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How to Lobby Your MLA 101 Do your homework - Laurie Blakeman

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How to Lobby Your MLA 101
Do your homework
• Make sure you are talking to right level of government.
• If you don’t know or aren’t sure in which jurisdiction your issue lies, just ask.
Most offices will be happy to listen to a brief description of your issue and refer
you to the correct level or department.
Make sure you’re talking to right person
• If you need individual help with a problem you must contact your own MLA.
They have an office and staff to assist their constituents.
• Larger policy issues or to address changes in programs and services contact the
responsible Minister or Shadow Minister (member of the Official Opposition
dedicated to that portfolio).
• Always copy your own MLA on any correspondence. It lets them know you have
been active and they would be somewhat aware of the issue if you have to follow
up with them. They may have additional resources that they can bring to your
attention. It also tells whoever you are writing to that someone else is watching.
If you want your MLA to pay particular attention to your issue, pay particular attention
to your MLA.
• If your MLA has a strong history of advocacy on a certain issue, don’t waste your
time and theirs educating them about it.
• Find out:
1. What do they know about your issue?
2. What have they said on the record in the media or in Hansard about your
issue?
• You can search Hansard, the official record of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta
at www.assembly.ab.ca or do a search of news files on www.google.ca or any
other search engine. By spending a bit of time on research you won’t waste your
rime of the MLAs’s educating them on an issue for which they have already done
a lot of work.
Be clear about what you want
• What do you want the MLA to do with the information you are presenting. Is it
simply for their information or are you wanting action? What changes do you
want to see? What are the possible consequences? Who benefits?
Look for duplication of effort
Laurie Blakeman, MLA
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See if others are working on the same issue. Even a slight change on your angle
dilutes the effort. If there are four groups individually pursuing the same agenda
they will have less chance of success than as one united group. The government
will not fund four different groups to do essentially the same thing and they end
up funding none. Identify who you can partner with to push the issue forward.
When meeting with your MLA
• Offer to provide ahead of time information that you wish to discuss. Keep any
information packages short and to the point
• Be on time but not really early.
• When you book appointment, ask how much time you have. Organize the
presentation for 2/3 of that time so you have time for introductions, questions
and follow-up.
• Bring a copy of the information package with you to give to MLA again
(brochures on your organization; one page outline of the problem). Don’t waste
resources by giving DVDs, binders of studies or lengthy reports.
• Keep your group to 1-3 people. Each person should have something to do.
• MLAs will not chose sides in a sectoral conflict.
• Have in place a plan B if you can’t get what you want.
• Ask for advice. This is an easy way to get information and leads.
• Give a brief summary of your issue and seek to understand how the MLA views
the issue.
• Don’t be afraid to probe what you don’t understand in the MLA’s statements.
• Offer to answer questions. Offer to follow up with other information.
• Never threaten MLAs (I voted for you so you’d better …, or next time I’d consider
voting for you if …)
• Don’t pull your punches, but consider the consequences of making an enemy you
did not need to.
• Be neutral and non-threatening as you want them to know about your issue and
feel comfortable and motivated to contact you directly for more information.
Remember that although every MLA is different, their first priority is always their own
constituents.
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Put your MLA on your mailing list and invite them to events such as volunteer
appreciations.
When inviting your MLA, address them by their name (e.g. Dear _____, or Hello
____). Personalizing the message will grab their attention.
Give them a role or a task at your event and, if possible, always put them onstage
to bring greetings.
Find a champion for your issue.
Social networking sites are important, but look at Facebook invites as a poster,
not an official invitation.
MLAs cannot buy fundraising tickets through constituency budgets.
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