In agriculture, when it comes to lobbying, big issues such as safety nets, carbon tax, and grain transportation tend to capture and command a large portion of farm organizations’ budgets and resources.
These issues tend to fall under federal and provincial jurisdiction, but when it comes to government’s impact on farming, many times it’s at the municipal level where the rubber hits the road, says Gerry Macartney, CEO of the London Chamber of Commerce.
“As much as federal government has the overarching authority for a lot of our legislation and policy, it gets enacted at the municipal level,” says Macartney, who’s been lobbying municipal politicians for 32 years, and helped establish the southwestern Ontario city’s Chamber as one of the most active and vocal in the country.
Macartney is quick to point out that lobbying is not a dirty word – it’s an essential part of a working democracy. “We’re advocates on behalf of issues, and our constituents, whether it be the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) or the chamber of commerce.” He says it is critically important for lobbyists to provide information, help politicians understand the issues, and make them aware of how they can help.
Typically, farm issues — ranging from land use planning to building construction and noise, dust and odour — fall under municipal jurisdiction.
At the recent OFA convention at Hamilton, Ont., RealAgriculture’s Bernard Tobin sat down with Macartney to discuss tips on how to effectively lobby municipal politicians and impact these issues. (Story continues after interview)
Gerry Macartney’s top political lobbying tips
- Be early and be first. It’s cheaper and it’s more effective
- Get a firm date, time, and place for a meeting
- Follow up and confirm dates and who will be attending
- Huddle first with your group/delegation – practice the song sheet
- Keep the agenda tight – 2-3 issues max
- Keep comments brief
- Stick to the community side of the issue – impact on members
- Offer to follow up if you get questions you can’t answer
- Try to maintain control of the meeting – you asked for it
- Try for a commitment but always leave the door open
- Ask to meet about 10 issues
- Give speeches or lectures
- Take NO for an answer
- Argue or escalate even if you don’t start it
- Show up with more people than you confirmed
- Deviate from your mission even if or when they try to divert you
- Try to be an expert if you aren’t