Working with your Member of Parliament
Engaging your Member of Parliament (MP) is a great way to raise awareness about Cancer Prevention and other important issues. MPs rely upon letters and phone calls to gauge the views of their constituents – so be an active citizen and contact your MP today!
Get to know a little bit about your MP
After you have identified your MP, research your MP’s biography. You can usually find everything you need in just a few minutes using Google. Note previous experience and accomplishments, children, hobbies, shared interests, etc. This allows to you look for common ground. Be sure to research any previous votes that would be of significance to you or your organization and be sure to check the MP’s website (note: they may have both a government website and a personal website). Past speeches, press releases and other useful sources of information are often archived there. Also check out your MP’s voting record.
Request an interview
It’s time to request a meeting. Keep in mind, MPs have a very busy schedule and are usually not home in their constituency except for Fridays and weekends, and weeks the House of Commons is not sitting (known as “break weeks”). Contact your MP’s office and ask to speak to your MP’s Constituency Assistant. Let them know in advance you will be sending a request for a meeting. Try to develop a good relationship with the MP’s staff – this is very important.
Send advance information
When you finally deliver, mail, fax or email your request for a meeting, be sure to include information about yourself and/or your organization, and the reason for the requested meeting. Be sure to specify the amount of time you need, and who will be attending. Once the meeting has been confirmed, send in advance any information or materials you wish to give your MP. This may include briefing notes, backgrounders, fact sheets, a petition, etc.
Talk to others who have met the MP
Talk to people who have met or know the MP. Ask them about the MP’s style and if they can give you any advice. The more information you have the better prepared you will be.
Confirm the meeting two days before!
Be sure to confirm your meeting two days in advance. MP’s are busy and often have to alter their schedule. Let them know you can be flexible! It may prevent your meeting from being delayed or cancelled.
Plan your presentation
Remember that you only have a short period of time. Consider using approximately half your time for presentation, and half for discussion and questions. Use specific examples from the community to help make the issues real. Talk about how supporting your cause can benefit the MP and their constituents. Keep trying to find common ground.
Bring additional information
Bring an additional package of information with you in case the MP did not have a chance to see the information you sent in advance. Anticipate that the MP may request additional information on the subject – so come prepared!
Outline “next steps”
Before the meeting ends, try to establish agreed-upon follow up action, who will carry out that action, and a time frame.
Offer your expertise
Use the meeting as an opportunity to offer to be an ongoing resource to the MP.
As quickly after the meeting as possible, write a note to say thank you. Summarize issues covered and agreed-upon follow-up actions.
Contacting the Media??
The media can be a big help in advancing your issue, but it can also damage your relations with your MP if you don’t handle it right! Before talking to the media about your meeting make sure you let your MP know. It is a basic courtesy you should never ignore. If your MP has promised to follow-up on a particular action, you might want to wait until you know the outcome before going to the media. If your MP is very positive and supportive you might suggest issuing a joint public statement or attending an event where you can be seen and photographed together. Consider organizing a community meeting and inviting your MP!
Build a relationship with your MP and their staff
Keep in touch with the MP and their staff to relay new information and to build-on the relationship.
Can’t get a meeting? Plan B
If you cannot meet with your MP in person, write them a letter. This is very important. Mailed hand-written letters (followed-up by a phone call) are the most effective. You can also deliver your letter in person, or by fax or email.