Personal meetings are, without a doubt, the best way to communicate with your Member of Provincial Parliament and to build the solid relationship needed to be an effective advocate for tobacco control.
As the late U.S. Congressman Tip ONeil once said, all politics is local. As a local representative, you are the most effective spokesperson we have. While we prefer that meetings with members occur back in the constituency, schedules will sometimes demand that you visit your representative at Queens Park in Toronto.
Any member of provincial parliament, particularly Cabinet Ministers, will be busy and have a full schedule. It is important to start working on arranging an appointment for a meeting four to six weeks in advance of the target date. The legislative calendar (available from Queens Park information) shows when the Legislative Assembly is in session and thus indicates when a Member of Provincial Parliament is likely to be either in the constituency or at Queens Park. Most members hold constituency office hours on Fridays and Saturdays when the Legislature is in session. In fall 2000, MPPs will be in their ridings for a constituency week from November 6th to 10than ideal opportunity for a local meeting.
When in Toronto, allow time for security pass and arrangements (this will vary from office to office), confirm meeting the day before or even the day of and take taxis to avoid the difficulty of finding parking places in the Queens Park area.
It is not unusual to have Toronto appointments rescheduled because of changes in the schedules of Ministers/MPPs. They have very little control over last-minute changes due to unexpected House votes, special briefings and the like. Events such as these occur frequently and may interfere with your scheduled appointment. When this happens, some Ministers/MPPs will attempt, at least, to greet you, talk with you for a few moments and then ask you to meet with an appropriate staff person. They may also try to reschedule your appointment or arrange for a time for a phone conversation. The important thing to remember here is to try to be as flexible as possible. If, for whatever reason, the Member becomes unavailable at the last minute, it should be viewed as an opportunity to become acquainted with or solidify your relationship(s) with their staff.
If you dont know your MPPs name and address, visit the Ontario government website at www.gov.on.ca or call 1-800-267-8097 Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (this is a central provincial number which supplies contact information for MPPs in all ridings in Ontario).
Tobacco and Provincial Regulation: Working with Political Staff top of page
It is not necessary to always speak about tobacco control issues with your Member. You may want to offer to serve as a contact with your organization and as a resource on tobacco control and other health-related issues. Your contacts at OCAT and your organization will help support you.
Each Cabinet Minister has several key staff members, staff they are close to and depend on. Getting to know these individuals and getting them to know you will make your dealings with the Minister smoother and more successful.
Executive Assistant (EA)
This is the Ministers most senior staffer, principal political advisor and the person who supervises the other staff.
Legislative Assistant (LA)
The LA provides support to the Minister in terms of the legislative agenda and provides daily briefings for Question Period when the Legislature is in session.
A Minister usually has one or more special assistants who are assigned political responsibilities for particular policy and/or functional areas. They deal with correspondence, policy briefs, communications, scheduling, etc.
Staff of the Member of Provincial Parliament
A Member of Provincial Parliament has a two-or-three person office in Toronto. The key staff person in an MPPs office is usually the Legislative Assistant, who handles correspondence, speech writing and research duties. An MPP will also have two staff members working in the constituency office.
Tobacco and Provincial Regulation: How A Bill Becomes Law top of page
There are two main types of bills: public and private. In general, a public bill is concerned with matters of public policy, while a private bill relates to matters of a particular interest or benefit to individuals or corporations. Our focus here will be on public bills sponsored by the Government.
Memorandum to Cabinet
Before a government bill reaches the point of being introduced in the Legislative Assembly, it is usually studied and approved by Cabinet. For this to occur, ministerial officials must first prepare a detailed proposal called a Memorandum to Cabinet (MC). Through public consultation there is often an opportunity to provide input before the MC is even written. Even in the absence of formal consultation, there are ways to have influence in the policy formulation process.
Once the MC is ready, the Minister responsible for the bill will attempt to gain the support of the Cabinet colleagues. The Minister sponsoring the bill will often have his/her political staff discuss the proposed bill with other Ministers political staff. Once Cabinet has given its approval, the bill must go through a number of stages before it becomes law.
Stages of a Bill
Before a bill becomes law, it goes through the following stages:
To introduce a public bill, a Member must give 48 hours written notice to the Clerk of the Legislature and then, by motion, obtain leave to introduce the bill without any debate.
First reading follows immediately and is also automatically adopted. The bill is numbered, printed and distributed so that MPPs and the public can study it. The bill is then scheduled for second reading.
Second reading is the most important stage in the legislative process. The Minister sponsoring the bill gives a speech in the Legislature explaining the objectives of the bill and why the legislation is necessary. Government and Opposition MPPs then begin debate on the principle of the bill. The principle and objective of the bill are debated and either accepted or rejected. The specific clauses of the bill are not discussed in detail at this stage.
After the debate following second reading, the bill is referred to committee for detailed study. Money bills are referred to a Committee of the Whole; other types of bills are usually referred to a legislative committee, which considers the bill clause-by-clause. Amendments to the text of the bill are considered at this stage.
Before beginning clause-by-clause study, the legislative committee usually hears from the Minister sponsoring the bill and from the Ministers officials. The Committee may also receive testimony from outside witnesses on technical matters.
Following the detailed examination of the bill, members of the committee may propose, discuss and/or vote on amendments to the bill. Amendments in committee must be in keeping with the principle of the bill as agreed to at second reading in the Legislature. Generally, the committee may make amendments to any part of the bill. Clauses and/or schedules may be omitted and new ones added. After the committee has completed its consideration of the bill, it orders that the bill be reported to the Legislature.
After completing its hearings, the committee reports back to the Legislature with any amendments it may have. Report stage debate begins as all MPPs consider the amendments passed by the committee. At this stage of the legislative process, MPPs who did not sit on the legislative committee that reviewed the bill can also suggest other amendments to the bill. Each amendment is voted on. Then the entire bill, including amendments, is voted on. If passed, the bill goes to third reading.
If no amendments were passed during the committee stage and no new amendments were proposed in the Legislature, the report stage will be quite short and the new bill can go to third reading the same day.
Debate at third reading begins when the Order of the Day is called, the motion being That Bill
be now read a third time and do pass. The basic principles governing the acceptability of amendments at third reading are that they be strictly relevant to the bill and do not contradict the principle of the bill as passed at second reading.
The Lieutenant Governor, the Queens representative in Ontario, confers royal Assent. The ceremony is one of the oldest parliamentary proceedings. The bill comes into force on the day of Assent, unless otherwise provided in the bill itself. Provision is sometimes made for coming into force on a certain day or a day fixed by order of the Governor in Council and parts of the bills may be brought into force at different times.
Tobacco and Provincial Regulation: Guidelines for Meeting with Your MPP top of page
1. Be prepared. Do your homework.
Know exactly what you are going to discuss and all the points you want to cover. It is important to become familiar with the key aspects of the issue before your meeting. OCAT and your organization will help by providing a briefing package on all the relevant points. Anticipate other issues or questions that may be raised that are related to tobacco control and health in general. Be familiar with the MPPs background, perspective on tobacco control, other legislative interests, etc
Take these into consideration when preparing for a meeting and try to approach the issue from a perspective that will appeal to the official.
2. Be aware of recent local and provincial media issues on tobacco and other key topics.
MPPs and Ministers are very sensitive to the medias portrayal of issues. If possible, try to bring some piece of local/constituency information to the meeting. Be knowledgeable about what tobacco control initiatives are underway in the riding. Remember that communication is a two-way street.
3. Establish a common denominator.
Set the stage at the start of the meeting by reinforcing some common ground. This may be something as straightforward as a common acquaintance or it may be some shared views on tobacco or other issues.
4. Be concise, clear and specific.
After your opening conversation, refer to the purpose of your visit. The average time of your meeting will be approximately 30 minutes. Maximizing this time requires that you be clear, concise and specific. Outline the issue, using the OCAT's Campaign 2000 updates. Use local examples wherever possible. Many local departments of public health keep statistics on tobacco related illnesses. If you are asking the Member to take a specific action at a specific time, be sure to provide all the relevant details.
5. Do not assume that your MPP is familiar with tobacco control to the same degree that you are.
Members of Provincial Parliament deal with many complex issues. It is impossible for them to be up to speed on every single one of them. When discussing a complex issue, like tobacco control, provide enough detail, ideally by using examples, so that you are fully understood. On the other hand, dont start lecturing on tobacco or you may be viewed as too extreme in your position to be a trusted resource. If you are asked a question to which you dont have the answer, say that you will get back promptly with the correct information.
6. Be reasonable.
Do not overstate your case. Use factual information and give real-life examples, as much as possible, to support your viewpoint. If the assigned official disagrees with you, hear them out and try to understand the reasons why. Do not become argumentative, but do not be dissuaded from making your points. Do not make commitments on behalf of anyone but yourself.
7. Localize or regionalize the issue.
MPPs and Ministers are forced to deal with many issues from a broad, provincial perspective. They can lose sight of how a policy proposal will impact on the daily lives of their constituents back home. Help to bridge that gap for the MPP by giving examples of how a strengthened Tobacco Control Act will affect the lives of you and others in the riding, particularly children.
8. Provide written materials.
Be sure to leave your business card and a brief one-page summary of the points you raised. Please go to the Campaign Toolkit for copies of suggested summaries.
9. Determine response.
Without forcing the issue, try to assess the Members response to your position.
10. Say thank you.
All Members of Provincial Parliament, like the rest of us, appreciate recognition, encouragement and thanks. Even if you feel the MPP will oppose us this time, remember we may need their support in future.
11. Follow up promptly.
Send a letter of thanks for the opportunity to meet or provide a briefing on tobacco control. Re-state your willingness to answer questions or provide additional information. Include any written materials you had promised to send.
12. Provide feedback to OCAT and your organization.
Let us know how it went! Your comments are extremely valuable to us. They help us determine what additional action is required. We need to know what the general tenor of the meeting was, whom you met with, if staff were present, the views of the MPP and your assessment of what follow-up may be required. To report back to OCAT or your organization, please refer to Contact Us.
What Can I Do to Help?
This is a common question you can expect your MPP to ask you, particularly if you are already known to your MPP. In your reply, try to be as specific as possible. If it is general support you are looking for, then specify that. If, however, you want your MPP to write a letter to the Premier or the Minister of Health, be very clear about what you want him or her to write and when the letter should be sent. Ideally, in this situation you should leave a one-page summary of the issue and reference the action requested. You may also want to make mention of the action requested in your letter of thanks.