Civic Engagement: A Canadian Success Story

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Thursday, April 18, 2013 View Count = 2145

Civic Engagement: A Canadian Success Story

On Tuesday, Uzma told us about her journey from an enthusiastic new Canadian to a confident and politically engaged community organizer. Uzma’s path to active citizenship was fostered by a community group that supported her, and local politicians who responded when she reached out.

Uzma’s example inspired us to search for more success stories of politicians meeting citizens halfway to include them in political decision-making. Here is one great case study we found, told through the steps provided in the ‘Making your Move’ section of the Democracy Talks facilitation guide.

 Case Study: The Registered Disabilities  Savings Plan

 Backstory: Al Etmanski and Vicke  Cammuck had been running PLAN for years  when they identified that parents of children  with disabilities had a strong desire to ensure  stable financial futures for their children. So  they set off with a plan.

The goal: Create an RDSP – Registered Disabilities Savings Plan – for people with disabilities.

- Thousands of families and individuals affected by disabilities
- The Law Foundation of BC – Funders
- The Canadian Government – Needed to pass legislation, help publicize RDSPs

- PLAN applied for, and received, a $400 000 grant from the Law Foundation of British Columbia. The Law Foundation said they were impressed by PLAN’s persistence and their dedication to building a relationship with their funders.

Action Plan:
- Armed with research and a great idea, PLAN approached federal bureaucrats, political advisors to Cabinet Ministers and the Prime Minister’s Office.
- They worked with academics to build clear, convincing and independent reports.
- They focused on specific Members of Parliament who might be supportive. 

PLAN worked hard for years to make RDSPs available. In 2006 they were part of the Liberal election platform, thanks to the interest of Paul Martin. When Liberals lost the election, PLAN kept up momentum and again reached out to federal bureaucrats, eventually garnering the attention of Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. They suspect he may have been particularly interested given his own experience as the parent of a child with a disability. Minister Flaherty worked with PLAN members to draft legislation supporting RDSPs, and it was passed in 2008. That legislation exists today because of dedicated citizens, and politicians who appreciated and listened to their ideas.

You can read more about the fight for RDSPs here and here.

If you are interested in tackling an issue in your own community, check out our 'Making Your Move' handout, part of the Democracy Talks facilitation guide. Or, write to [email protected] if you want to host Democracy Talks with your community group.

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