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Engaging your federal, provincial and local elected officials is a great way to raise awareness about Cancer Prevention and other important issues. They rely upon letters, emails and phone calls to gauge the views of their constituents – so be an active citizen and contact your elected officials today!
Look up your Federal or Provincial Members, Senators or local elected officials. Find out about them by asking your friends and colleagues, and looking online. Knowing about previous experience and accomplishments, children, hobbies and shared interests allows to you find common ground. Be sure to research any previous votes that would be of significance to you or your organization, and check past speeches, press releases and other useful sources of information – these are often archived on their websites.
Keep in mind, politicians have very busy schedules and Federal and Provincial Members are often not in their constituency, except when they are not sitting. Contact their office and ask to speak to the Constituency Assistant. Let them know in advance you will be sending a request for a meeting. Try to develop a good relationship with the MP’s staff – this is very important.
When you finally deliver, mail or email your request for a meeting, be sure to include information about yourself and/or your organization, and the reason for the requested meeting. Be sure to specify the amount of time you need, and who will be attending. Once the meeting has been confirmed, send in advance any information or materials you wish to be discussed. This may include briefing notes, backgrounders, fact sheets, a petition, etc.
Ask them about the Member’s or Councillor’s style and if they can give you any advice. The more information you have the better prepared you will be.
MPs are busy and often have to alter their schedule. Let them know you can be flexible! It may prevent your meeting from being delayed or cancelled.
Remember that you only have a short period of time. Consider using approximately half your time for presentation, and half for discussion and questions. Use specific examples from the community to help make the issues real. Talk about how supporting your cause can benefit the MP and their constituents. Keep trying to find common ground.
Bring an additional package of information with you in case the Member or Councillor did not have a chance to see the information you sent in advance. Anticipate that they may request additional information on the subject – so come prepared!
Before the meeting ends, try to establish agreed-upon follow up action, who will carry out that action, and a time frame.
Use the meeting as an opportunity to offer to be an ongoing resource to the Member or Councillor.
As quickly after the meeting as possible, write a note to say thank you. Summarize issues covered and agreed-upon follow-up actions.
The media can be a big help in advancing your issue, but it can also damage your relations with your Member or Councillor if you don’t handle it right! Before talking to the media about your meeting, make sure you let your Member or Councillor know. It is a basic courtesy you should never ignore. If they promised to follow up on a particular action, you might want to wait until you know the outcome before going to the media. If your MP is very positive and supportive you might suggest issuing a joint public statement or attending an event where you can be seen and photographed together. Consider organizing a community meeting and inviting them!
Keep in touch with them to relay new information and to respond to questions from their interactions with others.
If you cannot meet in person, write your Member or Councillor a letter. This is very important. Mailed hand-written letters (followed up with a phone call) are the most effective. You can also deliver your letter in person, or by mail or email.