How to Lobby your MPP
(Adapted from OPSEU Course: Building Your Community through Political Action)
Lobbying is something anyone can do. Lobbying is simply informing politicians of your concerns and OPSEU’s concerns, and holding them accountable to do something about them.
Lobbying also reminds politicians that they work for us, and that their actions on the issues we care about will directly affect their future chances at re-election.
Things to keep in mind
- All politicians can and should be lobbied. It’s part of their job.
- It is a politician’s duty to know what their constituents think and to acquaint themselves with all sides of an issue.
- Those politicians who are friendly to our position may give us more time. However, even a PC MPP can be affected by a direct approach that includes forceful arguments about the need for public services and the harmful effects of privatization and cuts.
- You do not have to know everything about an issue to lobby. Concentrate on the how the issue affects us, our families, our members and our communities.
Eight easy steps that make you an expert lobbyist
Step One: Research the issue
Read any materials OPSEU has developed for your specific lobbying/bargaining campaign. But remember: you don’t have to be an expert to share your point of view with a politician.
Step Two: Make the appointment
Make an appointment with your MPP by calling their constituency office. You will likely need to tell them ahead of time the names of the people who will be attending the meeting. Politely insist on meeting with the MPP themself if their constituency assistant tries to schedule you to meet with an assistant instead. Your MPP should be willing to meet with their constituents.
Step Three: Preparing for the meeting
Prepare your talking points ahead of time by filling out the “Talking Points for Visits with MPPs” sheet, and bring it with you to the meeting. Make sure you create a list of specific actions you are asking your MPP to take on the issue.
Get together with others attending the meeting an hour before the appointment. Choose a lead spokesperson. Make sure someone is assigned to take notes. Decide what each person will talk about and which personal stories could best illustrate your points.
Try to bring a directly-affected member to speak about their experience. This will help the politician understand the importance of the issue even more.
Step Four: Introductions
Once in your politician’s office, make introductions and specify your role in OPSEU and where you work.
Step Four: Bring campaign literature to leave behind
Bring any campaign literature available and use it for key speaking points along with your “Talking Points” sheet. Give the politician a copy of any flyers OPSEU may have created for the campaign. (Do not give them your personal talking points notes.)
Step Five: Share personal stories
Share personal experiences that put a human face on the issue. The facts are important but your personal stories about what real people are facing will have the most impact.
Step Six: Ask for a commitment or specific action
Ask your MPP to commit to specific actions you want them to take on the issue. Examples include raising your concerns in caucus, with the Minister, Party leader, making a public statement of support, etc.
Write down anything they commit to doing. Record anything they have refused to commit to doing. Ask them to let you know once they have taken the action.
End the meeting by thanking them for their time.
Meet with your group briefly after the meeting. Discuss how it went. Record your impressions. Forward them with your notes to the person coordinating the lobby. Decide together who will follow up with the MPP, how, and when.
Keep in touch with your MPP. Send a thank-you note. Follow up with them on any commitments they have made and any unanswered questions.
Forget your fears
People often feel intimidated before they meet with politicians. Don’t be. You know more about labour rights, poverty issues, and public services than they ever will. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say that you will get back to them with the information. Make sure you get back to them, and expect them to do the same if they can’t answer one of your questions!
Experienced lobbyists will tell you that once you start a meeting with a politician, the “mystery” that surrounds them quickly disappears. They are just ordinary people doing their job. They are often very responsive to the voters. Voters are the people who can affect their future!
Let’s get lobbying!
There is no more important time than now to lobby your MPP. Don’t feel like it’s useless to lobby a PC MPP. Pressuring Doug Ford’s backbenchers and ministers in their own backyards is worthwhile, both in the streets and in their constituency offices.