An email came to the RAC offices today from an Ontario ham concerned about what was RAC doing about Bill 118 (This is the proposed Ontario Bill to limit the use of cell phones in moving vehicles. There is concern that this could have a negative impact on the use mobile amateur radio use).
In my role as vice-president of public relations and as the one-man working committee working on Bill 118 for RAC I sent him a reply.
What I said was this: First I referred the amateur to this blog where I offered a synopsis of what’s happened so far. Here’s the link to the posting: http://racblog.wordpress.com/2009/04/13/cell-phone-bill-118
But I went on to offer some observations and I made a request. Here in part is what I said.
I suggested that the hams in Ontario (and I’m one of them) haven’t organized themselves to effectively lobby government. Some concerned individuals have launched petitions and made representation to the government committee that is drafting the Bill and while these efforts are noble and well-intentioned they leave government officials wondering if the amateur radio community in Ontario is speaking with one voice or is it fragmented.
When it comes to lobbying government, it’s essential to be seen as united, conciliatory and most of all determined. So while the efforts of individuals have been laudable, I’m concerned about their overall effectiveness.
I say this after a career in public relations where government lobbying was often a critical part of the job. I don’t say it to minimize the work of others or to be critical. I’m coming from a place of dispassionately looking at how can we as a lobbying group be more effective.
As far as petitions go, in my opinion, the time for sending petitions has not yet arrived and quite frankly I’m not convinced that lobbying the elected government officials to protect the rights of amateur radio operators will have any effect as our numbers are too small, our cause too inconsequential and our chance at swaying public opinion negligible (especially with a public which is losing its “right” to talk on their cell phones while driving).
Now having said that, I’m still very hopeful that an exemption will be granted to amateur radio mobile operation as we are likely to get grouped with all other users of mobile two-way radio transceivers such as taxis, delivery trucks, municipal vehicles and others. These groups have paid lobbyists, big budgets and time. RAC has few volunteers, no budget and limited time. Their lobbying efforts behind the scenes have been substantial and I hope effective.
On the bright side in all other jurisdictions that have passed or proposed a similar legislation, there has been some exemption for amateur radio operation.
It comes down to this: If the hams in Ontario (and again I’m one of them) want to do something effective, then we need to organize. So far, I’ve seen very little initiative coming from the ham radio community.
And when it comes down to RAC, it might help to remember that the national organization keeps running thanks to the efforts of a score of volunteers who are on the national executive team and hundreds of other hams living in communities across Canada who participate through ARES groups, RAC-affiliated clubs and other special committees and working groups.
The bottom line is this: If we want to be more effective, we need to attract more amateurs to join with us in our national organization. That (among other things like Bill 118) is my job at RAC.
I’ll try harder. You want to help? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org