Lobbying 101, Handy Tips

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1. Preparation. Have a strategy session with your group, identify someone to be the coordinator, to make the appointment, introduce people and follow up. As the parties differ enormously on PR, check out the position of your MP’s party (see below).

2. Make contact, email usually works, to ask for an appointment, at the MP’s riding office. Follow up by telephone if no response in a few days. Some MPs will only see constituents, so make sure your contact person at least, if not everyone, is a constituent. Explain WHY you want the meeting. Explain briefly what CEA and/or Fair Vote seeks.

3. For the meeting, have material with key points to give to the MP. The coordinator introduces people and explains why you are there, or asks a member of your group to. You should all meet just before your appointment to ensure everyone is onside.

4. MPs are friendly people, and meeting with constituents is a normal part of their work. Beware letting the meeting go off topic. If the MP is hostile or unconvinced, do your best to keep the door open. Let him/her know that concern for every vote counting is growing. Stick to your time limit. Arrive on time!

5. Follow up with a thank you letter. Be friendly with the constituency assistant, who may be helpful as an ongoing contact.

Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) is Canadian Electoral Alliance’s preferred option. It was recommended by the Law Commission of Canada in its 2004 report, Voting Counts and has wide support across the country. In BC, where a Citizens’ Assembly chose a different approach, a transferable ballot, MMP was ranked second. See PR Evidence Summary.

 

 Conservative Party

The Conservative Party does not favour PR, although some individual members do. We can still make the case that first-past-the-post is bad for Canada in principle, and that some elections with it have been terrible for the Conservatives (e.g., when they were reduced to two seats, although won a quarter of the popular vote). The party has done very well with first-past-the-post, targeting marginal ridings and winning them, so that it has a majority government with only 37% voter support.

The Conservative Party in the past has had PR advocates, including Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney. Former MP Patrick Boyer (a constitutional lawyer) and former Senator Hugh Segal are current advocates. 62% of Conservative voters (70% of voters overall) support PR.

See Fair Vote’s Visiting Your Conservative MP for more.

 

NDP (Official Opposition)

The NDP favours PR, and is actively promoting it in its consultations, led by Craig Scott, MP, democratic reform critic.

If you are visiting an NDP MP, you do not need to persuade him or her, but ask the MP to do more on it to persuade others.

 

Liberals

The Liberal Party currently has Alternative Voting on its policy books, which is not proportional. Former leader the Hon Stephane Dion personally advocates a form of PR, 3P, a system which raises many problems, and is not in operation anywhere in the world. Let Liberal MPs know that 70% of voters support PR, and that its next policy convention will consider a resolution for PR.

Green Party

The Green Party has PR on its policy book, but has not specified which type.

 

 Electoral Alliance and Electoral Reform

Canadian Electoral Alliance www.electoralalliance.ca was formed in 2011 with the purpose of promoting PR, specifying a one-time electoral alliance, for the 2015 federal election, as the means to get to it. That is, the non-government parties would team up and run a common candidate in (roughly) the 50 most vulnerable ridings--the Conservative ridings won with the lowest margin in votes. (Note, with re-distribution, new calculations are needed to identify the most vulnerable ridings.)

Fair Vote Canada (FVC) www.fairvote.ca is a grassroots, multi-partisan citizens' campaign for voting system reform. FVC promotes the introduction of an element of proportional representation in elections at all levels of government and in civil society.

In any event, there is no immediate prospect of any alliance being formed. Both the leader of the Official Opposition, Thomas Mulcair, and the Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau, believe that they can win majority governments.

The most that advocates of electoral alliance can do at the moment is to promote informal co-operation across party lines, and promote, in the general public, the notion that coalition is not a dirty word, that minority governments, with accord or some kind of co-operative arrangements, have been good and effective in Canada, and are frequently used in European democracies.

Green Party leader Elizabeth May favours an electoral alliance. Two contenders for their party’s leadership called for an electoral alliance: Nathan Cullen, MP, now House leader for the NDP, who came third in the leadership contest, and Joyce Murray, MP, who ran second.

See Fair Vote’s Declaration of Voters’ Rights