What Makes a Good Submission?
The staff at the OIPC recently watched a webinar called The Art of Persuasive Speaking put on by The Canadian Bar Association. Some of the points made in the webinar are relevant to public bodies providing submissions to our office. I thought I would share some further tips pulled from that webinar.
When you want to be persuasive in your arguments to our office:
1. Have a plan and prepare:
Your goal is to convince our office that the public body is in compliance with the legislation.
- Assemble all the evidence (information) relevant for our office;
- Lay out the facts, tests, law and argument;
- Focus on the key disputed facts and issues; and
- Understand the role of the public body as it pertains to burden of proof (section 61 of FOIP/section 51 of LA FOIP)
2. Know your audience:
Understanding the role of our office is important in tailoring your arguments. Our office is a neutral oversight body. Our office is being asked to make a decision and recommendations. We have found that when dealing with other organizations, a cooperative approach really works. We are not on the side of the applicant, third party or the public body. We are the first level of appeal before the Court of Queen’s Bench (2nd level of appeal).
- Remember, our office will also be receiving arguments from the opposing parties in the case; and
- How persuasive a party’s arguments are will influence the outcome of the case and you want yours to be most persuasive.
3. Use persuasive techniques:
Your goal is to make our office want to decide in your favour. Show us how to get there.
- Put yourself in the shoes of our office, and ask: “If I had to make this decision, what would I need to make it?” This will help you focus on the key issues and anticipate questions our office would likely ask;
- Use solid arguments and deliver only true and accurate statements;
- Put your best (strongest) arguments first;
- Avoid filling your submission with endless details without context;
- Broad general statements are not persuasive; and
- Present arguments from reputable sources.
These are all effective means of putting your arguments forward, which is in turn more persuasive. For more assistance on preparing your submission, Index of Records and/or the record itself, you can refer to our resource, What to Expect During a Review with the IPC: A Resource for Public Bodies and Trustees.