Home Member Services Health Policy A Political Call to Arms (and Hips, Knees and Ankles) - Part 2
A Political Call to Arms (and Hips, Knees and Ankles) - Part 2 PDF Print E-mail

The previous edition of the COA Bulletin featured an article about engaging with Federal candidates in light of the upcoming election – why this is valuable, what's possible, and how this may impact health policy (see A Political Call to Arms (and Hips, Knees and Ankles) on page 37 of the Summer 2015 edition). We are pleased to offer members Part 2 of this article which provides the practical information to make you comfortable getting out of your seat and connecting with candidates during this pre-election period.

Examples of Engagement

  • The CMA has released a Senior's Strategy with a motto "Demand a Plan", asking for senior care to be prioritized, rather than specifying policy solutions. They're hosting roundtables to get a discussion going, and arming their members with tools for engagement.
  • The Nurses of Canada have been promoting their Vote4Care website that outlines 4 specific actions they want the government to take, some stats backing their case, and many ways to share their info via social media.
  • Council of Canadians is demanding a renewal to the Health Accord and restoration of funding that was cut. They held a Day of Action, and are making regular press releases, and mobilizing rallies and letter-writing through their local chapters.

COA's Approach
So, what kind of support can the Federal government offer that could be helpful to Orthopaedic surgeons? This isn't a rhetorical question – if you have ideas, tell us! The COA has occasion to speak with government, and we want to represent your ideas. Think of something do-able for a government over a 4-year mandate within their realm of influence.

Government experts been pretty transparent about the direction they wish to take – care that is more at-home, more cost-effective, more patient-centered, more collaborative between disciplines, and more innovative. To get ideas about where federal health policy may be headed, have a look at the recent expert panel report Unleashing Innovation: Excellent Health Care for Canada, prepared for the Government of Canada.

We invite you to define a COA approach. We encourage our members to engage locally with candidates, on your own terms with your own thoughts. But as one voice in a chorus, you need to think about your tune (topics) and your tone (approach). Here are some suggestions:


  • A national Wait Times Strategy
  • A coordinated national approach to human resources in Orthopaedics
  • A joint-health project (Public Health is a federal agency)
  • Promoting a local innovation that can be generalized to the rest of the health system.


  • Introduce yourself, identify as a constituent and an orthopaedic surgeon.
  • Note if your candidate has any background in health – in practice, in research or policy, or as a patient who's experienced the system. This will influence their perspectives and you can appeal to their experiences.
  • Be straightforward (the candidate wants to hear from you about what you want from your government) but also personable and warm (they're not customer service).
  • Be patient if the candidate lacks of knowledge about medicine – they're not experts yet, nobody's briefed them about the last 30 years of health policy.
  • Be aware that they're vying to be the "Prom Queen" [or "Be aware that they're in election mode"], so they won't disagree or contradict you. Your job is only to get them to consider to the idea, not to commit to it.
  • Keep your message very brief and offer to have a follow up conversation.
  • Get in touch to congratulate them if they get elected, try to keep communications alive, but only if they seem open to it.


  • Expect to get immediate results. Candidates aren't empowered to act; they haven't even been elected yet.
  • Complain/accuse – assume you're on the same side and have the same goals, so focus on how to get to what you both want, not all the ways that the government is screwing up. And don't fall for partisan bait, a la "my opponent's party is to blame for everything."
  • Talk about salaries – that's not under the purview of the Feds and it can be distasteful [awkward].

How to "Package" Your Message
Now that you've envisioned a request to make, consider your audience and how you want to communicate your request to them. What do the candidates need? Ok, this time it's a rhetorical question – they need votes, popular ideas, solutions to problems, and improvements to the system. They need to feel inspired by your idea but not daunted by what you're asking. When framing your request, think of how it may break down on a candidate's pros vs. cons list. Emphasize pros, address cons if possible.

How to Make Friends and Influence Candidates
Some practical advice on methods for making them all orthopaedic champions, ranked in order of commitment:

  • Speak with the candidate/their canvasser at your door
  • Write a letter to your local candidate
  • Attend a town hall and ask a question/speak with the candidate afterwards
  • Attend a fundraiser and get some time with the candidate
  • Host the fundraiser
  • Volunteer on the campaign – doubly effective (if your candidate likes your orthopaedic ideas) since you get access to the candidate as well as opportunities to speak with voters.

Whatever method of engaging you choose, try to bring your issue to the attention of all of the candidates, not just the one you'll vote for. It's a secret ballot, so you can play the field!

Don't forget to keep engaging after the election, to keep the momentum going on the issue. And please let us know about your efforts and how they go. Bon courage!

Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 January 2016 15:08