A Message from CSLA President Glenn O'Connor, OALA, FCSLA, ASLA on the Importance of Connecting with Federal Candidates
The federal election in Canada will be held on or before October 21, 2019.
As landscape architects, we have an opportunity to ensure candidates running for office are aware of the benefits which the profession can provide to communities across Canada and beyond. There are issues of national importance which should be at the forefront of those seeking public office. These critical issues include climate change, Indigenous Peoples and the need for reconciliation, land use, sustainable communities and infrastructure, agriculture and food, low-impact development, water stormwater management, preserving land for source water storage, wildlife corridors, as well as mobility and transportation — and many more.
I encourage all CSLA members to use the upcoming federal campaign period to highlight topics of concern to candidates in your riding and to provide them with information on how the profession of landscape architecture can assist in addressing these challenges.
You will find helpful information in this guide and web links on many topics including, climate change and reconciliation. Additional helpful links to key resources are also provided. This information can be presented to candidates in a positive manner and help to elaborate and emphasize how landscape architects can be part of the solution to address these critical challenges.
Yours sincerely, Glenn O'Connor
The Electoral Process — Background to help you prepare
In Canada, federal elections are fixed to occur every four years on the 3rd Monday of October. The 2019 federal election is slated to take place no later than October 21st. It could occur earlier should the Prime Minister request that the Governor-General dissolve Parliament. The length of the campaign can vary, but the minimum length of a minimum of is 36 days and a maximum of 50 — or between 5 and 7 weeks.
Whether it be the voter registration process, election contributions or expenses, or the placement of election signs, there are a lot of rules that govern the electoral process in Canada. Most are relatively simple when it comes to voter participation. Here you can find answers to detailed questions about federal elections.
While there are three (sometimes four) major political parties in every riding, there are a number of registered parties in any given federal election.
Getting involved in federal elections at the constituency level is important to help showcase the important role of landscape architects in helping to build community. Besides contact with potential Members of Parliament (MPs), there are also opportunities to sensitize the general public during an election.
No matter who wins the election, involvement provides an excellent way to provide information to candidates and the public about how the work of landscape architects is an integral part of a healthy, vibrant community.
Your federal constituency — Who is running for election?
Political parties are in preparation mode months before an election call. Now that federal election dates are fixed (barring unforeseen circumstances) most political parties are more prepared than ever for a federal election. The major political parties begin preparing months in advance of the election call by fundraising and organizing constituency nomination meetings.
CSLA members can begin by tracking or noting when nominations meetings will be held in their ridings and whether or not the incumbent MP plans to run in the upcoming 2019 election. Landscape architects might even consider meeting with their incumbent MP prior to an election call, and then concentrating on other candidate’s policy positions during an election.
It is important to connect with candidates from all major political parties at some point during an election campaign.
There are a number of ways to do so, limited only by the time and resources available, and the distance involved in reaching your candidate. Urban ridings may not be as complicated, while in some rural and northern constituencies face-to-face meetings can be a challenge.
Connecting with candidates can be done in a formal way through a community organization you are aligned with; on behalf of a CSLA Committee; or you can connect with candidates as an individual. There is no right or wrong way to approach candidates with the questions you have on where each stands in terms of policy related to your role as a landscape architect.
How to get involved — Creating your action plan: Meetings, media, and spreading the word
Do your research
Who are the candidates in your riding? Have all of the nomination meetings taken place? Is the incumbent running again? Do you know where the elected MP has stood in the past on issues related to LAs (i.e. green infrastructure, climate change, etc.)
Checking the federal political party websites will provide this information.
It is important to remember that even the most powerful politician has a home constituency — and it is that home riding that determines political futures. Even Cabinet Ministers or Prime Ministers should recognize that constituency matters are important and are not to be neglected — and that voters in their home constituency make all the difference.
As voters ready to engage, we need to recognize that in most cases it is people-to-people contact and conversations that really helps to change minds.
Making personal contact — When you make contact, introduce yourself as a constituent and provide some context for your contact
Here are some possible talking points:
- Ask the candidate for their stand on specific issues: The sample questions included in this toolkit provide some messaging and questions you might use
- If you are contacting the candidate in writing and you expect a reply, clearly indicate so in your email or letter.
- If you have made up your mind on who might provide the best representation in your constituency, offer to assist/support your preferred candidate by volunteering on their campaign.
Attend a meeting and ask your questions
One way to be involved is by attending or organizing an all-candidates meeting in your constituency. These public events are usually organized early in the campaign process. Depending on how hotly contested a riding is, there may be as many as three public debates with candidates from each major political party present. Meanwhile, in some ridings there may be only one such opportunity. Others events may take the form of town hall meetings.
All-candidates meetings are a good way to have aspiring MPs from all parties answer the same policy question, and to have those answers on the public record.
Remember! Increasingly social media is being used as a way to include individuals who cannot be physically present at an event. There may be an opportunity for you to send in questions via twitter, facebook or other online forum, as well.
Use local media
Consider writing a letter to the editor about an issue that needs to be highlighted during the campaign. If there are local radio talk shows, calling in to ask your question or comment would be another way to ensure that LAs become part of the conversation.
The idea behind involvement in political campaigns is not only to get candidates on the record regarding policy issues, but also to sensitize and inform candidates about important issues that might not otherwise be considered. Another important reason for involvement is that these questions are posed in the public domain and so the information is also shared with a general audience. In this way, others also come to learn about the important role of landscape architecture in building community.
Write a letter to the candidates
Write a letter and ask your policy questions directly. Federal candidates have a lot of ground to cover during an election campaign. Sometimes the easiest way to have a candidate respond to a policy question is by writing a letter to the candidate and directing it to the campaign office. The policy response will be in writing and responded to, sometimes by staff under the direction of the candidate. Make sure to ask for a reply to your letter.
Write a letter to the editor
Writing a letter to the editor of a news outlet is one of the most effective advocacy tools. Community newspapers, in particular, publish many local letters.The key to getting your letter published is ensuring that it is focused, concise and relevant.
Letters to the editor can be written for various purposes, such as responding to a previously published letter, editorial or article; sharing a point of view; advancing an organization’s message or attempting to influence politicians’ perception of public opinion.
Here are few tips:
- Ensure that your letter is short, simple and focused (maximum 200 words).
- Put your full name and coordinates at the top of the letter. Most media outlets will only publish a letter after contacting the author to verify its authenticity.
- If you are responding to a previously published letter or editorial, identify it by title and the date it appeared.
- The more timely the better. If you’re responding to an event or a previously published story or letter, try to do so within two days.
Key issues for Landscape Architects — Prepare yourself and your message
The following online resources provide documentation that you can link to in letters or print and leave behind with potential candidates. These can also be used after the election to help inform your newly elected MPs of the issues related to the work of landscape architects.
The CSLA has submitted several pre-budget policy briefs to the House of Commons Finance Committee. These can be shared with potential candidates and or read in advance of meetings.
- Climate Change — The CSLA website is home to a number of documents on climate change including position papers, key messages, and the more detailed Climate Change Primers.
- Reconciliation — In 2019 the CSLA approved its Statement on Landscape Architecture and Reconciliation — The national effort towards reconciliation with Indigenous peoples is an important issue for the profession of landscape architecture. Landscape architecture offers an interdisciplinary approach that considers our environment in a holistic manner. The principles and goals of landscape architecture in Canada are well aligned with many of the values among Canada’s Indigenous cultures.
CSLA Awards Atlas
This online atlas chronicles several years of Awards of Excellence, in honour of distinctive design, ground-breaking research, sustainable landscape management and much more. The Awards Atlas showcases excellent examples of successful projects from across the country. Learn more...
How to make use of Party platforms - Targeting candidates and party issues
Every election, the major political parties release their election platforms, usually in a very public manner. The release of the platforms is also often staged, with each party jockeying to determine its advantage. You can find the party platforms linked to the websites of each Party. This information will help you prepare to engage with your candidates at public events, in the media, or personally through letters, etc.
Learn more about the major national political parties:
Follow-up post-election — What next? Election night has come and gone… now the work really begins!
Congratulating your new MP and building a relationship.
Once the election is over, the work has really only begun. Think about touching base with your newly elected Member of Parliament, by writing a congratulatory letter. Let the incumbent MP or newly elected MP know that you plan on contacting them in the near future to set up a meeting in the constituency to follow up.
Then determine a good time to request a meeting once the MP has had a chance to rest and orient themselves, and receive their Parliamentary assignments. Meetings in the constituency are always easier to organize than those in Ottawa. As well, you may want to meet with constituency assistants, who play an important role in getting key information to their MPs and advising constituencies on best approach.