Attending CPAWS-BC’s Government Relations summit

By Moe Nadeau

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a Take Back the Wild (TBTW) Summit with CPAWS in Victoria, BC. The focus of the summit was to introduce the topic of Government Relations and how your voice can be heard in politics. As someone who had never had the opportunity to learn much about government and policy, I was very excited to attend. Not to mention that this summit was being conducted in a very different way compared to previous summits. For the first time ever, CPAWS hosted an intergenerational TBTW summit. There were attendants of all ages, from retirees to recent university graduates. I found this gave way to an incredible opportunity to connect with new people and to help understand issues from a different perspective.

The first day of the summit began with a workshop lead by Lisa Matthaus, the Provincial Lead for Organizing for Change, a coalition that works on building public support for environmental initiatives. Lisa gave us many tips and tricks on how to effectively communicate with your MLA and how to ensure your ideas are heard within the BC political system.

Afterwards, we put the skills acquired from Lisa to use through practice exercises, and we finished off by having a meet and greet with Mary Polak, the MLA for Langley. Having a chance to listen to Mary Polak speak was a great way to get a true sense of how MLA’s are interested in communicating with the public and what they are willing to do for their constituents. It really gave me a new perspective: I began to understand the power that each individual could actually have on creating sustainable change. Mary spoke from a personal level that made me realize that at the end of the day, all decision-makers in government are human too and they can be influenced by the public, showing the true importance of making your voice heard.

Day two began with a tour of the parliament building, which was incredibly exciting for me because I had never had the opportunity to see it before. Here, we were able to learn about the history of the building and attend a question period. This was the most shocking experience of the trip because the MLA’s certainly acted in a way that was very different than I had expected. It was so theatrical! There was yelling, banging on their desks, and a lot of finger pointing. We soon found out that this is the only time the MLA’s are allowed to act in this order, so it is sort of a way to blow off steam for them. It certainly was an interesting experience.

Our final speaker was Adam Olsen, the MLA for Saanich North and the Islands. Listening to what he had to say about how to effectively communicate with people in government put all the bits and pieces I had learned throughout the summit together. He spoke with such passion for making changes and with such a positive outlook on the impact that the public can have in making decisions for our province. After his meet and greet session I felt very hopeful for our future decisions, as long as we all made an effort to show we cared about issues.

All in all, this TBTW summit was incredibly valuable to me because it showed me that I do have a voice and I can make a difference. It really helped me to understand the impacts that all constituents can have on any decisions that are being made within the government and it gave me the skills necessary to effectively communicate my stance on current issues. I feel so lucky to have been apart of the Government Relation TBTW summit and I can’t wait to see how my voice helps to shape policies in BC, or Canada for that matter!

Moe has been a volunteer with CPAWS since 2014. She first heard about the organization during the annual environmental science career fair at UBC. When not volunteering, Moe spends her free time seeking new and thrilling adventures from hiking to snowboarding to mountain biking. Read Moe's blog on standing up for parks!