How to Win Friends and Influence Elected People

Ginger catOn January 20, 2014 at the home of one of our community network volunteers the ward’s City Councillor, the riding’s Member of Provincial Parliament, and the riding’s Member of Parliament gathered with 40 or so neighbours to talk about the Energy East pipeline planned to carry Alberta bitumen within the city limits of Ottawa.

The gathering was sociable and pleasant but the point was made to these elected officials that many people in the Champlain Park neighbourhood are concerned about this issue. Further, that we’d like our elected officials to think of ways to engage with the issue to protect both against the possibility oil spills and the certainty of climate change contributions that the pipeline implies.

Making it happen was easy. The host started by asking neighbours he already knew were concerned about the issue if they’d be willing to put their name on a letter inviting the politicians. Twenty names of voters in these elected representatives’ districts then went to each politician requesting the three of them to find a date when all three could attend. In the letter they were reassured that this was a friendly event, but warned that we hoped they’d speak for 10 minutes or so about the pipeline issue. They needed a little follow-up, but not much, and before long the January 20 date had been set. Next the host expanded his invitation list to others in the City Ward that Ecology Ottawa’s list of petition signatures suggested would be concerned about the issue, asking them to RSVP and capping attendance.

All that was left to do was chill the wine.

All the politicians and most of the neighbours stayed for the whole length of the party. The only raised voices were in laughter during the mingling portion of the program (which was most of it). Fun, easy, effective.

This “pipeline wine & cheese’ was organised by Charles Hodgson who had been inspired by an earlier “living room meeting” held in Manor Park by Denise Rackus with the same objectives.

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Categories: Community Network, TarFree613

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