Engage at City Hall

Engaging Your City Councillor - #ActOnPlasticsTO

We know Councillors are hearing from corporate lobbyists.  The voices of residents need to be louder. You can directly contact your councillor by calling or meeting with them. Here are some tips and ideas.

Step 1: Pick a target Councillor

Your neighbourhood is represented by a local City Councillor. Your Councillor may sit on special Committees or boards that make decisions related to environmental issues.  All Councillors get to vote on any decisions that come to City Council. You can find out who your Councillor is and any committees they sit on by using this handy ward look-up tool.

On July 10th, Public Works and Infrastructure Committee (PWIC) members will meet to discuss a range of options to tackle problematic plastic wastes. These options will be in a report developed & presented by Solid Waste Management staff. While other City Councillors can attend the meeting as “visiting Councillors” to listen in, ask questions and encourage members to vote on a special motion, only the following PWIC member Councillors can vote:

  • Christin Carmichael Greb
  • Stephen Holyday
  • Giorgio Mammoliti
  • Anthony Perruzza
  • Jaye Robinson (Chair)

Step 2: Research the Councillor

Visit their City Councillor profile page: https://www.toronto.ca/city-government/council/members-of-council/

Which Committees and other decision-making bodies the Councillor’s has been appointed to? Do they sit on any committees or boards that should care about the issue you want to raise?

What is the contact number and email address for the Councillor’s office? Sometimes there are multiple email addresses and numbers for different staff assistants, but you can always use the main phone line and general Councillor email address to communicate with them.

Step 3: Decide how you want to communicate with the Councillor:

  • Make a phone call
  • Plan a drop-in meeting (not by appointment)
  • Schedule a meeting (by appointment)

OPTION 1: Leave a message

  • If you call the Councillor’s office you will either be speaking with one of their assistants who can relay your message to the Councillor or you will be leaving a voicemail message.
  • If you want to speak with someone, call the Councillor’s office during typical office hours: Monday to Friday; 8 am - 5 pm. If no one picks up the line in time, it will go to voicemail.
  • If you prefer to leave a voicemail message for the Councillor, call outside of typical office hours or on weekends.
  • If you speak with someone from the Councillor’s office, take note of who you spoke with and the date/time of the call. This will make it easier & friendlier to follow up later!

OPTION 2: Plan a drop-in meeting

  • Find out if the Councillor will be attending any community events or holding any constituency days.
  • Check out the Councillor’s website and social media accounts. What do they care about? Are any community events coming up on their calendar?
  • If you are meeting with your local Councillor and they have a constituency office, consider dropping in for a meeting during one of their constituency days (when the Councillor dedicates time to meeting with residents in the community rather than at Toronto City Hall).

OPTION 3: Schedule an in-person meeting

Booking the meeting

  • Some (but not all) Councillors have a local constituency office that is located in the Ward they serve (in addition to their office at City Hall). If your Councillor has a constituency office, you may find it more convenient to book a meeting at this location rather than travel downtown to City Hall.
  • Email the Councillor’s office (councillor_[lastname]@toronto.ca to book an appointment. In your email, identify if you are a local resident and explain why the meeting is urgent and important to you. Follow up with a phone call the next day.
  • Sometimes the Councillor is not available to meet but their Executive Assistant will meet with you. It’s still worth meeting with an EA because they are usually a Councillor’s most trusted advisor and can help them identify and research important decisions before a Committee or Council meeting.
  • Sometimes the Councillor or a staff person will respond by email to address your questions or demands rather than meet with you in person. This doesn’t mean you weren’t successful in achieving your goal! If a Councillor goes on the record (by email) to share their position with you (e.g. “I will be supporting  ___ at the Committee”)

Preparing for & arriving to the meeting

  • Why are you here? Write out your “elevator pitch” and practice saying it a few times so you can look the Councillor in the eyes instead of looking at your notes. When you sit down with the Councillor, they will likely want you to cut to the chase. You cannot assume that they’ve had time to be briefed by the assistants about why you are here so your elevator pitch will come in handy at the start of your conversation.
  • Arrive at least 10 minutes early. If you are visiting City Hall, you will need to sign in at the front desk and receive a Visitor badge that you must wear and keep visible at all times during your visit.
  • Be patient and prepare to wait. Councillor’s can have back-to-back meetings that often go over time. You might be waiting for a while before you are escorted to their office. Use this time to review the key messages you plan to raise in your meeting. If you plan to drive to City Hall, be sure you add some extra time to your parking meter just in case!

Tips for your meeting or conversation:

  • Make sure you double check how much time you will have with the Councillor (and/or their assistant) before you start the meeting. Sometimes their schedules change at the last minute and you want to make sure you raise the key points.
  • Make eye contact, shake their hand, introduce yourself and thank them for their time
  • Consider bringing a concise handout you can leave with them but only hand it over at the end of your conversation unless it directly lends itself to the points you are raising, otherwise it might just distract them from what you are saying
  • Quickly explain why you wanted to meet with them & what you want them to do
  • Share a short but personal story and anecdote about why the issue you are raising matters to you and/or your community

Additional tips for talking about plastic:

  • Don’t just talk about one type of plastic.
  • Don’t feel like you have to be an expert or talk about everything. Focus on a few key points and speak from the heart.

REPORT BACK!

Contact a Councillor and report back to TEA! This conversation is a great opportunity to get a commitment from the Councillor - and hold them to it. When you meet, get them to confirm that they will take action on plastic waste.  

Did you call, meet, or get a response? Let us know! Email tea@torontoenvironment.org.