A Step-by-step Guide to Positively Affecting Political Issues in Your Riding
Have you ever wanted to get more involved politically but didn’t know how? Have you ever been intimidated to talk to your MP, especially about issues like abortion and euthanasia, but are too scared of making them angry or uncomfortable? Fear not! This is an easy to use guide that will help you get noticed and respected by your MP, making it easy for you to talk to them about these important issues.Many think that voting is the only way to have power in a democracy, but by following these simply steps, you can ensure that your voice is heard all year round.
Step 1: Build a Relationship
Have you ever gone up to a random stranger and asked them to do something important for you? Probably not. It’s not that unreasonable however, to ask a close friend or relative, someone you respect and trust, to listen to you and do as you ask. Building relationships with your elected MP is step number one to affecting positive change in politics, and it’s easier than you think. Remember, it is impossible for an MP to be an expert on all issues, so it is up to us to educate them. MPs also have a duty to meet with their constituents and listen to their needs – so it’s a win-win situation. You can do this in 6 different ways:
1.1 Join a political party
1.4 Attend social events/open houses
1.5 Encourage/congratulate them
1.6 Join the Board of Directors of the MP’s electoral district association (EDA). This is sometimes called a Riding Association
Now we’ll delve with more detail into each of these methods of building a relationship with the MP.
Refrain from buying that pepperoni pizza you’ve been craving and spend $10 or $15 dollars to join a political party. All you have to do is go to the party website and click the “Join the Party” tab. Fill out the appropriate contact information, pay the fee and voila – you are one step closer at being a highly influential political asset.
By joining a political party you can:
- Take part in the nomination process of candidates so that come election time, you can know whether there is a pro-life candidate to support, and get behind their campaign.
- Join influential committees within the party (e.g.. Candidate selection committee, Youth Branch), allowing you to make connections with other politically active people in your area
- Influence party leaders and candidates. You now have the credibility to give your input on current issues, including the abortion issue. Joining a party is an important place to gain entry into the political sphere and to see some real effects of your influence.
- Writing party policy and voting on it locally, as well as at the Party Convention as an elected delegate.
Times are tough. We know. Donating is not something most people, especially young people, are eager to do – especially when it comes to politics.
The fact of the matter is however, that MPs listen far more to those that are a member of the party AND donate. Consider donating if your MP is “pro-life” or “educable”. If your MP is pro-abortion however, you should not donate. If your local MP is pro-abortion, but an MP in an adjacent or nearby riding to where you live is pro-life, donating to the latter may be an alternative. If you are donating to an MP outside of your riding, make sure to send them an e-mail along with your donation to ensure that the MP knows that you are donating to him because they are pro-life. Just go to our website to view our Candidate Ratings to see which MP currently sitting in the House of Commons is pro-life and worthy of your donation. Spreading your donation out throughout the year through monthly PAC withdrawals instead of a lump sum payment, is a way to make sure your name is seen often by the MP and the EDAs board of directors.
Donating is simple. All you have to do is go to the party website and click the “donate” tab. Fill out the appropriate information and click “okay”. In five minutes you could increase your relative importance to that MP!
During an election, MPs are desperate for supporters to volunteer for their campaign. This can be anything from answering phones to delivering signs to canvassing door-to-door. You do not need previous experience to sign up, and there is no minimum or maximum time requirement. The number one thing to make sure of is that you are not volunteering for a pro-abortion MP. You can find out where your MP stands on the abortion issue by calling their office and asking where they stand, or viewing the CLC rating on our website, to study the information we’ve compiled on them including their voting record. If an MP is rated “pro-life” or “educable”, the next step is to contact their office and sign up as a volunteer.
Simply go to their website and click on the <Volunteer> menu option. Fill out the necessary information and click send. You should be contacted by a representative shortly thereafter to arrange a time and place.
If you want to be even more impressionable, grab a few friends or family members to come along with you. There is strength in numbers. The more people you bring to help your candidate, the more your candidate will remember and appreciate you. Don’t forget to tell the campaign team that you are volunteering because the candidate is pro-life and that you support Campaign Life Coalition.
When you become part of a party you will receive e-mails to attend various social events within your riding. Go to them. Not all of them, but throwing one in here and there to your social calendar will really help you maintain a relationship with your member of parliament. MPs meet hundreds of people every week, so in order for you to stick out from the crowd, attending various social events will demonstrate that you care about and support your MP, as well as create facial recognition for future meetings.
Congratulate your MP for things like their party adopting a policy you support, or your MP doing something that you feel contributes to the pro-life, pro-family cause. Be especially sure to congratulate and thank your MP for doing something you asked them to do – like making a public statement or opposing a Bill etc.
Try to create a basis for politicians to feel comfortable working with you. Then when you lobby in relation to future bills or motions, they will be more sympathetic and will feel the pressure of your efforts more acutely.
For example, when former Health Minister Rona Ambrose voted in favour of Motion 312, despite the fact that she is not pro-life, women across Canada congratulated her on this positive vote through a video/ letter campaign initiated by Campaign Life Coalition Youth and partner groups. See photo below.
If you want to make the most difference, join the EDA (Electoral District Association) Board of Directors. Simple as that. An MP is extremely attentive to a constituent who is a member of the party, donates and is a member of the board. It sounds scarier than it is.
- Join the party (you must be a member for at least 21 days prior to the riding association’s Annual General Meeting before you can be elected to the Board)
- Find out the date of your riding’s Annual General Meeting
- Attend the AGM. Bring a friend who is also a member of the party to nominate you. Get elected. Begin to influence policy discussions with your pro-life worldview.
Step 2: Lobby
Let’s face it. Without your vote, your MP is powerless. Voting once every four years however, just isn’t going to cut it. By going directly to your MP, you can ensure your ‘voice of reason’ is heard year round. Every constituent’s voice is important no matter what age or socio-economic background they have. Every MP keeps track of the number of people who contact them about a specific issue, whether young or old. Very often, MPs will admit they calculate what side of an issue they’ll take by measuring the pulse of their constituents. So if you and other pro-lifers are making frequent lobby visits to their office, it’ll make an impression.
If you are a young person, you are at a particular advantage. MPs really take notice of politically active young people. Despite the intimidation factor of sitting before that one person in your neighbourhood who chums around with the Prime Minister or Party Leader, if you follow these easy steps, you won’t just be chumming around with the Prime Minister/Leader, you’ll be influencing him or her indirectly through the MP.
Four easy steps in the lobbying process:
Each of these will be explained below.
Nobody likes the dreaded “r” word, but think of it this way- most people don’t go on first dates without looking up their date on Facebook, asking about them to mutual friends or checking out their twitter feed. Although you’re not planning to date your MP, you are trying to woo them and become their trusted confidant. Thankfully, we have a rich resource to use that makes researching MPs easy- the world wide web. All it takes is a few clicks to find out all the information you need to help you sound like the intelligent and considerate constituent you are.
By checking out the MP’s profile on our website, you can find out all the information you need. You can find out how your MP has been rated by CLC, how they have voted on previous motions/bills, public statements they’ve made, and whether they answered CLC’s election questionnaire. These can help you accumulate the information you need to go to your appointment.
Also brush up on the topic, bill or motion you plan to speak about by checking out the wealth of resources, fact sheets and videos on CLC’s website which covers basically all the life and family issues, from abortion to euthanasia to the increasing intolerance and discrimination being heaped upon Canadians who believe that true marriage is between a man and a woman.
Before you go to the meeting, make sure:
- you have a copy of any materials you would like your MP to have (ie. research papers, studies, articles etc)
- you have a clear ask for your MP (ie. sign a petition, raise an issue in parliament, vote in favour of/or against a particular bill or motion)
- you dress appropriately. Look professional. Before you even open your mouth, your MP will be sizing you up based on your physical appearance.
Before going in to visit your MP, you need to call and set up an appointment. Because issues like abortion/ euthanasia are very controversial and avoided by many MPs, you don’t want to give away too much too fast. You need to be strategic in setting up your appointment- which means following these tips:
- Keep it generic. You don’t want to get too specific about your visit- especially if it’s about a controversial issue. For example:
“Hi, my name is Jascinta Jones. I would like to set up an appointment with Ms. Freeland. I’m interested in getting more politically active and potentially joining the Liberal Party, I just have a few questions I would like to discuss with Chrystia first, about party policy.”
- If you’re a young person, use your age to your advantage! Slip in how old you are in your phone call and you are more likely to get an appointment right away.
- Confirm with an e-mail a few days before your meeting to ensure that the meeting is still taking place, as well as to show you are organized as well as eager.
The single most important thing you can do during your meeting is build trust and rapport with your MP. If you give the right impression, come across as knowledgeable, reasonable, and passionate, then your MP is more likely to take your request to heart. At the end of the day, being right about something is only part of the whole package of selling your point of view to your MP, and motivating them to do something. Here are a few recommendations to achieve this goal:
- Come in prepared to have a conversation
This is not a lecture, and not a chance to ear-bash your MP with your views. With this attitude, your whole demeanor will change to help build trust and rapport through your body language, voice and facial expressions.
- Ask meaningful, open-ended questions
For example, “what is your personal stance on the abortion issue?” or “do you have any background interest or experiences in this issue?” After finding out what your MP’s personal stance is, ask if your MP would be willing to put forward legislation to keep women and unborn children safe.
- Be fair, and listen to their reasons for opposing, supporting, or being reluctant to take a stand on your issue.
You are more likely to convince your MP to change their mind if you can gently show them why their opposition or reluctance is misplaced and the benefits of supporting you outweigh these. Coming in with a rehearsed, static script will prevent you from having the dynamic conversation you need to tailor your conversation to your MP’s needs.
- Find common ground
Having a conversation with your MP at their level will make it easier for them to change their mind on an issue, because you can show them that they’re not really changing their minds at all! It’s better to assure them that your position is more consistent with their beliefs, than to ask them to revise their beliefs. For example, “do you agree that all human beings should have human rights”?
- Bring a friend
There’s strength in numbers goes the old adage. If you bring a friend who is also a constituent along with you to the lobby meeting, even if you do all the talking and your friend mostly listens, it may have a persuasive psychological effect on the MP.It shows that more than one person is interested in this topic.Another practical reason for bringing along a friend is you can ask them to take notes throughout the meeting. These notes will be valuable to pass onto CLC for our records and possibly, to help us rate the candidate. The notes will also be valuable for you to study after the meeting and to help you develop a pointed follow up that might touch base on something specific the MP shared with you or questioned.These notes can prevent you from forgetting valuable personal data about the MP’s spouse, grand children, or emotional past experiences, that you can bring up in future conversations to keep connecting on that more intimate, personal level with the MP. Without notes, you may easily forget many of these precious nuggets.
- Relax and have fun
Think of this like any other conversation you have about important issues. MPs have to deal with a lot of people all the time. Mostly crazies or overly emotional sorts. That’s why your MP is more likely to like and respect you coming in and having a relaxed, low-key conversation about an issue you care about, versus something dry, rehearsed or over the top.
- Leave like a pro
Don’t get shuffled out before getting what you came for. Try to get a clear commitment of help from your MP. Don’t settle for vague promises.Leave with something open-ended to ensure a future visit. For example, “I look forward to meeting with you again”. Last but not least, if your MP asked for any further information, make sure to drop it off at their office as soon as possible. This shows your commitment to the cause.
After your meeting, be sure to follow-up with your MP. For example, if you visited them asking them to vote in favour of a particular motion or bill, be sure to write a letter to your MP or make a follow-up visit depending on how they voted. This communicates to them that they will always be accountable for their actions- whether they were positive or negative.
After your initial visit, be sure to thank them for the visit, whether it be through an e-mail, tweet or phone call. That keeps the communication lines open and keeps the relationship amicable. Lastly, don’t forget to e-mail or phone in to Campaign Life Coalition with a report summary of your initial lobby visit so we can add more information to our file on each particular MP.
This information will help Canadians during the next election know who they should vote for and where particular MPs stand on life issues.
Step 3: Letter Writing
3.1 What type of letter is most effective?
Sitting down to hand-write an original letter to a politician isn’t as convenient as sending a form letter or an e-mail, but it is much more effective and much more likely to receive a personalized response. Some politicians may regard e-mail as “second-class mail”.If possible, we recommend you write a hand-written letter. The second next best option is a letter typed on computer, signed by hand and delivered by snail mail with a stamp. The third best option is by email.
- Include your name and contact details on the top left-hand corner of the page. Identify yourself as a constituent by including your address. Politicians are more likely to pay attention to people who live in their electoral district.
- Include their name and contact details underneath on the left-hand side of the page.
State the topic clearly. Include a subject line at the beginning of your letter. If it is about a specific piece of legislation, state the full name of the bill or motion in the subject line or first paragraph.
Restrict your focus to one or two main points, three maximum, which support your view. Use examples from your research as evidence and flesh them out. This is more effective than attempting to address numerous points in a letter. In fact, by not loading up your points in one single letter, it will allow you to send multiple letters throughout the year, each focusing on a different point or two, with appropriate back-up research.
- Reiterate your view expressed in the introduction.
- Pick one strong example from your letter to back up your point.
- Ask for the politician to respond to your letter by:
- writing a response back to you, or
- organizing a meeting with you, or
- taking concrete action (raising the issue with their party) or voting to support/oppose a bill
Step 4: How to Use Social Media for Change
Social media changes the dynamics of MP/constituent relations because of the openness and publicity constituents are given through these forums. Social media has the benefit of reaching a huge number of people- including your MP and media outlets- if you get it right. Tweeting or Facebook statuses that are funny, interesting and attention-grabbing will do the trick and engage not only your member of parliament but other Canadians as well.
If you don’t have Twitter, set up an account right now. Open a new browser window, go to twitter.com and register an account immediately. This is the number one way to let your MP know how you feel directly (without going through secretaries) in a public way, and thus to lobby him/her on your issue. Using hashtags such as #cdnpoli or #onpoli will give you a greater audience, as well as using particular mainstream media twitter handles (ie. @cbcnews) as well.
Part of the reason why Twitter has become so popular and so effective is that you can’t write large tomes. Twitter limits your message to 140 characters maximum. That’s a built-in mechanism to ensure you don’t have to spend a lot of time doing this, as opposed to writing a letter or email which requires much more thought and planning.
Photos and cartoons can also be included in your tweet, and these can be useful if they grab attention or provide humour.
Don’t forget to “follow” your MP and be alert to what events they will be attending, or what issues they are concerned about- to tie them into your push for pro-life legislation. Tweet regularly- but don’t over-do it. Never underestimate the power of the “block” button.
Start your own “Tweet-a-thons” or join in when our CLC Youth division or other pro-life groups organize them. Getting a pro-life hashtag (ie. #marchforlife) trending on Twitter will give that event/ issue more publicity than being covered by the media. Last but not least, be sure to follow @campaignlife for examples of political retweets you can use in your lobbying efforts.
Most MPs have Facebook pages you can “like”. By doing this, you will be made more aware of the activities your MP is doing on a day-to-day basis, which will help you in figuring out which events to attend to put in some valuable face-time. This will also help you understand the issues your MP is more concerned about so when you do make an appointment to speak with them at their constituency office, you can incorporate those issues into your conversation. You can also comment on Facebook posts that they make public, demonstrating that you are in-the-know about current issues and care about where your MP stands on issues other than abortion.
Although our most important issue is procuring legal protection for preborn children, and there’s nothing wrong with always making that your message, there is some merit in being able to chime in on other parliamentary issues that the MP may be involved in.For example, some foreign policy crisis or a recent health care controversy.Your MP may perceive you as being more credible if you’re able to be a little bit conversational on some of these topics. That additional credibility you earn may go a long way in terms of the MP paying more attention to your pro-life message. Again, don’t over-do it. There are enough people who are Facebook trolls, especially to people in the spotlight. Don’t be one of them.
Don’t forget to also post encouraging or congratulatory comments on their Facebook wall as well, especially when your MP stands for something you agree with or an important issue affecting your local riding. Remember- you attract more bees with honey.
What better way to communicate to your MP your support/disappointment in their vote than by making a short video. Not only does this prove that you actually exist, it also puts a personal touch on your message that a Tweet or Facebook post can’t do. Use the video in an e-mail, a tweet or post to their Facebook wall as one of the many ways to get your voice heard.
This can be especially effective when an MP is attacked for standing up on a controversial issue, such as abortion. When Health Minister Rona Ambrose voted in favour of MP Stephen Woodworth’s Motion 312, the media attacked her, and many people called for her resignation. Pro-lifers however were able to come together by posting short 10 second clips of them saying they supported Rona in her vote- and tweeting them at the media and at Rona herself. This made a huge impact, and gave Rona the support she needed to stand in favour of the next pro-life motion that was brought up in Parliament, Motion 408, despite the fact that Rona says she is pro-choice.
Encouragement and support, even to those MPs who are not vocally pro-life can sometimes be the most effective lobbying tool you have. Don’t let it go to waste.
We know this may seem like a lot. With work, school, family, friends, you are probably asking yourself how it is possible to Adopt Your MP.
The answer to that question is simple. Electing pro-life MPs and lobbying others to support pro-life legislation is absolutely necessary if we are to have any hope of restoring legal protection for the unborn.
Politics shapes the way society thinks, and guides our actions in our everyday life. If we truly believe that abortion is killing an innocent human life, we have no choice but to act. We have no choice but to use the endless resources we have been given and follow these simple steps to using your power as a young and credible member of society to influence the politician that represents YOU.
The pro-life movement has been successful in saving lives through educational and pastoral campaigns across the country. A new youth movement is growing like never before in Canada, which is giving us more hope than ever in restoring a culture of life. There’s just one essential link missing: politicians. It is getting increasingly harder for politicians to put forward any type of legislation that even mentions or refers to abortion, which means we need to step up our game.
We need to prove to our politicians that Canadians want protection for the unborn in ways that will affect them the most: our vote and our voice. Don’t just talk about change. Be the change.