Who can you - and should - meet?
Always reach out to your specific representative. They are there to represent you and therefore have a duty to at least listen to your concerns.
When trying to influence change, try to work with the decision makers who are capable of making that change happen.
Go onto the website of the provincial, federal, or territorial government you are trying to influence and take a look at their cabinet ministers. Read the description of each ministry and determine which ministry or ministries is/are relevant to your cause. For example, if you are calling on the government to improve supports for survivors of domestic violence, you should consider speaking with the Minister for Status of Women, the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Health, and the Minister of Public Safety.
Consider reaching out to the level of government most responsible for the issue you care about, but it is often the case that provinces/territories and the federal government both play a role. Decide if you want to concentrate your efforts or if you want to reach out to the responsible ministers at multiple levels of government.
You should also reach out to opposition critics about this issue. The Official Opposition will always have a critic for each portfolio (another term for Ministry). This is sometimes called a Shadow Cabinet and it is composed of Shadow Ministers.
They are a critical component of the system of checks and balances that is integral to our democracy. Critics can play an important role in raising your issue to the Minister in question period, debates on legislation or the budget, with the media or behind the scenes with other key players.
Shadow Ministers: A member of the main opposition party in Parliament who would hold ministerial office if their party were in power.
You can find out who the critics or shadow ministers are by looking at the websites of the opposition parties.Other opposition that don’t make up the Official Opposition parties will also likely have a representative designated to be a critic of each portfolio. Reach out to these individuals as well.
WORK ACROSS PARTY LINES
It is important to put your own political views aside when taking on the role of an advocate, and work with everyone. You never know who will end up being your biggest advocate and who might form government in the future. Your advocacy work might be a long-haul project that might span one or more elections. Thus, it’s important to garner support on both sides of the aisle. For example, if the issue you are addressing falls into the federal Status of Women portfolio, you should get in contact the Hon. Maryam Monsef, Liberal Minister for Status of Women, Rachael Harder, Conservative Opposition Critic for Status of Women, and Sheila Malcolmson, NDP Critic for Status of Women.
Don’t underestimate the influence that a meeting with a municipal politician (your mayor or a councillor) can have. You can meet with them about issues surrounding your municipality. In addition, even if they are not in a direct position to solve your issue they can provide greater insight or create a faster link to the federal or provincial representative you are looking to meet with. Municipal politicians are usually easier to find and meet in person.
Furthermore, mayors work in a constant correspondence with other municipalities, provincial governments, and the federal government. Councillors are also often members of provincial and/or federal committees with other representatives. They have connections available that you might not otherwise have access to and they can help further a resolution.
Chief and Band Council: When and Why to engage?
*Note some reserves or communities may have rejected the Indian Act form of governance and may use a different governance system or a combination of two systems. For example, they may use hereditary chiefs and the Chief and Council (C&C) system at the same time.
Chief and Council deal with local issues for a reserve area. They are the primary contacts for if you want to address a local issue (on-reserve or in the area). The councillors may have portfolios meaning they are in charge of certain areas (education, finance, etc.). If there is a certain concern you have, it would be best to contact the councillor who has that portfolio.
Chief and Council may also be involved in larger political organizations such as the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and would serve as your local representative. If there is a concern or issue that you care greatly about in the larger organizations such as AFN, getting in contact with your C&C is a way to ensure your voice is heard
How to engage?
Attend C&C meetings if possible. The meetings discuss community events, progress on issues and most meetings are open to community members. Some communities may live stream or record their meetings so you can view them even if you are unable to attend in person. During a question or concerns period you can ask to speak and bring your concerns to the attention of C&C.
If you have a concern or presentation that will take up a longer amount of time you can contact a member of C&C or meeting coordinator and request a time to speak within the agenda. If your request is granted you will have a set time to address C&C and the public. Sometimes companies or organizations who are not members of the reserve will conduct presentations in this way.
C&C often have email addresses and phone numbers to contact them with concerns. C&C are often at community events so if you wish to more informally ask questions, approach them at this time or use this as an opportunity for networking. There may be non-meeting based C&C events such as a swearing in ceremony for new C&C members,which is a great way to engage with C&C.
How to get a meeting?
All Parliamentarians, be it provincial or federal, have a generic email address. There is a member of their staff that is responsible for sorting through those emails and forwarding them to the appropriate person. You can find their email, phone number on their page on the House of Commons or provincial/territorial legislature website. The same is true of your municipal or city council.
When you reach out:
- Be persistent
- Follow up on your emails
- Be respectful
- State a call to action
Expert tip: When it comes to federal representatives, everyone has a generic email address, which takes the form of “firstname.lastname@example.org.”
However, if you type in “firstname.lastname.C1@parl.gc.ca” the email will be sent to the constituency office and is more likely to be will be seen by a staff member.
If you type “firsname.lastname.A1@parl.gc.ca” your letter will be received by someone in the Ottawa office. This is a trick that can circumvent the risk of your email amongst thousands of others in the general inbox
Tips and Tricks for your Meeting
Before the Meeting
- Know exactly who you’re meeting with.
- Understand their background. Where did they go to college? What did they do before being elected to public office?
- This is especially useful if you can find common ground that you can use to build a relationship with that individual.
- Have your elevator pitch down.
- Elevator Pitch: An elevator pitch is basically a 15- to 30-second speech. The idea is that you can deliver your pitch to someone in the amount of time it will take an elevator to get you both where you're going.
- What is the issue you are addressing?
- What do you want this person to do about it?
- What tangible outcomes do you want to result from this meeting?
- What is the end goal of your advocacy?
- Prepare a list of questions and key points that are relevant to the person.
- Prepare any documents or reports you might want to give to the person.
- Prepare answers for questions you may be asked
During the Meeting
- Thank the person for meeting with you before and after the meeting.
- Give out subtle compliments. People like to be complimented and it helps break the ice.
- Begin with your elevator pitch and then see if they have any questions for you.
After the Meeting
- Send a follow up email if you discussed working together in the figure.
- Keep a working document of meeting notes for you to reference later.