if some advocacy groups would part ways with their metaphorical mullet.

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