Effective Letter Writing
Is there something that really gets up your nose, something that needs changing in our broader world? Quite probably, but what can you do? One option would be to write a letter to a politician. Here, my guest, Fred Douglas, lays out a few tips he uses when promoting the interesting idea of a ‘Basic Income.’ So pick up your Parker and give it a go.
The cause here is the assured or universal basic income; it is a solution to the evil of gross income inequality in Canada. A guaranteed, decent annual income would provide a measure of income security for those trying to live on too-low incomes in this country of astounding abundance. Information is included for those who want to know exactly what a basic income is, and for those who want to know more about it. However, if you have a different social cause or concern, the following points can be used to suit your purpose. Take what you want.
1. A good letter is a simple letter–one that covers the essentials. A focused letter can have an impact, especially if it contains a new interpretation of the injustice, or highlights critical aspects of it. The letter goes to your elected public servants, the ones charged with governing for the public good.
2. Important decisions are made at the very top of the governing pyramid. So, the original letter should go to the highest authority in the land, namely the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, PC, MP. His address is: House of Commons, Wellington St, Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6. Letters to federal politicians are postage-free, and good ones are often passed on to colleagues and other officials.
3. A one-page letter, preferably handwritten, is best. Handwriting is better than e-mail because it attracts attention. Form letters and postcards are not effective. You are trying to get an original reply and not a form letter response.
4. The first paragraph should identify your purpose in writing. It should be a clear, concise statement of your position on income inequality. Inequality will become a big political issue when the authorities accept the reality of this “evil.” Putting “Income Inequality in Canada” in a search box yielded the websites below–and the necessity of doing something about it.
5. Be polite. Snide and overly critical comments only weaken your stance. Use a personal tone and deal with your main concern first in the letter. Mention any personal experience or expertise you have.
6. Write why you feel the way you do. If applicable, tell about your personal situation/experience living on a low income, and also provide a reason or reasons for your big-picture position. Give an example of how you personally may be affected.
7. Subtle flattery helps. Tell the politician that you are sure that s/he knows about his/her duty to the sovereign public. Refer to previous statements that the addressee has made, or government approaches, if any, with which you agree. (See websites in no. 7 below.)
8. In your conclusion, be direct and precise about what you want. Recommend that government(s) institute a policy of significant equality by way of an assured annual income. Ask for a reply. Request a meeting with a high government official to discuss the subject in more detail.
9. A copy of your letter should go to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development. This is the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, PC, MP at: House of Commons, Wellington St, Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6. When the ball gets rolling on a guaranteed basic income initiative, he will be the first minister to be involved. For current government thinking on a basic income see:
10. Keep influential others in the loop. Copy opposition political party leaders, your MP, Premier, MLA and Mayor. Find the addresses of these by putting their names into a search box. Get the names of their key staffers for correspondence and for follow-up. Ask them to arrange a meeting with the highest government official available with whom you can discuss the issue in person.
11. The proper salutations are: “Dear Prime Minister Trudeau” and “Dear Minister Duclos.” Mail or fax your letter to them. Copy the various media.
NB: Real democracy is what people do and not who they watch. When you do something big or small for a cause, you will no longer feel so overwhelmed and useless in a heartless system. You’ll feel empowered and find meaning. And, your friends will be impressed/inspired. (Your group could also make a letter, and have it signed by each member before mailing it.)
More Resources: New Internationalist magazine reports on the Universal Basic Income: