Q13. How can I communicate effectively with my MLA?

10 tips that will help you be a more effective citizen

A13. Here areĀ 10 tips on effective communications with your MLA:

1. A personal visit is best. Make an appointment at their office. If you just drop in, they may not be there. That doesn’t count. There is nothing more powerful in politics than a face-to-face conversation between citizen and representative.

2. If you can’t go to their office, ask them to come to see you. Yes, really. Sit in your kitchen, make them tea, and deliver your message face-to-face.

3. If a personal visit isn’t possible, phone. It’s okay to leave a message, but only to ask the MLA to call back. Be persistent until they do in fact call back.

4. Voicemails and e-mails aren’t very effective. They’re too easy to delete and/or ignore, especially if the e-mail is a form letter. They’re okay as a supplement to 1, 2 or 3, but they can’t be the only thing you do.

5. Petitions are even less effective than e-mails. Go ahead and sign them, but don’t forget about 1, 2, 3 and 4.

6. If you’re going to organize a protest outside an MLA’s office, be sure to do it at a time when they’re going to be there. Arrange it with them in advance. Insist they come out to address you. Don’t leave until they do. Follow up with 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

7. In all communications with your MLA, be sure to identify yourself as a constituent. MLAs pay a great deal of attention to their constituents. They do not pay nearly as much attention to non-constituents.

8. Always be polite. Communications that are rude are super-easy to ignore and accomplish nothing. The most effective tone is polite but firm.

9. Don’t be shy. Don’t apologize for contacting them. Don’t start by saying “I know how busy you are”, because that hands them the power. Their job, their very reason for sitting in that chair, is to listen to you.

10. Finally but very importantly: Don’t judge your MLA by what they say. Only actions count. Judge your MLA by what they do. If they say “I agree with you but my hands are tied”, then they don’t really agree with you.

Go.

(In a separate post, I give some advice about how to deal with situations where your MLA is unavailable, or where there is no MLA. I’ve also written a post about how to contact your MLA when they’re at their desk in the legislative chamber at Province House.)

Author: Graham Steele

A former MLA in Nova Scotia, currently Professor of Business Law in the Rowe School of Business at Dalhousie University

2 thoughts on “Q13. How can I communicate effectively with my MLA?”

  1. I’m just going to throw my ‘two cents’ in here, Graham. I have had prompt replies to emails. In fact, in the last election, an email I sent to Colin Fraser on the morning of the election was replied to almost immediately. I have found that a few prefer to call me; for instance, even though Peter Stoffer was not someone in my riding I found him to be approachable, sensible, and professional – he always called me in response to emails. I agree that politicians must listen to their constituents. The other side of that statement is that your MLA can’t read your mind; get in touch!

    Like

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