Ready, Set… Introduce Yourself!

By Lisa Blanchette
Lisa Blanchette, Director, Public Policy & Communivations
Lobbying is about telling your story to decision-makers. With the federal election around the corner, it’s reassuring to know the telling of stories is something Canadian performers do very well.

Spring 2019 has been a busy season for voters across Canada with three provinces having already held elections within the span of one month! This started on 16 April 2019 with Albertans electing their first United Conservative Party government. Prince Edward Islanders followed one week later, on 23 April 2019, with the election of their first minority Progressive Conservative government in well over a century. Finally, in advance of the federal election this fall (21 October), Newfoundlanders and Labradorians headed to the polls for an early election on 16 May 2019 and elected a minority Liberal Government.

Lobbying can influence public policy and signals to government what people want them to do. Our conversations should be strategic, planned and deliberate. What does this mean for arts and culture advocates and would-be lobbyists like us? It starts with a lot of introductions!
You hold a great deal of influence as a constituent and a voter.
Nova Scotia lobbying in 2016 with MP Darren Fisher, Francine Deschepper, Josh MacDonald and Richard Hadley.  
Toronto lobbying in 2016 with Paula Kaye, David Gale, NDP MPP Peter Tabuns, Luba Goy and Guifre Bantjes-Rafol.
Montreal lobbing in 2016 with Cary Lawrence, NDP Culture Critic Pierre Nantel, Li Li and Anna Scollan.
ACTRA election presser at CBC HQ in 2004 with Tonya Williams and members calling for government support of Canadian content and programming.
Trip to the Hill in 2014 with members David Sparrow, Tantoo Cardinal and Julian Richings to lobby MPs to support the call for more Canada on our screens.
In Vancouver performers Sarah Canning and Crystal Lowe take part in ACTRA’s 2015 federal pre-election campaign.
Manitoba member Doreen Brownstone takes part in ACTRA's 2015 pre-election campaign.
In-person meetings with candidates from all political parties is our chance to make the case for more Canada on all our screens.
Often, you’ll know more about a particular issue than your MP, and they will likely be grateful for any information you can provide.
Spoiler Alert: Other groups are devoting their time and energy to influencing the public policy agenda… Performers also need to advocate for the best interests of the film and television industry.

Meeting your elected official (or candidate) does not have to be an intimidating process. It doesn’t take special training or skills to engage in democracy. It does help if you understand the structure of government and the legislative process but to talk to them, you don’t have to be an expert on a topic. You do hold a great deal of influence as a constituent and a voter.

Often, we forget a politician’s job is to serve us. That’s why they were elected to office. It’s us, the voters, who hold the power. They’re just ordinary people who come from all walks of life and have chosen to provide this vital public service. Their job requires them to meet with and be responsive to voters – the people who can affect their future.

Members of Parliament (MPs) and other elected officials need to be aware of a wide range of issues. Often, you’ll know more about a particular issue than your MP, and they will likely be grateful for any information you can provide, including the range of opinions on issues.
Lobbying can influence public policy and signals to government what people want them to do.
 Soon, MPs will be back in their constituencies (ridings) for the summer. Many are already busy attending events and meeting with constituents as they prepare for the upcoming federal election.

Meet rather than Tweet

You can accomplish a lot by asking for a face-to-face meeting with your MP and the other federal election candidates. Let go of any assumptions you might have and make friends now. MPs who are not in cabinet may be in the future. And opposition candidates may form government. You never know.
Municipal, Provincial and Federal Responsibilities:
Lobbying builds relationships with elected officials over time and educates them about our industry and our concerns. Political access is a scarce resource, so we must make the most of the opportunities we are given. Lobbying is largely conducted through repeated interactions.  You already have the skills to lobby government officials and influence their actions.

Your first-hand experience and personal knowledge make you the perfect advocate.

The “How To” of lobbying:

* For best results, work with your MP! They are your representative.

Step 1:
Always build relationships – with all levels of government. Make an appointment to visit your local elected representative or staff and introduce yourself and ACTRA. Most politicians are eager to meet with their constituents – our opinions are valuable. Cultivate a relationship with staff. They are often the first and most regular point of contact.
Step 2:
Relationships are a two-way street. You can support your MP in their work by building opportunities for them to get their message out to constituents. Invite local politicians to ACTRA events and attend community events where you can network. Never miss an opportunity to say “hello” to other politicians who might also be in attendance
Step 3:
Be clear about the change you want to see and have a concrete “ask” (e.g., more Canadian content on our screens).
Step 4:
Have realistic expectations about the type of support you can expect. Only the government can formulate policy, but all MPs have influence they can use in Parliament (e.g., motions, questions, bills, statements). The federal election provides a unique opportunity to put pressure on all political parties to develop and include policies in their election platforms to strengthen our industry.
Step 5:
Timing is everything. Frame the issue in a way that will speak to your MP. Offer to provide additional information. Be their go-to resource on arts and culture.
Step 6:
Be persuasive and ready for the long haul. Keep in touch and let your MP know who else is supportive and what actions you’re taking.
Step 7:
Remember to say thank you (personally and publicly) – even if you didn’t get exactly what you wanted.
Step 8:
Assess results. Celebrate or modify your strategy and try again.
For 75 years, ACTRA has contributed actively to public policy development processes to ensure Canadians can see our stories, our lives and our perspectives reflected in arts and cultural expressions, including those that come across our screens. Over the decades, Canada has developed some of the most comprehensive cultural policies in the world, and our successes in television, in music and in literature are a direct consequence of these policies.  

While providing funding to artists and producers of cultural content is an essential part of the policy toolkit, structural measures, like content rules and ownership restrictions, are even more powerful, because they are not subject to the current state of public finances nor the political whims of the day.  

Let’s make sure our politicians (and those seeking elected office) hear from ACTRA and understand how they can support Canadian content creation.

You have what it takes to be a powerful advocate for culture!

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