Monday, 21 April 2008

A letter to my elected representative: feedback requested

In response to Thich Nhat Hanh's encouragement to write 'love letters' to our politicians, to GWAG's advice to write to our elected representatives regularly as part of our civic duties, and in response to Greenpa's clarion call to take action with regard to the horrible practice of food profiteering, I've written a letter.

This is the first draft of the letter, and I would really like some feedback on it, if people have time. It is quite long, but I wanted to provide suggestions instead of just criticisms, and I also wanted to make sure that my passion and convictions were evident on a number of topics. The letter is addressed to my recently elected member of the Alberta Legislative Assembly, Jeff Johnson. It turns out that this guy has experience as a 'pit boss' in the futures trading industry. So he could either be the best person to send this letter to, or the worst one. But I'm sending him something one way or the other. And then I'll send copies to the Alberta Premier too, and to the Minister of the Environment again. And then I'll modify it to send to the Prime Minister and the Federal Environment minister, even though they blew me off last time.

So if you have time, please do check out the letter and leave a comment with any recommendations or suggestions.

Thanks!

9 comments:

JMEC said...

SUERTE.......

Theresa said...

Oops! I forgot to make it publicly accessible - fixed now.

green with a gun said...

It looks good to me. My thoughts are that for a newly-elected representative, putting all your thoughts out there is good. But for a more well-established one, you might want to focus on one point in each letter.

What I've found is that if I mention five things, they respond to one or two and ignore the rest. If I mention ten things, they just reply, "thankyou for your opinions, which have been noted" and respond to zero of them. If I mention just one thing, they respond to that in detail.

I didn't think of it before, but when it's a newly-elected rep, it's probably good to chuck all the different ideas at them, to convey a mindset rather than talk about individual issues.

If I were going to choose just one of your 13 points to put in a letter, I'd probably choose the last. This is the one most likely to have flow-on effects and give you the other 12 indirectly. A "culture of conservation, moderation, interpersonal respect, and community cooperation" is going to give you studies on health concerns, more local organic gardening. That stuff just flows naturally out of it. And so on with the other parts.

So perhaps for your letters to the established people, trim down the intro stuff to one paragraph, and just put in #13. Maybe finish by saying, "I think these measures would have indirect benefits and lead to a different kind of society" or something like that.

artbystrongheart said...

It is a good letter, and you cover a lot of ground with it. If you send this one letter, I would follow up with several shorter one or two point letters. Shorter versus longer generally will get read and dealt with... we are the tv generation... very short attention spans.

Also, I found that following up a letter with a phone call to someone in the office helps drive home the point further (you don't need to speak with your Rep personally, just someone in the office.) When I have spoken with State and Congressional Rep's assistants, they told me letters are all read, but a phone call carries much more weight. A personal visit has the highest impact (and I've done a few of those, too.)

This all may be different in Canada, but that's my experience here in the states.

Amber said...

I'm so glad you posted your letter and started this important conversation and that it's generating helpful feedback. I just got a list of government contact information here in Ottawa and have been thinking that it's time to start talking to the politicians, but I've been slow to actually do it. You've given me the nudge I need to move in that direction!
I feel like people who are hooked on 'lifestyle activism' might just find that it's the gateway drug to start engaging our politicians!
Way to go!

Theresa said...

Gwag, ya, I figured I would try and give an overall picture to this new guy of the things that concern us and why. I'm hoping that he gets the letter and it at least makes him go, "hmmmm...." I had hoped it would only be two pages, not three, so I may still pare things down a bit if I can do that without losing the overall tone. He is a completely new politician, never been elected before anywhere, but his father is a long time politician. I will definitely have to narrow things down for my letters to the other established representatives. My main goal is to convey the idea in point #13, for certain.

Artby, that is a good idea about the follow up phone call. I am normally a chicken about such things, but I am getting less so over time. This is important to me so I will definietly make a call, even if it's just to assure that my letter was received.

Amber, please do write letters too! Feel free to cut/paste/copy my letter to your heart's content, if you like. It makes much more of an impression if a hundred people write one letter each than if one person writes a hundred - it's just too easy to dismiss the latter as being a nutcase!

Heather said...

Beautifully worded letter!

I've enjoyed Thich Nhat Hanh's books as well. I'm currently reading "Anger." He has amazing insight. Good luck with your efforts!

ruralaspirations said...

Good for you for taking the time to write your MLA! I'm afraid I get too cynical to motivate myself...

I think your letter was excellent. But I agree with others that it may be too much to tackle all at once. Perhaps you could write a series of regular letters, once a month or more, each one focusing on a specific issue.

Theresa said...

Thank you Heather and RA. I've been letting this letter mull around in my head awhile, and I would like to pare it down to two pages I think. I do want to have a selection of things in there, but maybe I could be a bit more general to start, and then follow up with specifics in future letters or (gulp) phone calls....