YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE AN EXPERT TO VISIT YOUR MP
You don’t have to be politically active or excessively knowledgeable.
You are a constituent.
Lobby groups in Ottawa can influence politicians, but only you can put them in power. You are the most important person in your MP’s life. And if he or she seems to have forgotten this, you can remind them.
By letting your MP know you care, you can make an impact. Canadian democracy is built upon opinion and your vote. MPs know this, right now, after an election full of shocks and surprises, your MP is more aware of this than ever.
Did you know that Parliament has a formula for working out how many inactive constituents’ opinions are represented by an individual who is concerned enough to take action?
1 call or email from you to your MP counts as 10 people
1 letter from you counts as 100 people
1 personal visit from you to your MP or MPP counts as 1000 people!
When MPs see voters taking action, they respond. What’s more, they need your input. Did you know that 2/3 of MPs simply learn about the issues they have to vote on second-hand? Your MP can learn why the NHP Regulations matter…from you. Be sure that you have more knowledge than he or she does though. If you find the idea a little daunting, think about taking someone with you.
Here is a step by step guide to an effective meeting with your MP:
1) Find out who your MP is. Click here to locate your MP by inputting your postal code. This link will give you your MP’s constituency office address and telephone number.
2) Find out about your MP. When you have clicked the link above and found your MP, click on their name. The website will link you to further information and to your MP’s personal website. Is your MP someone who has been in Parliament for years? Is this someone who voted unthinkingly for Bill C-36? Have they already sent you a form letter written for them by Health Canada regarding the NHP Regulations? Or are you now represented by a newcomer to the House of Commons? This MP will be enthusiastic, keen to learn and may not have heard about the issues before.
3) Bring your knowledge up to date. Follow the links at the bottom of this page to all our support materials for learning and sharing. You are already more knowledgeable about the issues than your MP but the more deeply you understand the problems the easier it will be for you to have the conversation.
4) Select your particular concerns. The issues are complex and there are several support materials available to you. Would you like your MP to read something before you visit? Will you take materials with you to leave with them to follow up on later? Begin with a specific and personal way in which the restriction of natural products is affecting you, your health, your livelihood or your family. Then pick the materials which illustrate and assist your points. Make well organized notes to take with you on the day.
1) Make the appointment. Telephone the constituency office and ask how and when to book an appointment to meet with your MP. Be prepared to state who you are, who you will bring with you and the purpose of your visit.
2) Be persistent. You may be asked to fax, email or mail your request. Don’t rely on these receiving attention, keep calling until you have your appointment.
3) Be clear about your wishes. If you have information you would like your MP to read before the meeting, let the member of staff you speak to know that this is your expectation. Ask how they would like to have the materials sent (fax/email/hard copy) and follow up to ensure they have been received.
4) Remain assertive but polite. The staff member you speak to when you telephone is the gatekeeper to your MP’s time. Take the trouble to acknowledge their input, make a friend.
1) Be On Time. Your MP has the responsibility to meet with you and hear your concerns, however their time is limited. Offer the respect and consideration you hope to have returned.
2) Dress professionally. Whatever your attitude to appearances, a meeting with your MP is no different to a job interview or court appearance in that you want to persuade someone round to your point of view. MPs are no different to the rest of us, first impressions matter.
3) Make it personal. Begin with how the crisis affects you and your family. Invite your MP to talk about natural products they may use or that their family might benefit from.
4) Stick to the Facts. Much of the information your MP has received from Health Canada is based on assertions which have no foundation in fact. You are taking facts along for your MP to see. Make sure to point out the difference between fact and opinion. Ask for evidence to back up anything your MP has to say.
5) Take notes/make notes. If you have sent advance reading materials, there is every chance your MP won’t have looked at them yet. Have copies with you, with the sections you wish to speak about highlighted. If your MP undertakes to read further information, or to ask Health Canada about anything you discuss, write the undertaking down. Agree a timescale for them to respond…and write that down. Offer to email or fax a copy of your meeting notes so that your MP is aware that you will be following up the discussion.
1) Acknowledge with thanks. Always email or mail a short thank-you note. Be appreciative of your MP’s willingness to spend time in conversation. You can use this communication as a reminder of the agreed outcomes of your meeting.
2) Keep to your timetable. If your MP is to write to you/meet with you again/attempt to obtain information from Health Canada etc. within a timeframe, ensure that you make contact at the right time for your response. Your MP has no reason to put work into understanding your point of view if you forget what you asked for.
3) Publicize the outcome. Do you have a blog, website or Twitter account? Tell your network what your MP had to say and what they have undertaken to do. Send a letter to the editor of your local paper. Call in to your local radio station’s talk show and tell them about your experience with your elected representative.
And remember, your MP knows that one thousand people agree with you but haven’t taken the time and trouble to do the same!
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