steeleGreat article containing very practical advice for libraries (and others) who want to push their agendas!  It’s from a retired politician who actually wrote a book about his experience!  From  former Nova Scotia finance minister Graham Steele, author of, What I Learned about Politics,  Here’s a review of the book.  But here is his specific advice.  Let me know if you try it and if it works for you.  Be tough.  Don’t be too nice.  Just do it!

“None of you should talk to a politician about anything that matters without knowing what the escape hatches are,” said Steele. “The escape hatches are the rhetorical devices that politicians learn to avoid dealing with the real issue.”

Steele used an example of an escape hatch he used as finance minister when he was on a tour called Back to Balance.

During the tour, Steele spoke with Denise Corey, who is now the chief librarian for Cumberland Public Libraries. Corey was also at Steele’s visit at the Wandlyn Inn.

“Denise was at the session and she said she spoke to me about libraries at the meeting and I have no recollection of it,” said Steele.

Steele asked Corey what he said to her at the Back to Balance meeting.

“What I said is what every politician says, ‘I love libraries.’”

He also said he would look into her concerns.

“To Denise that sounds reasonable, ‘Ok, I talked to the minister of finance and he said he’ll look at it.’”

Steele used an escape hatch to avoid Corey.

“Don’t put up with politicians telling you stories about how much they love libraries and how much they loved going to the library when they were a kid, and they take their kids to the library all the time. You’ve heard all that before. That means nothing,” said Steele.

“Which is exactly what you said to me,” said Corey as the room burst into laughter.

He says people need to pin politicians down.

“One of the most effective tools when dealing with a politician is to say, ‘Oh, I see what you’re doing,’ and then you name the escape hatch, and say, ‘How about if we not do that. Now lets get back to the real issue,’” said Steele.

Most people are too polite to their politicians.

“Don’t misunderstand me, you don’t have to be rude. You can be tough at the same time you’re polite.”

He said people need to force their MLA to give a plan of action.

“Usually what the MLA says is, ‘I’ll take it to the minister,’ which sounds reasonable. What they’re giving to you is nothing.”

And don’t let politicians off the hook.

“What you need to do are say things like, ‘Ok, will you come with us to a meeting with the minister?’ MLA’s hate that,” said Steele.

You can also ask your MLA to put their support in writing and ask for a copy of the letter.

“It’s all about not letting people wriggle off the hook.”