Our members of parliament, members of provincial parliament, and town/city councillors have a unique job requirement—they must cast a vote on issues that affect their constituents, and try to vote with that in mind. They're not mind-readers. They can only vote based on the information they have. This is why it's important that you contact your political representative to let them know how you feel about whatever is at stake.
Sure, But Why?
You might be asking yourself, “Why bother?” But that's the wrong question. The questions you should be asking are, “Is my perspective represented? Has my representative heard it already?” If you answered “no” to either of those questions, you need to contact your representative and make your feelings known implicitly.
Posting on social media is not enough. Sure, it helps make your feelings known in a more widespread way, but most politicians I've spoken to about this have said the internet is a little like white noise since identities can't always be confirmed. Emails are more effective because they need to be read in full. Old-fashioned snail mail is by far the best because you'll stand out. It shows you've put time and effort into your letter and they're going to remember that while they read it.
So I've Got a Cause. Now What?
Brainstorm the important things that you want to touch on and start organizing your thoughts. It's recommended that letters to politicians be written in a three paragraph format.
- Introduce yourself and share your background. If you have any qualifications, this would be where to list them.
State your case. Use cold hard facts to back up your argument, but don't forget to show your representative how their decision is going to affect you, your family and others that you know.
Close with the call to action you'd like to see them undertake. Implore them to vote a certain way, or to look into a certain issue.
Don't forget to give them means to contact you should they need to. Don't be shy to share your mailing address or your phone number.
Keep your letter short—no more than a page or two. Think quality, not quantity.
Be kind and courteous. Any profanity or vulgarity will negate all the great points you make in your letter, and will probably get it thrown out without a second thought.
Feel free to ask questions in your letter. That will make it even more evident that you’re expecting an answer.
Follow up in a few weeks if you've not heard back from them. Sending a quick e-mail that says something like, “Thank you for taking the time to read my [letter/e-mail]. I hope to hear from you soon,” goes a long way.
If your politician goes to bat for you, don’t forget to thank them! They love knowing that you appreciate the actions that they took.
Get To It!
Throw your support behind a cause, and get writing! So many causes need your voice to help them be heard. It's not enough for us to say that we believe in something - we need to start putting our time where our mouth is. That's the most effective way to make change happen.
This blog post has been cross-posted at Women's March Canada.