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How to Advocate

Why Contact Politicians?

Politicians are public servants. They exist for the sole purpose of representing the district or region they have been elected to. Politicians receive tens, hundreds and even thousands of emails each day from concerned citizens who want to see change in hundreds of different areas. You might be wondering, why would they read my email when they have hundreds of others waiting. What makes an effective email? How will my voice contribute to better music education across Ontario? These questions prevent many concerned citizens from reaching out and demanding change. 

Politicians are public servants, but they also have a personal interest in fulfilling the wants and needs of their constituents. When their contributions are valued by the community, politicians are more likely to be re-elected into office. This also means that politicians will not go out of their way to advocate for change that no one asks for. It is the responsibility of concerned citizens to apply pressure to political actors. When there is enough pressure, politicians will advocate for the changes we want to see. 

At Bandology, we know that engaging in the political world can seem daunting. We want to answer common questions and provide you with accurate information to help you advocate for music education in Ontario!

Who Do I Contact?

What is an MP?

A Member of Parliament is an individual elected to represent a federal electoral district in the House of Commons. MPs legislate in Parliament, advocating for the wants and needs of their party and the electoral district they represent. MPs are responsible for federal issues. Education is a provincial responsibility, but MPs are useful people to contact for high level support, funding requests and allyship. MPs have a vested interest in ensuring Canada’s youth obtain a well-rounded education that makes them better innovators and workers. Click here for a directory of Canada’s current MPs.

What is an MPP?

A Member of Provincial Parliament is a person elected to represent a provincial electoral district. MPPs meet in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, advocating for the wants and needs of their party and the electoral district they represent, voting on and developing legislation which reflects these needs. Education is a provincial responsibility. Therefore MPPs have significant say in allocating the federal budget, revising the Education Act (1990) and appointing the Minister of Education. Contact MPPs with specific concerns regarding funding allocation, curriculum, the distribution of skilled teachers or distribution of music programs in high vs. low income regions. Click here for a directory of Ontario’s current MPPs.

What is a Mayor?

Mayors are the head of municipal governments. Municipal governments are created by the provincial government. Elected Mayors are considered the head of the municipal government, but they rarely have power outside of the municipal council. Mayors represent the municipality as a whole, and are usually very responsive to community needs. Their support and advocacy can make local change and they can advocate to provincial representatives. Contact Mayors with specific grievances in music education across your municipality, such as differences from region to region based on income or community makeup. Mayors can present findings and advocate to other councillors. To find your municipality and Mayor, click here.

What is a Ward Councillor?

A Ward Councillor is an elected member of the municipal advisory board, headed by the Mayor. Ward councillors represent specific districts within a municipality. These individuals are extremely involved in local events and politics, acting as a representative, policy-maker and public servant. Ward Councillors come together to make proposals and decisions which reflect the needs of their ward. Contact Ward Councillors with specific grievances in music education in your ward. To find your municipality and ward councillor, click here.

What does the Ministry of Education do?

The Ministry of Education: responsible for determining the budget for all of Ontario’s public schools, and is held accountable for the education system altogether by making policy and curriculum decisions. The Minister of Education is appointed by the Premier of Ontario, and is therefore a partisan party member. The party the minister belongs to determines the policy directives of the Ministry of Education as a whole. As determinants of the budget, contact the Minister/Ministry of Education when you have specific grievances regarding curriculum, equitable access to instruments, the distribution of specialized music teachers, etc. Click here to contact the Minister of Education.

What Do School Boards Do?

School boards are responsible for allocating the funds provided by the Ministry of Education and the provincial government. These funds go towards applying curriculum, paying teachers, purchasing materials, etc. 

School boards are composed of a director of education, superintendents and other employees. Superintendents manage the operation of entire school board districts. They oversee principals and teachers and engage in hiring. The Director of Education is hired by a given school board and is responsible for leading curriculum and student well-being. Click here to locate and contact your School Board.

School Board Trustees, on the other hand, are locally elected by the public and they serve as the community’s education advocates. They can advise the Director of Education and are headed by an elected chair of the board of trustees. To find your trustee, navigate through your school board contacts.

How Do I Get Their Attention?

When communicating with any politician or educator, here are some general guidelines to follow:

  1. Remain respectful and professional, and include a combination of personal anecdotes or feelings with hard truths or facts. This humanizes the issue and more effectively grabs attention.
  2. Be concise! Politicians and their executive assistants are more likely to read an email that is brief and full of the most essential information. 
  3. Highlight points that mean the most to you! Don’t try to cover every issue in music education. Focus on what you’re knowledgeable about, have first-hand experience with or are most concerned about. 
  4. Request a response as well as action and commitment. Without this, politicians are not forced to respond to your email. 

For example, follow this rough outline: 

  1. Brief introduction: state your interest as a parent, teacher, community member, student, etc. Include your province, municipality, address or ward where applicable. 
  2. The purpose for writing and your concerns. This is an appropriate time to provide an anecdote, personal connection or fact.
  3. Ask questions: what is the recipient’s stance? Are they going to contribute to a common good or stand by as music education falls through the cracks?
  4. Ask them to commit to the cause or to make a specific action. 
  5. Request a response: provide your email, mailing address and/or phone number.

Example Template

Dear ______

I am writing to you today to voice my concern regarding Ontario’s inconsistent, inaccessible and inadequate music education. As a parent/ teacher/ musician/ community member, I have seen firsthand the benefits that a strong music education can provide: better grades, better mental health and a more diverse skill set. On the other hand, I have seen how underdeveloped and underfunded music programs can negatively impact student development and skill diversification. (Be specific and include an anecdote, story, fact, personal connection, etc). 

What is your stance on music education? How are you working to support the arts and the enrichment of Ontario’s education? Are you going to contribute to the success of Ontario’s emerging workforce or be a bystander? 

I demand your commitment to music education quality, standardization and accessibility, regardless of the socio-demographic makeup of a given school. Too often, arts programs are neglected in low-income communities or schools with a diverse racial or cultural makeup. You must commit to providing all Ontario children with equality of opportunity, and the same start to skill development. 

Sincerely,

____ ______

(XXX) XXX XXXX

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