In the era of online petitions and one-click forms, it seems ridiculous to spend time penning an original letter to a politician. But consider what we were told by BC MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert in an interview on our Defender Radio podcast:
“If they took time to write an email themselves, that’s going to have more weight to it. You can see the person cared enough to spend some time, rather than ‘I saw something on Facebook that bothered me so I clicked ‘send’ and never thought about it again.’”
Simply put: politicians and their aides recognize when someone spends time on a letter. That letter, which you can write, will get more eyes on it and be taken more seriously than “just another online petition” would.
In Canada – and many other jurisdictions – online petitions have no legal bearing, form letters can be grouped together as a single response, and IT departments can outright block “clicktivism” emails.
That’s not to say online petitions don’t have their uses – we often use them when addressing non-government businesses or organizations, or to assist in demonstrating the importance of the issue to the media. Online petitions and form letters remain a tool that we use as necessary – but just as is the case in many other scenarios, knowing which tool to use for which job is vital.
Put your politicians to work.
Take an opportunity today to send a written letter to your local MLA or MP about the issues you care about – e.g. wolf cull, trophy bear hunt, fur farming or trapping. You can also send a letter to your provincial government (your MLA can help you find a specific contact name and address).
Top letter-writing tips:
1. Keep it short. Politicians are busy and hear from many people. Keep your letter short (1 page), to the point and on topic. Start your letter with your statement of purpose. E.g. "I am writing to support…", "I am writing to oppose…"
2. Focus on 3 key messages. Likely you'll have lots to say, but it's helpful to focus on 3 key messages. Use facts and/or quote existing studies or research. If possible, offer some solutions or alternatives to the problem. Always be polite and persuasive.
3. Ask for a reply or a meeting. If an issue is important to you, ask for a reply or even a meeting as a follow up to your letter. Hold your politicians accountable. Be persistent.
Photo: Arctic fox.
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