Our Canadian Parliament resumed yesterday and, in the weeks ahead, Members of Parliament will begin their job of moving legislation through the House of Commons. MPs are back at it in Ottawa, on the Hill, and working with bureaucrats to caretake our Nation’s business.
When a group or company needs to interact with the routines found in Ottawa, it is always a challenge to get noticed by MPs and, often, it’s nearly impossible to get something accomplished. (There is no wonder why out of the frustrations of communicating with politicians and bureaucrats a whole Government Relations industry has spawned.)
However, individuals can connect directly with “government” and, with mindful planning and persistence, they may get things done. For those who are contemplating this mission, here are a few pointers on how to be effective when dealing with Ottawa and having your matter heard – and understood – by MPs.
- Introduce yourself – before you actually want something. Get to know office staff and gain access to MP(s) by introducing yourself and your organization/cause.
- Write. Put thoughtful opinions and information – and questions – on paper (don’t just e-mail) and mail your MP(s). (Always write your own letters – everyone hates form letters.) Most MPs will read their mail. Staff (and some MPs) do keep track of correspondence. If your letter has useful or interesting content, the staff will likely create a reference file for future use.
- Have a specific request of your MP(s) when you must connect with her/him. Be forthright and clear with what actions or information you are seeking. Attempt to make direct contact with the MP(s) and follow-up the exchange (whether it is in person or a phone conversation) with a letter of thanks.
- Understand that your matter will have to compete with MP’s politics. There are always overriding political agendas when dealing with MPs. Therefore, you must be aware of “the politics” that will impact MPs’ support for or response to your issue. It is necessary to align your messages with prevailing political agendas and engage the MP(s) with their political views in mind.
- Always connect with your local MP. As a constituent, s/he will be interested in what you have to say. At every opportunity visit and meet in person at your local constituency office. It helps to make a lasting impression when you make a personal connection with MPs and their staff.
- Be persistent. Always follow-up on any contact made with MPs and their offices. Write follow-up letters; answer any questions posed; provide further details; and, request further face time with MPs when needed. Keep volleying information into the staff and MP(s) and you will remain on their radar. With the volume of work MPs and staff have, being out-of-sight is out-of-mind.
If you feel like you are getting nowhere and are not being taken seriously, that’s when you might consider reaching out for GR assistance. Getting your message through to Parliamentarians and succeeding to “move Ottawa” on any one matter (no matter how justified it is) is painstaking and agitating. Sometimes you need a sounding board and helping hand… and, even then, you will need a generous dose of patience.