Engaging with elected officials
The climate crisis requires each of us to do what we can to reduce our carbon footprint. As important as these actions are, there is only so much individuals can do. Powerful change occurs when governments enact and enforce policies that limit fossil fuel use and advance clean energy alternatives. Governments will only enact such policies when they have the political will to do so.
That’s where you come in.
Your ongoing correspondence and meetings with elected officials make a difference. They help elevate the issue and enact important bills.
Best Practices in Engaging with Elected Officials
Write to your political representatives
Elected officials have told us they don’t hear enough from their constituents about the climate emergency. While public concern is mounting, it is still imperative to write to your elected officials at all levels of government, expressing your concern and supporting specific policies.
Tips to help make your letter powerful:
- Be respectful. Treat elected officials as you would want others to treat you.
- Be personal. Articulate why specifically the climate crisis is important to you. Handwritten (and legible) letters provide a personal touch and, due to the effort involved, add special weight, more so than emails.
- Get local. If you are able, cite specific examples of how the climate crisis is impacting you, your riding and region.
- Be specific. What do you want your elected official to do? Support or introduce specific or important legislation? Ask a Minister a question?
- Involve others. Encourage your family, including children and youth, to write too. Include colourful art. Throw a letter-writing party and invite your network. Serve beverages and snacks.
- Meet with your political representatives. Mobilize your KAIROS chapter to reach out to your Member of Parliament.
- Stay focused. Resist presenting a long list of things you want the official to do. Multiple messages = no message. Focus on legislation that will serve as the biggest catalyst for change.
- Be persistent. If you are struggling to secure a meeting with your official, don’t give up. Members of Parliament or members of provincial legislative assemblies typically meet constituents on Fridays, and throughout the week during summer and winter recesses.
- Research. Find out all you can about the elected official prior to meeting with them. What is their public position on the climate emergency? What is their voting record? What committees do they sit on? What’s important to them? What do you have in common? Create a dossier on the official and share it with your group. Keep it updated.
- Assign roles. Organize a pre-meeting to plan what you would like to address and discuss in the meeting. Assign the note-keeper, time-keeper, the person who will deliver the ask, the person who will ask specific questions (if time allows), and the person who will ensure that a photo will be taken.
- Show appreciation. Find something the official has done that you appreciate. Assign someone in your group the role of expressing this appreciation when you meet. It will start the meeting in a good way.
- Be respectful. Always be courteous when meeting with an elected official. Avoid arguments while maintaining your position. Also, respect their time. The role of timer-keeper is to inquire how much time the elected official and/or staff has and to stick to it. Matters left unsaid can be addressed in a second meeting.
- Be personal. As with a letter, briefly express why the climate crisis is important to you.
- Listen. When meeting with the official, listen attentively. Repeat back the concerns they tell you.
- Connect the dots. Climate change impacts everything, including the official’s chief interests. If the official is concerned about the economy, discuss how climate change will undermine local and national economies.
- Take notes. Jot down what the official tells you. This will help prepare you for follow up meetings.
- Educate. Your elected official may know little about the climate crisis. This is a great opportunity to educate them by sending them resources, particularly related to matters of interest to the official. Be gentle and persistent.
Immediately following the meeting, touch base with your group to discuss how it went and next steps. Address any questions the note-keeper may have recorded. Ensure that the notes are typed up and shared with everyone, including KAIROS. Please send your notes to Cheryl McNamara – email@example.com. Keep the notes confidential. Send a handwritten thank you card to the elected official or staff for meeting with you.
How to Take Great Notes in a Lobby Meeting