- Sep. 12, 2023
- Impact communications, Public affairs and government relations
- Client: Allergies Québec
- Community organization
Putting elected officials in the shoes of an allergic child
Putting Allergy Quebec on the political agenda
Quebec is the only province or territory in Canada with no laws or regulations governing food safety for children in schools. For over 15 years, Allergy Quebec has been working behind the scenes to fill this legislative void, which exposes Quebec's 75,000 allergic children to serious health risks.
Prior to the pandemic, Allergy Quebec had managed to make significant progress, notably with the promise of a bill and a pilot project with Montreal Public Health. However, the health crisis shifted the attention of elected officials to other issues, and prevented the organization from holding its customary breakfasts to raise awareness.
This was the challenge facing the Exponentiel team: how to make up for lost time on a project that had made significant progress before the pandemic, in a context where priorities and decision-makers had changed, while taking into account rigid constraints and limited resources?
Before tragedy strikes, advance the issue of safety for allergic students in Quebec by making the province's 125 elected officials aware of Allergy Quebec's cause, credibility and capabilities.
The Exponentiel team used creativity to venture off the beaten track when it came to government relations. For Food Allergy Awareness Month, the strategy was to put elected officials in the shoes of a child suffering from food allergies at snack time.
With an original communications approach - the Snack Challenge - the idea was to illustrate the daily presence of risks linked to food allergens all the way to deputies' tables.
Each representative received a snack bag, containing foods presenting a priority allergen. The snacks were accompanied by a placemat featuring a strong, easy-to-grasp narrative, illustrating the potential risks posed by the foods in the snack bag and pointing out the existing legislative vacuum and, above all, the urgent need for action.
While the message had the potential to capture the attention of elected officials and get them to react, the different format - a simple snack bag filled with munchies - also made it possible to get around the restrictions on meetings with elected officials, while still kick-starting the conversation.
To build on the momentum of this government relations initiative and diversify the messaging channels, Exponentiel mobilized the allergy-conscious community by launching a letter-writing campaign. Using Allergy Quebec's communication tools, the public was invited to send a letter to their local constituency office to show their support for the cause.
Through an innovative approach to government relations, Exponentiel was able to capture the direct attention of a dozen elected officials and generate over 350 letters, thereby putting the issue of food allergies in schools back on the political agenda.
At the time of writing, Allergy Quebec is in discussion with elected officials about the proposal to introduce a bill during the fall 2023 parliamentary session.