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OUSA Transition Conference

May 25, 2010

The Art of Advocacy

Presented with apologies to:
Le sso n O n e : S tru ctu re M a tte rs
 OUSA founded by a group of
student unions dissatisfied with
the responsiveness of the
Ontario Federation of Students.

 Original members included U of T

(APUS), Queen’s, University of
Waterloo, Laurier & Brock.

 Formally incorporated in 1994.

 Democratic and member-driven
governance improves member
retention, member buy-in, and
organizational legitimacy.

 Transparency – in everything
from financial accounts to
decision making – is critical.

 “Fight out in the open.”

Le sso n Tw o : Po licy is Po litica l
 Even good ideas can be

 Political context and timing is

important. Yesterday’s bad idea
can be today’s Eureka!
moment. And vice versa.

 The more complex and well-

reasoned an idea, the easier it
can be attacked in the court of
public opinion.
 At its founding, OUSA advocated tuition
increases and the introduction of an income-
contingent loan system.

 The policy wasn’t necessarily bad – every

dollar in tuition fee increases would be
accompanied by three new dollars of
government investment. And far worse
policies were introduced by the Harris
government in 1995.

 Tragically easy to attack: “OUSA wants you to

pay more tuition, accept more debt.”

 Your responsibility is to promote
the best possible policy options
for your members. But be aware
of their political implications, and
be prepared to defend them.
Le sso n T h re e : R e se a rch , R e se a rch ,
R e se a rch
Courtesy of
 Any good policy is based on solid

 Nobody will listen if you can’t back

up your positions with good data
and analysis.
OUSA policy research has evolved:
focus on ‘traditional’ issues like tuition
fees has broadened to funding,
financial aid, and an in-depth focus on
educational quality.
OUSA is now a “thought-leader” in the

sector- your views will sought out and

The quality of OUSA’s research has

allowed it to make real policy

interventions over the past 10 years.
Notable OUSA research:
Le sso n Fo u r: Ta ctics a re
im p o rta n t
 How you choose to accomplish
your mission and goals defines
your organization.

 There is no ‘right way’ to lobby.

Choose your methods based on
 The Lobby Model (aka The OUSA
Model): effect policy change through
policy recommendations, direct
connection with government
 Pros: better access to government, views
more respected in policy circles, non-
 Cons: can appear “in the pocket” of
government, lower public profile, must
work within ‘boundaries’.

 The Populist Model (aka CFS Model):
advocacy characterized by protests,
events, and direct action. Seeks to
effect change by moving public
 Pros: very visible, improved public
profile, demonstrates value to
otherwise disengaged members.
 Cons: can lose control of your message,
adversarial relations with government,
not ‘solutions oriented’, highly partisan
 Be familiar with all the methods at
your disposal. Compile an
‘advocacy toolkit’ and apply the
best approach for the situation.
Le sso n Five : U se yo u r
co n n e ctio n s
 Advocacy is about relationships.
Always work to establish and
build your connections with
politicians, civil servants,
stakeholders, and media.
Friends in useful places
 OUSA alumni are well represented
throughout government and the PSE
 Ministry of Education
 Ministry of Children and Youth Services
 Council of Ontario Universities
 Office of the Leader of the Official
Opposition (Federal)
 Wherever Andrew Boggs ends up
Le sso n S ix : A d vo ca cy W o rks
Government , in the final
analysis , is organized opinion .
Where there is little or no
public opinion , there is apt to
be bad government .
- MacKenzie King
“ There ’ s no trick
to it … it ’ s just a
simple trick .”
- Brad Goodman
 The right combination of good
governance, quality policy,
strong relationships, and
effective tactics will allow you
to make a real difference to
university education in Ontario.

 Be realistic. What can you do this

year to achieve your long-term
Notable OUSA Achievements
Ancillary fee freeze and protocols
Ontario Advisory Committee on Student

Financial Assistance (OACSFA) (1998)

Increased OSAP in-study earnings cap

Five-year tuition fee limits (2000-05)

and tuition fee freeze (2004-06)

Reduced parental contribution

expectation for OSAP (2004)

Major impact on recommendations of
Le sso n S e ve n : B rin g a C a m e ra
Because you never know…
Q u e stio n s?