Midwives are key constituents – how to build bridges with your Member of Provincial Parliament
August 17, 2022
A Member of Provincial Parliament's (MPP) success and potential for re-election rests in how they perform and meet the needs of their voters. Midwives and their practices are critical constituents. They also provide health care for an important demographic – young families. Midwifery clients overwhelmingly report good experiences with providers and support the profession. This is considerable social power that midwives can leverage to make positive changes in perinatal health care.
Political advocacy is an underutilized resource for achieving midwifery goals in the local community. Midwives often solicit support of elected representatives for prospective new practice proposals. Some practices have called on their MPP to advocate for improved hospital integration and inclusion in the OHT process. In response, MPPs in some cases have reached out to hospital leadership to discuss the issue, invited key stakeholders to a meeting, or written a letter of support on behalf of midwives. In instances where the MPP is not motivated to take concrete action, it is still valuable to put the issue on the MPP’s radar, especially if it is an issue that can be revisited closer to election season. You can think of this as a tool for relationship-building – which is an incremental process. If advocacy is undertaken professionally and respectfully, there are rarely drawbacks to reaching out.
Your MPP can still be your advocate even if you didn’t vote for them or don’t support their party’s platform. It is their job to represent their constituents in a non-partisan manner, and at the core, constituents and politicians share some common ground – such as improving health care quality and access for the community. No matter the political affiliation of your MPP, consider how to align your issues with the politician’s priorities. For example, if your practice has a concern about working within full-scope you could frame the issue according to what you think will resonate with them – such as cost-effectiveness and efficiency of preventing unnecessary transfers of care or emphasizing continuity of care for the client and client safety. You do not need to be politically savvy to do this effectively; a simple 10-minute Google search should be enough to give you an idea about what kinds of issues motivate your elected official.
It is still in your best interest to cultivate a relationship with your MPP even if you do not have any pressing issues that you need help with. You never know when you might need extra leverage. It is much easier to activate support in a known relationship than starting from scratch. A continued relationship also gives you the opportunity to articulate the priorities for maternal and newborn health in your region and gaps in service. This is an area of expertise you can offer your MPP. For example, if you have stated that there is a gap in service in perinatal mental health services you might have planted the seed, which remains when discussions of services or allocations of investments are discussed. MPPs can also be excellent resources for building deeper connections in community.
Proceed with Caution
Building a relationship with your MPP can have lasting mutual benefits. If you have a meeting with an MPP don’t be surprised if they tweet about it and ask to take a photo. It is in the MPP’s best interest to demonstrate publicly that they are supporting midwifery. However, midwives still need to be careful about how they participate in political activities. For example, in July 2019 the Ford government issued a press release that misrepresented the regular midwifery funding cycle as an increase and new investment. Several PC MPPs reached out to local practices and asked to do a press conference or photo opportunity to accompany the announcement. Midwives can always reach out to the AOM for guidance on how best to advance their relationship with their MPP, help them decide if they should move forward with a political event or press conference or for guidance about to frame your asks.
Cultural Safety Working with MPPs
IBPOC midwives may experience heightened vulnerability working with politicians who operate within systems and structures entrenched with racism and colonialization. Having your expertise and issues dismissed or devalued can be traumatic and contribute to feelings of powerlessness and impact one’s mental health. The AOM can help midwives prepare for meetings with politicians they anticipate could be tense or triggering and help to debrief them afterwards. Connect with colleagues and friends who can affirm your experiences. Some resources IBPOC midwives may find helpful:
Ritu Bhasin’s blogpost, How I Claim Space As A Woman Of Colour
Black Lives Matter's Toolkit for Black Lives Matter Healing Justice & Direct Action
Start Building that Relationship
Form letters are not impactful! The AOM provides template letters to help midwives get started, but your letter will be more compelling if it is personal and makes a clear call to action. In November 2021, midwife Judy Rogers wrote an excellent letter to her MPP asking him to take action to prevent future appeals of the HRTO case. Judy has given permission to share some of the excerpts of her letter to illustrate the power of a personalized letter:
I am writing to you as a constituent of yours who lives in McDougall, and to whom you provided a letter of support in 2013 for the establishment of the first midwifery practice to serve the West Parry Sound District in Ontario, Midwives of Georgian Bay. I was heartened yesterday to read your recent newsletter and to see the valuable contributions that the Ontario government has made to increase funding to the West Parry Sound Health Centre, in addition to the many other initiatives, some with the federal government such as the pool, the improvement of broadband internet access, the support for funding address homelessness, environmental work of the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve. I also appreciate your personal initiative in introducing private members' bills to deal with insurance costs for snowplow operators and to reduce styrofoam pollution in the lakes and Georgian Bay. I am also a big supporter of the Community Paramedicine program which is supporting seniors and other patients to stay at home and yet have access to regular monitoring by essential healthcare professionals.
Judy’s personal introduction establishes themself as an informed constituent who is paying attention to what initiatives the MPP is supporting. This fosters greater connection between Judy and the MPP.
I am pleased to let you know that Midwives of Georgian Bay is a thriving component of the West Parry Sound healthcare team, and we are well integrated at both West Parry Sound Health Centre and Orillia Soldiers' Memorial Hospital. We have been an integral part of both teams, sharing the on-call rotation coverage at WPSHC and being the primary care providers for approximately 40% of the births. We work with the nurses to ensure they are able to keep their valuable skills up to date. We are members of the Maternal Child Committee at WPSHC and contribute to the development and updating of maternity care policies. We also provide care for childbearing women at higher risk in the Parry Sound area and are able to provide care for them at OSMH where risk factors for mum or baby necessitate access to specialists such as obstetricians or neonatal intensive care. Thank you for helping us to expand the services and continuity of care available to women in Parry Sound.
Judy demonstrates the value her practice brings to community health and the MPP’s constituents.
Open the Door by Introducing Your Practice
Now is the perfect time to introduce your practice to your MPP, so soon after the election. To help you get started, the AOM has prepared a template [DOCX, 18 KB] that you can use to write your own letter of introduction. Take the time to personalize your letter and think about what relationship you hope to have with your elected official. If you have any questions or would like further guidance, please contact the AOM.