What You Can Do
Advocating for change at the municipal level is not difficult and often highly effective. What follows are a few tips and tools for getting your message heard at City Hall.
1) The "Ask"
- Consistent messaging is extremely important in any advocacy campaign. If every voice from the arts sector is asking for the same thing, or a variation of the same thing, it will be more difficult to ignore. Don't allow the political or bureaucratic leadership to respond that the sector doesn't know what it wants.
- Make sure the people you ask have the power to grant your request (or at least influence the result). For example, there is no point in asking a City Councillor to change federal legislation.
2) The Action
- Email your City Councillor: Ask your Board, volunteers, audiences and supporters to call, email or write their City Councillors. It is important that they contact the Councillor for their home, not work, address. (This is because Councillors respond to voters, and you vote where you live). Not sure who your Councillor is? Find them here.
- Make a public deputation at City Hall. Although members of the public cannot speak at City Council sessions, they can speak before all Committee meetings. The Committees most often concerned with arts issues are Budget Committee and Economic Development Committee. Committee information can be found here.
Guide: How to make a Deputation.
Call the City Clerk in charge of the Committee and register to speak at the meeting. This may be done any time up to the day before. If you haven't registered in advance, it is still possible to request to speak at the meeting itself, although if there are a lot of deputants you will not be heard until the end.
How long is a deputation: The usual public deputation speaking time is 5 minutes. However, when the list of speakers is long, the committee can choose to reduce the speaking time. It makes sense to prepare speaking notes for approximately 3 minutes.
Who Should Speak: The most effective speakers are volunteers. Volunteer board members, sponsors, donors, and local business owners make excellent speakers, as do those participating in programs. Children and youth can be effective speakers.
Who is Listening: Although Committees may have as few as seven Councillors as members, other Councillors often are in attendance as guests. Committees will not proceed without quorum, usually four Councillors. Even if few Councillors are present, decisions made at Committee go forward to the full City Council. Important work can be done by a small group of Councillors.
Effective Deputations: Many Councillors are looking for public support to help them make tough decisions. Essentially you want to offer them compelling reasons to do the right thing but not to be openly critical. The most effective way to do this is to be respectful and offer positive stories and facts on the value of arts programming. NB: Practice your remarks; make sure you can fit what you want to say into 3 minutes. If you have a talent – poetry, spoken word, storytelling – don’t hesitate to use it; Councillors respond well when the message is delivered creatively.