Q36. Do you have any advice on how to make a good presentation to the Law Amendments Committee?

Speak from the heart and speak to the bill

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A36. The Law Amendments Committee is the one place in the five-stage law-making process where the citizen takes centre stage.

I’ve written separate posts about what the LAC is and how the LAC really works. I’ve also written a post about the unique features of the LAC hearings on Bill 59.

If you would like to make a presentation to the LAC, you should register by calling the Office of the Legislative Counsel at 902-424-8941. You can also register by sending an e-mail to Legc.office@novascotia.ca, but my experience is that a phone call is better. Anyone wishing to submit a written or video presentation may do so by e-mail.

If you decide to make a presentation to the LAC, what should you say?

I was an MLA for 12 years. I participated in dozens of LAC hearings, and heard hundreds of submissions. I still can’t give you a perfect template. A lot depends on the situation.

Let me be frank: My experience is that the vast majority of presentations to the LAC don’t result in changes to a bill. I have seen it happen only twice. By the time the government is ready to introduce a bill, it has usually made up its mind, has heard all the key stakeholders, knows all the major objections to the bill, and wants to move it through the LAC as quickly as possible. I don’t want to discourage you, but that’s the reality of how the House of Assembly operates.

Nevertheless, there are plenty of reasons to make a presentation to the LAC:

  1. You never know what will happen until you try.
  2. You’re a citizen and you have the right to be heard.
  3. You may inspire someone in the room.
  4. You may influence someone in the room.
  5. Play the long game. Even if you don’t get everything you want on this bill, you may start the ball rolling on a longer-term impact, such as repealing or amending the bill in the future.

The best way to have an impact on a bill is to be well-connected to the department that is developing the policy that is behind the bill. That way, you’ll have influence on what moves forward and what doesn’t. You might be able to influence what is in a bill before it ever gets to first reading.

I know that’s not always possible. Sometimes you don’t know about a bill before first reading. If that happens, don’t wait for the Law Amendments Committee. Get in touch with your MLA right away. Get in touch with the minister. Get in touch with the department. Presenting to the LAC should be your last resort, not the only thing you do.

If you do decide to present to the Law Amendments Committee, start by reading my post about how the LAC really works. Here is some advice about how to be more impactful:

  1. Speak from the heart. Tell your story and how the bill is likely to affect you, whether positively or negatively.
  2. If you’re an expert, demonstrate your expertise. Propose specific amendments and relate them back to your expertise.
  3. Don’t be nervous. You’re the citizen. Remember that all the MLAs on the LAC work for you. They should be nervous of you, not the other way around.
  4. Try not to read your presentation. If you have something in writing, you can circulate it. When you’re speaking, try to look the MLAs in the eye.
  5. Make sure you know what’s in the bill. The purpose of the Law Amendments Committee is to determine if any changes should be made to the bill. If you don’t know what’s in the bill, your presentation isn’t likely to be effective.

Good luck. And thanks for being an active citizen.

 

Author: Graham Steele

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

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