Fifteen meetings. Seventeen Members of Parliament and federal officials. Twelve representatives from the Canadian Coalition for Healthy Waters.
Two lobby days in Ottawa. Countless weeks of prep and follow-up.
Here’s your window into the intricate choreography that federal water advocacy calls for!
The Canadian Coalition for Healthy Waters (CCHW) spent two lobby days on the Hill on October 18 and 19, meeting MPs representing four federal political parties, as well as other federal officials.
Since its inception last year, the Coalition's suite of actions enabled it to unify and broadcast its message with one voice in Ottawa, including:
- the January 2022 publication of a letter to Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada;
- the March 2022 creation of two policy positions on building the Canada Water Agency and renewing the Canada Water Act;
- and the September 2022 publication of a Briefing Note and pre-budget written submission for the Standing Committee on Finance of the House of Commons.
One week before arriving on the Hill, a few CCHW members also published an op ed piece in The Hill Times. The article framed two CCHW asks within the current environmental and economic context right before the lobby days took place. The asks were:
- Creating a Canada Water Agency as a separate entity (like the Parks Canada Agency);
- Funding the Freshwater Action Plan through an historic investment of $1 billion over five years.
This kind of work is about relationship-building. To advance a large-scale vision, face-to-face meetings matter a lot. Once in Ottawa, CCHW members met with individuals on the Hill in small groups. The CCHW mini-teams entered each meeting with a strategy in mind, having planned which asks they would advance based on the MP they were meeting with. These included, for example:
- Asking a question or making a statement in the House of Commons to government (something both Elizabeth May (Green Party) and Laurel Collins (NDP) did already!);
- Speaking out within their respective caucus in favour of the CCHW asks;
- Speaking out publicly or writing an op ed;
- Speaking to or writing a letter to Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland advancing the asks & asking MPs within their party to sign on.
This kind of work is ongoing, following the rhythm and pace of federal politics. In order to bring as many MPs and officials on board as possible, the CCHW members followed up on an individual basis after leaving Ottawa. In many cases, this follow-up required providing documentation. For example, in many meetings MPs asked for proof there is a return on investment for water funding. Back at home, the CCHW went to work creating a two page document to capture why we should invest in water and what will happen if we don’t.
We’ve seen some MPs advancing the message, as both Elizabeth May and Laurel Collins did, and we have a commitment from some MPs to write a letter to the Ministers; a commitment we’re following up on to best ensure it happens. As is always the case with government relations, work is ongoing and we continue to focus on the creation of the Canada Water Agency and a properly resourced Freshwater Action Plan as the best ways that the government can show leadership on supporting healthy waters across the country.