Ever wonder why suddenly we have the privilege to communicate a diagnoses to our patients and other health care providers? How about the public’s direct accessibility to physiotherapy? Why are there so many private insurance companies that currently allow direct billing without a physicians’ referral for physiotherapy just like the dentists? Do you think it just happened?

Isn’t it nice to practice physiotherapy without a physician’s referral just like your dentists and optometrists? Isn’t it wonderful to see physiotherapists gaining more and more public recognition and respect than ever before? Isn’t it great that we can just enjoy our profession proudly? Would you like to see more changes happening for our profession and on behalf of our patients?

This is the time to do this! There is no better time than this moment to get involved. The Ontario election is here. Your local candidates want to hear from you. They need your support. The time is now to make your voice heard.

1. Participate in the Election

It is encouraging to see more and more colleagues participating in the election process. We all realize the fact that if we want to see change, we have to be the change. Being complacent will not propel us forward, but leave us where we have always been. As physiotherapists, it is in our nature never to be complacent. We enjoy the dynamic nature of our profession. We endorse “Motion is Lotion” and “Exercise is Medicine.” We are in the forefront of movement!

An election is a form of movement. Politicians make changes from the top down that impact our lives, whereas we participate in this political movement from the bottom up that will change the decisions made by them. This is a dynamic process.

Do you know who your electoral candidates are? What are their agendas in this provincial election? Have you offered your help? Have you done some soul searching to find out which provincial party can represent you the best? Ask the candidate how we can help to get him or her elected.

2. Engage with MPPs

I have been blessed to have had the opportunity to engage with my local MPP since 1986 when Steven Offer was my MPP in Streetsville, Ontario. Later on I had various opportunities to meet different MPPs as the President of the York Region and Scarborough District (YRSD) of OPA, 2008 to 2011. One of these encounters included meeting with Dr. Helena Jaczek from Oak Ridges – Markham several years ago. I invited her to be a keynote speaker for our district AGM. She later helped push the issue of allowing physiotherapists to communicate a diagnosis in Ontario. The effort from YRSD worked! She is the current Minister of Health and Long-Term Care in Ontario. I was honored to be invited to attend the grand opening of her new campaign office in Markham, where other MPPs also came to show their support. You will never know what you can do when you engage with your MPP.

  • Offer congratulatory greetings:

When your MPP is elected or promoted to a new office, offer a congratulatory greeting. We all love to be congratulated. Your MPPs are no exceptions. Be on their mailing list. Apart from congratulating their successful election, better yet is to attend any ongoing celebration events, such as community BBQs and various fundraising events that they are hosting. They love to meet and greet you. They really want to know their constituents. After these events, arrange a personal meeting with your MPP. Tell them how much you have enjoyed the events and share with your MPP some of your issues as a physiotherapist practising in Ontario.

  • Never Criticize:

No one likes to be criticized. We even euphonize it by calling it “constructive criticism.” It just goes to show how much we dislike criticism, and your MPP is no different. Physiotherapists are excellent communicators. We can be very persuasive, but not overpowering in conveying our message to others. We constantly provide positive reinforcement, persuasive exercise routines and education programs to our clients. It is in our blood. Many of these highly effective skills of communication are transferrable as we meet with our MPPs.

  • Be a part of solution:

Offer help in your electoral candidate’s office during this election. Post a sign to identify who you are supporting. Be a part of the solution when they need your help. They can be the solution when you need their help in the future. Support the candidates. The candidate who is successful in the election may not be of the political party of your choice but after the election, your MPP represents you. Work with him/her. Be supportive. After all, this is what a democratic process is all about.

3. Engage with your professional association OPA

I know that I am preaching to the converted. According to the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario, there are 9,400 registered physiotherapists (PTs) in Ontario, but only 4,888 OPA physiotherapist members, in accordance with OPA statistics at the time of this article in May, 2018. That is only 52%. How do the other 48% of Ontario physiotherapists expect any changes when they do not even join our own professional organization? There is power, a very strong and significant power, when we work together as one cohesive group!

Prior to representing the YRSD as the President, my local MPP had not been too keen to listen to my personal concern. When I was the President of YRSD, the very first question any MPP would ask me was: “how many physiotherapists do you represent?” The group is power. Your MPPs love numbers, especially a large number. This is why we have our professional association, CPA nationally and OPA provincially with 16 local districts across Ontario. If every PT joined CPA in Ontario that would mean OPA would have the 9,000 voices, not just half of all the Ontario physiotherapists. If you know any of the 48% of the non-OPA members, please encourage them to join OPA. Get them involved in the membership at least.

How do you think all these changes in the beginning of this article have taken place? It is primarily due to the tireless lobbying effort by our OPA provincially and CPA nationally.

4. Never underestimate the Power of One

Joining CPA and OPA is a must. This will propel our profession to the next level. The cohesive voice of over 9,400 PTs is powerful. To your electoral candidates, it is 9,400 votes. However, please do not under estimate the power of your own individual engagement and the power of your one vote.
It was that one vote in 1776 that gave the United States the English language instead of German. It was that one vote in 1875 that changed France from a Monarchy to a Republic. It was that one vote in 1911 that made Mandarin the official language of China instead of Cantonese. Where is your one vote?

Your engagement with the OPA and this provincial election is too important to ignore. Your OPA knows it. Your next provincial government knows it. Don’t ignore it. Let’s get a move on it.

By Andy Wang PT, R.Ac., FCAMPT, BScPT, DSc(Candidate)PT

Check out Key Messages to help you engage with your local candidates.