Sometimes It Takes a Small Comment

Summer 2003 CSANews Issue 47  |  Posted date : Apr 20, 2007.Back to list

Recently, when meeting with members of a comparable association, the Retired Teachers of Ontario, I was told that the CSA, on a national media stage, "had arrived." I was thrilled. When I started here almost three years ago, I found that most people knew what a snowbird was, but not necessarily who or what the Canadian Snowbird Association represented. One of my goals was to change that.

Previously, public opinion surrounding snowbirds has been somewhat negative and stereotypical - we were perceived as being a special interest group of older people; "fat cats," living a lifestyle about which some could only dream. It has taken time and strategizing to discount the naysayers and the ill-informed, time to educate them, time to set the record straight. CSA is now established as an association representing the needs and rights of all travelling Canadians. In fact, we are becoming a resource whose interests and concerns are varied, valuable and educated.

Hard work, research and networking have brought us to the level at which we are now. Ellen White has worked tirelessly - earning credibility and gaining momentum for our association is not an easy task. Bob Jackson set the political standard and tone with the launch of the research work on the Canadian Travellers' Report Card, and Ellen and Paul Jenkins pushed for the much-anticipated launch. They are continuing to work on the follow-up meetings across the country. Both Ellen and Paul give a great deal of their retirement and recreational time, listening to the political arguments that staff put forward to them, editing our material to ensure that it mirrors the mission of the CSA, and being available to the staff on an "as-needed basis" - including weekends and holidays. They take their responsibilities very seriously and, in doing so, set the standard for the staff.

We have tangible proof that their hard work has been rewarded. When members of the media are looking for answers, they contact our office first. Their often-probing questions have forced us to review issues that perhaps are not on our radar but, more often than not, we are ready with data for them.

We have started the process of holding key meetings with various government officials - discussing issues in the Canadian Travellers' Report Card and trying to get a commitment for change in the areas of concern. To prepare for these important meetings, the CSA spokespeople for this project were involved in a media training session. Preparation of this nature is necessary simply because the Government Relations Committee bench-marked various issues taken from the report card and, from those, created a strong message to share with the various jurisdictions impacting upon us. Delivering that message clearly and concisely is not easy. These meetings are for the sole purpose of expressing to some very busy people our issues and, at the same time, trying to get results. Our challenge is to accomplish this in a very short period of time, sometimes to persons not supportive of us or not informed as to our concerns. This training helped us place the emphasis on the right areas and deliver what we believe were stellar performances.

As you know, our issues are vast and varied and therefore our monitoring of political and social events never stops. Our call centre staff is responsible for reviewing the national papers every morning and providing the senior staff with clippings of the top stories which impact upon the CSA and its members. Everything from the value of the Canadian dollar, to health care and the Canada Health Act, to border issues, to upcoming elections and leadership debates, is fair game. We use this information in a variety of ways to get our message out - in friendly and not-so-friendly ways. When rumours first surfaced that Premier Landry would be calling the Quebec election for mid-April, we immediately sent him a letter requesting that he rethink his strategy with so many snowbirds out of the country.

One of the many facets of CSA is that of information broker - we gather and disseminate it. The old adage - knowledge is power - has proven itself time and time again. If you have information which you think might be of value, don't delay - send it to us. Many committed members have contacted the office and referenced newspaper articles and radio talk shows to staff. Some material has been used immediately, other pieces filed and referenced at a later date - regardless, it is all important and useful. If you have any material which you think might help us, please send it in and help us continue to "arrive."