Building Bridges: ATA of Manitoba building cross-aisle relationships with industry policymakers

Winnipeg, Manitoba — Far too often, those who speak on behalf of collision repairers are anyone but actual collision repairers—Manitoba’s Automotive Trades Association (ATA) is aiming to change that, following a series of meetings with high-ranking politicians from either side of the aisle.

Ferd Klassen, vice president of the ATA and owner of Niverville Auto Body, alongside ATA president Norm Bruneau and executive director Denis Cloutier, recently returned from meetings with Progressive Conservative and New Democrat Legislative Assembly members where the current state of the province’s collision repair industry was discussed.

More meet-and-greet than any form of lobbying, Klassen told Collision Repair that his organization is aiming to help “put names to the faces” of Manitoba’s collision repair industry, and ideally, make actual industry professionals the first point of contact for government relations.

“Basically, it became apparent that we were not doing a very good job of communicating with our government officials in Manitoba, as an association,” Klassen said over the phone.

“We figured we needed to get to them and create awareness of where our industry is at in Manitoba. We presented [both parties] with some handouts that we prepared for them, just to show them some of the things that we’re currently working on.”

On the agenda were discussions of the right-to-repair movement, labour retention and technician training, as well as “inflationary issues tied to rising operational costs, technology changes and the investments required to repair today’s vehicles,” according to Klassen.

On the part of the politicians, the ATA’s most recent included the leader of the Official Opposition in Wab Kinew, as well as NDP MLA Matt Wiebe, who readers may remember from his criticism of the PC government’s handling of the MPI Project Nova online transition this past week.

Klassen and Bruneau also met with Wiebe’s Conservative counterpart and minister responsible for MPI, Kelvin Goertzen, for a similar meeting back in December.

“I think as far as I’m concerned, I believe they all had a very good, high-level understanding of the terms that we were using,” Klassen said of both meetings.

“If there’s ever a point in time where we can become the experts that they can lean on for advice, or if they have questions about the repair industry, we want them to know that we’re just a phone call or an email away and we can be involved in the conversation.”

Even if you are a small shop that doesn’t involve itself too much with the high-level machinations of the industry, Klassen encourages all managers and owners across the country to put in some face time with their local representatives.

“Should there ever be a time where you need them, the door is already open and they can put a face to your name—it’s just much easier to have a conversation,” said Klassen.


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