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Lobby training workshop held on Jan. 24

Updated: Jan 30, 2021

For democracy to truly work, elected officials need to know what their constituents want and where their priorities lie. Yet, many of us are unsure of how to continue to participate in the political process after we've dropped our ballot in the box at election time.

Lobbying – articulating one’s views to elected representatives - is one of the key tools BC Climate Alliance uses to create political will for climate action, and their lobby training workshops walk participants through the process of having a successful meeting with an MLA.

Their approach centers on forging positive, productive relationships with politicians, regardless of political affiliations. The workshop leaders Anke van Leeuwen, Margaret Holm and Laura Sacks emphasized the need to come from a place of respect, of finding common ground”, “This may mean connecting on a community issue, something outside of the climate emergency – if you look, there is always something you can agree on”, they explained.

They also talked about ways to present your message effectively by packaging it in a ‘Value Sandwich’.

The slice of bread at the bottom of the sandwich is why the issue matters to you, personally, and you start with this. Perhaps you have a child with asthma, and you are concerned about the increase in wildfires due to climate change. Or maybe you work in the mountains and witnessed how our glaciers are shrinking, or you are a skier worried about the growing unreliability of winter snow. You speak from your personal experience, from your heart.

Of course a sandwich also needs a filling, something of substance you can sink your teeth into (veggie sausage anyone?). This is the ‘ask’, the policies we need the provincial government to implement: ending fossil fuel subsidies, better stewardship of our forests, including full climate impacts in environmental review. All backed by facts, all within reach. You share the research you have done, the expert testimony you’ve gathered.

Lastly you finish the sandwich with another slice of bread, by coming back to the personal, why this matters to you, the constituent, and to the elected official you are meeting. After all, we all want the best for our communities; climate action is in all of our interests. As Margaret and Anke reiterated, “Your most powerful message is to tap into your personal feelings and your shared values”.

Approaching elected officials can be daunting, for any of us. “Lobbying can definitively get me out of my comfort zone” Laura, a hydrologist and long-time climate campaigner told me, “but at this critical time in history I see that as a good thing”.

Keep your eyes on our website and social media to learn about upcoming BC Climate Alliance lobby training events, and of course, reach out if you have any questions. And be sure to phone or write YOUR MLA about climate action. MLA contact info here.

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