On August 28th, new ministers were appointed for Public Services and Procurement Canada, Veterans’ Affairs Canada, and Sport and Persons with Disabilities. These are all Ministries related to the Canadian General Standards Board draft Service Dog Team standard.
a. The new Minister of Public Services and Procurement Canada is the Honourable Carla Qualtrough, former Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities.
b. Her knowledge of the disabilities portfolio will be important for those advocating against the CGSB draft standard, as she understands the importance of having an open, transparent, and inclusive process that fully engages those with disabilities.
c. This is a promotion for her, to a larger, more complex portfolio, and she will be anxious to get on top of the major issues facing her new Ministry. The CGSB standards are not a major issue at this level.
d. The new Minister of Veterans’ Affairs Canada is the Honourable Seamus O’Regan, a close personal friend of the Prime Minister.
e. As this is his first cabinet post, he will be overwhelmed with the volume of information he must digest in a very short period of time to get up to speed.
f. The new Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities is the Honourable Kent Hehr, former Minister of Veterans’ Affairs.
g. This is a demotion for him to a smaller area of responsibility, so he will be anxious to improve his performance in the eyes of the Prime Minister.
h. Further, Mr. Hehr has a physical disability, so he is very familiar with issues of accessibility and exclusion.
It is critical that contact be made with these new ministers in the first two to three weeks of their tenure to advise them of concerns related to the Canadian General Standards Board draft Service Dog Team Standard.
a. Congratulate them on their appointment to their new portfolio (in Mr. O’Regan’s case, his appointment to Cabinet)
b. Recognize that there is much new information they must absorb during the first days of there new tenure
c. Acknowledge there are many high-priority issues for their portfolio (a few examples follow, but you should research your own high-priority items via the internet or news sources):
- For Public Services and Procurement, the Phoenix pay system
- For Sport and Disability Services, the ongoing consultation regarding accessibility and the development of Canada’s first accessibility legislation
- For Veterans’ Affairs, developing a suicide prevention strategy for Canadian Armed Forces personnel and veterans
- You are writing to make them aware of an issue that is important to you and to many disabled Canadians, the CGSB draft service dog team standard
- Explain in concise language why it is of concern to you
- Offer to provide more information and to meet with them if they wish
- Indicate you will be providing more information to your MP (reference your MP by name)
Finally, please thank them for their dedication to public service, and their time in reading your letter, and indicate you will be in touch with them again as the CGSB process unfolds
a. It is important, once you have established contact with a minister, to provide concise follow-up information as the issue unfolds (say every month or two), and to always provide similar, but more detailed information to your own MP.
b. MPs can advocate for you with ministers, and often seek information they can effectively use to a) assist a constituent, b) gain a favourable opinion from a cabinet minister, and c) appear to the Prime Minister or the leader of their opposition party to be engaged in government issues and constituency issues.
c. In other words, you are doing your MP a favour by informing them of your concern – ask to meet with them, and they will be even more pleased.