Engaging and Influencing Government

Prioritize engagement with the following government departments and system partners. Note that depending on your local community, the departments will differ and the functions may be delivered through varying levels of governments. You should ensure you map these out.

Provincial/Territorial Government

  • Child Protection
  • Education
  • Health
  • Human Services
  • Housing
  • Homeless supports
  • Justice

Public System Partners

  • Police service
  • Public & separate boards of education
  • Child, youth and family services authority
  • Health services
  • Correctional services & young offender programs

On and Off-reserve Indigenous Leadership & Government

Government of Canada

  • Indigenous Affairs & Northern Development
  • Economic and social development
  • Justice Canada

Local Government

  • Community & neighbourhood services
  • Social housing corporation

Creating allies

We have identified the key government departments you should engage when planning your consultation approach, but who within those departments should you contact? Unfortunately, there is no set rule for the right person to engage and best approach to doing so. There are however some considerations. Firstly, it’s important to prioritize the target departments and decision makers you want to engage. You may have internal champions who have an interest in the issue or even have a mandate as part of their job to advance it. You likely know representatives of the key departments and public systems you want to engage, or you’ve started making those connections during the research phase of the plan. For an example of how provincial government can build a clear direction across departments, look to the Alberta Youth Plan under Appendix 3 for an example.

Identifying these allies and working to flesh out your engagement strategy with insider knowledge will be more effective than cold calls. However, in some cases you will have to make those calls in the absence of a facilitated introduction. If there is a person or group in government working on a related issue, include a meeting with such individuals early on to exchange information and potentially save each other unnecessary duplicate efforts and/or surprises. Identify potential allies through your personal networks or your planning team.

Develop a strategy to engage elected representatives and various levels within the administration. By fostering personal relationships with ministers, you can increase their ability to move certain issues. They may frequent the same social scene for example. Ministers are also part of interest groups as well. You can also try to influence public opinion, which in turn gains attention from the government.

Politics is all about people. While bureaucratic processes are designed to be open, fair and non-discriminatory; as with many other transactions, building positive relationships with the right people is helpful. It’s much easier to ask for something from someone who already has a positive impression of you than from a complete stranger. The more you understand what motivates politicians, their staff and public servants as well as their plans and priorities, the more readily you’ll be able to determine effective approaches to influence them.

In developing your approach, review available resources on advocacy plans and ensure you understand the policy making process.

To raise awareness of your ask and build relationships within administration, consider:

  • Starting with who you know and work your way up;
  • If you’re not getting the response you want, let your contact know you’re going to the next level so they’re not blindsided;
  • Taking new ideas to the executive level responsible for that area (usually a director or above);
  • Finding someone who can make decisions, think outside the box and see the big picture; and
  • Regional officials may not always be plugged into head office developments so ask them who might have the latest information or is the decision making-authority.


Knowing the Key Players                                                                                                           

The Be HIPP manual provides useful summary of description of ‘who’s who’ and their role in decision making.

Members of Provincial Legislatures

  • Always best to start with the representative elected from your area
  • Can help bring attention to your issue through making statements, asking questions in the legislature or lining you up with a minister or their staff
  • Can assist in getting answers from the bureaucracy or advising on how things work


  • First and foremost, they are members of a legislature elected by constituents from a specific geographic area
  • Influenced by their constituents, party values and platform, citizens’ groups, community opinion leaders and the media
  • Accountable to the legislature (provincial) or Parliament (federal) for the actions of his/her ministry
  • Selected by the premier or the prime minister for various political reasons, not necessarily an issue expert
  • Sets overall direction and priorities for the department based on government’s agenda; tends to have a shorter-term perspective (e.g. one to three years)

Political Staff

  • Can offer political advice to you on departmental and party matters
  • Serve as a gatekeeper to how the minister uses their time, who the minister meets and how the minister might view people, issues and organizations – it can be helpful to develop a good rapport with those assistants responsible for your areas of interest
  • Usually have political connections and have been active in politics or bring specific related expertise
  • They look out for their minister’s interests (e.g. their re-election, power and influence, constituency issues and party politics)
  • Can help get information from the bureaucracy, reconsideration of an issue or reversal of a decision
  • Can help ensure bureaucracy is accessible if you feel you’re not being treated properly
  • Will look at issues from the perspective of how they will be received by the media, public and stakeholders

Public Servants

  • Support and are accountable to the government of the day
  • Analyze, consult, advise, evaluate and formulate policies for consideration by the government
  • Carry out government decisions, administer and enforce laws and provide government services; hired and promoted based on merit (the skills and qualifications needed for the job) which excludes favouritism or political affiliation
  • Are guided by such values as political neutrality, accountability, anonymity, responsiveness, fairness and equity, integrity, efficiency and effectiveness
  • Have different levels of accountability and decision making depending on position in the hierarchy and whether in a national or regional office
  • Are also differentiated by their role or function (e.g. may be in management, policy, operations or a specialist such as a legal advisor)
  • As each may appreciate your issue from a different perspective, you’ll need to find the right one in terms of function, level in the hierarchy and approach (e.g. are willing to consider opportunities and alternatives and remove possible barriers)
  • Don’t assume discussions with one public servant will be passed on to others you may be dealing with

Deputy Minister

  • Provides managerial, technical and financial advice to the minister; is expected to take a longer term and government-wide view (e.g. impact of decisions on society over the next five to 10 years)
  • Expected to be politically neutral, yet politically sensitive
  • Has various levels of management reporting through a hierarchy (e.g. assistant deputy minister, director, manager, analyst, officer, clerk)

The Media

  • Some political analysts and commentators believe that the media drives government agendas
  • Public opinion is a powerful influencer and the media is often the most influential catalyst of public opinion
  • Newspapers are widely read by politicians, their political staff and public servants to gauge public reaction to and the profile of various issues

Other Stakeholders

  • The more credibility, resources, connections and profile, the easier it is for a stakeholder to get attention
  • Governments often deal with alliances, coalitions and associations – these groups can serve as an intermediary for obtaining the perspectives of many others with similar interests and can offer a broader perspective than dealing with just one organization


Building support

So what do you want from government?

In an ideal world, government would commit to ending youth homelessness and co-develop an evidence-based approach with community stakeholders to achieve this vision within an aggressive timeline supported by adequate resources. Of course, that may not be feasible at the outset of the planning process. In fact, your plan may raise a new vision of what the government’s role should be.

Carefully consider what you are seeking from various stakeholders in government during the plan development process. You may simply want to keep them informed and seek their participation in consultations. Or, you may indeed develop a covalent advocacy strategy around ending youth homelessness alongside your plan. You can develop a funding ask to support your plan process, test an innovative programmatic intervention or create a new funding stream specifically dedicated to implementing the plan. You may also have specific asks emerging around changes to policy in various ministries that you can advance.

You can also ask government to develop their own ending homelessness plan in conjunction with your community plan and even develop infrastructure mechanisms to facilitate cross-departmental dialogue and policy coordination to advance solutions.

The role of the government should be to:

  • Establish a shared vision, provincial priorities and policy directions amongst all ministries;
  • Facilitate collaboration among individuals, families and communities to prevent youth homelessness through education and awareness;
  • Support the provision of coordinated and integrated supports and services at the community level;
  • Provide the legislative and policy framework and funding support to address youth homelessness;
  • Support opportunities to share knowledge between policy makers, academics and service providers; and
  • Support existing best and promising practices and innovative research and programming.

In Alberta, a cross-ministry committee made up of key provincial departments supported the plan to end youth homelessness and to promote integration. See the Resource section for the Terms of Reference from this committee.

Consider that many people who work in government or within public systems are well aware of the system gaps and barriers youth face. Many share your frustration and want to support change. Personal, one-to-one meetings with casework supervisors or frontline managers (i.e. people connected to the frontline but also involved in systems/high-level work/strategy) can be great starting points for building allies. This, tied with alignment with system planning, can connect the dots between what is happening on the ground and what is being planned at higher levels. Also, if there are resources being allocated specifically to housing for youth this is a great carrot for systems to align, as most can dish out for supports but few can actually deal with housing. Another part of this is the potential reduction in workload for caseworkers/therapists – so many spend a large portion of their time working on housing issues. It’s all about framing their involvement as ‘what in it for you,’ because as a community, there is a lot to be gained by developing more effective responses to youth homelessness.

You’re more likely to have success if you:

●      Develop a well-defined advocacy plan focused on one or two policy issues

●      Adjust tactics to engage government, depending on how interested the government is in addressing homelessness in general and youth homelessness in particular; 

●      Align your asks with existing government activities and priorities to increase the likelihood of government buy-in

●      Focus on solutions-oriented advocacy. Either pointing out what government is doing wrong or just raising awareness are useful only if the government is not addressing homelessness, and even then, offer help, rather than simply identifying mistakes and shortcomings;

●      Align yourself with other communities doing similar work, and coordinate your asks and messages. This is more effective than having each community act on its own, especially given the competition between advocacy groups.

●      Produce well-researched positions and data to aid your ability to influence, especially if the government does not already have this information;

●      Recruit charismatic, well-positioned leaders who are respected by government and administration to help deliver your messages and requests;

●      Identify the right elected officials and administrations to approach. Work your networks for someone you already know in your community who might open a door for you, particularly with government ministers;

●      Leverage solid relationships fostered with policy-makers at different levels of government,

●     Be mindful of the economic environment: no matter how well-prepared you are, if you ask for funding during a time of restraint, you are less likely to get it; and

●      Cultivate a reputation as a useful and credible source of information.

Here is a useful example from Newfoundland and Labrador where Choices for Youth analyzed the new government's mandate letter relevant to youth homelessness . By understanding where government is at with respect to diverse social issues relevant to youth homelessness, you can find levers to hook your issue into as opportunities arise.

Table 23: Provincial Ministers Commitments


Minister of Child, Youth and Family Services
Minister of Seniors, Wellness and Social Development
Minister Responsible for the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation
Minister Responsible for the Status of Persons with Disabilities

These combined departments and mandates are central to coordinating the collective efforts across all government departments in ending youth homelessness. Their mandates serve to support vulnerable and marginalized populations within our province. To effectively deliver a provincial plan to end youth homelessness, the role of provincial policy, specifically under the Youth Services Program, the provincial housing strategy and the Poverty Reduction Strategy, must maximize their combined impact.

To ultimately drive long term positive outcomes for youth a plan must also include tools and policies to complement existing child protection and apprehension models. These models are much needed crisis intervention tools but lack the support structures to help families stay together and avoid crises where possible. The addition of prevention, as well as housing and support policies would provide an overall better suite of solutions made available to the community.

The most effective way to tackle homelessness is to first house the individual. The Housing First Approach designed specifically for Youth is well established, successful and is already being effectively applied in St. John’s. While a set of defined supports follow the youth as they secure housing, the first step is to ensure the young person has access to a range of affordable housing options. There is a demonstrable need for additional affordable housing options across the province, and the development of these units should form a key component of a provincial plan to end youth homelessness.

The upcoming legislative review of the Child, Youth and Family Services Act is a critical opportunity to integrate new ideas and best practices through community consultations and by applying a strong prevention, housing and support lens to the act.

Our analysis of the ministerial mandate letters suggest that a provincial plan to end youth homelessness would align and propel the following departmental commitments:

  • Youth Services Program review
  • Deaths and Critical Incidents - Children and Youth
  • Health Promotion and Healthy Living Strategy
  • Housing Strategy - Seniors and Youth as priority housing options
  • Poverty Reduction Strategy
  • Disabilities Act



Minister of Advanced Education and Skills

As the lead agency governing the Provincial Income Support system, this department has an existing mandate to act in the best interest of vulnerable populations. Additionally, this department’s role in supporting and accessing the emergency shelter system is critical to broader coordinated efforts to end youth homelessness. Low-barrier access to educational opportunities (literacy) and employment have also been identified as foundational components in assisting youth transition to healthier, more stable and successful lives. Consistent with Alberta Plan to End Youth Homelessness, this department’s commitment to family friendly policies will lay the groundwork to ensure the inclusion of a Family First approach.

Our analysis of the ministerial mandate letters suggest that a provincial plan to end youth homelessness would align and propel the following departmental commitments:

  • Skilled Labour Force - Youth training programs
  • Development of an Adult Literacy Strategy
  • Improving supported and supportive employment for persons with disabilities, and implementation of family-friendly policies to promote gender diversity with a focus on affordable and accessible child care


Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development

Building on the Australian Geelong project, early education and childcare are key preventative components of a provincial plan to end youth homelessness. As identified in the Australian example, there are critical opportunities within the education system for early identification and intervention to prevent and end youth homelessness.

Working in collaboration with AES, providing low-barrier access to learning opportunities will minimize disruptions to education and ensure better outcomes as youth transitioning into adulthood. Our experience and current research supports the fact that access to stable education, employment and housing are foundational components to ending youth homelessness.

Our analysis of the ministerial mandate letters suggest that a provincial plan to end youth homelessness would align and propel the following departmental commitments:

  • Early Learning and Child Care
  • Premier’s Task Force on Education – improving educational outcomes
  • Inclusive education on affordable and accessible child care


Minister of Health and Community Services

Accepting the long-standing knowledge regarding the Social Determinants of Health, a plan to end youth homelessness must include policy and program approaches to ensure the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of vulnerable youth. Building on the concept of primary healthcare - providing mental health, addictions, and physical health supports in a community-based and accessible environment that focuses on improving existing support mechanisms will ensure these efforts maximize the impacts derived. The policy opportunities represented in the commitments below must be combined with recognizing the challenges of making strategic decisions regarding the future health care spending.

Our analysis of the ministerial mandate letters suggest that a provincial plan to end youth homelessness would align and propel the following departmental commitments:

  • Primary Health Care
  • Health Promotion and Healthy Living - Innovative youth wellness program
  • Innovative Youth Wellness
  • Mental Health and Addictions Care - All party committee on mental health and addictions
  • Eliminate the use of IQ70 to determine service needs and provision of autism related services


Minister of Justice and Public Safety
Attorney General
Government House Leader

It is well established that for youth who have experience with the Criminal Justice System, it is the end product of inconsistent responses and supports that begin at an early age. Additionally, 80% of individuals - including youth, who exit the prison system into homelessness - reoffend within a short period of time. The combination of social marginalization, poverty, addictions, low education levels, etc. are significant determinants in triggering what is ultimately a crisis response by the Criminal Justice System. In order to increase overall public safety, this department must add a focused effort to work in partnership across government to tackle these root causes.

Our analysis of the ministerial mandate letters suggest that a provincial plan to end youth homelessness would align and propel the following departmental commitments:

  • Improve Social Services – Legislation - Supported Decision-Making
  • Family Violence Intervention Court


Minister of Environment and Conservation
Minister Responsible for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency
Minister Responsible for the Multi-Materials Stewardship Board
Minister Responsible for the Labour Relations Agency
Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs

For families and youth living in poverty, or at-risk of poverty, the pressures created by the elevating cost of living are compounded with financial instability. For these individuals, many of whom make up the unskilled labour force in the province, minimum wage and subsequently housing affordability are key factors in maintaining supportive and stable family environments.

Our analysis of the ministerial mandate letters suggest that a provincial plan to end youth homelessness would align and propel the following departmental commitments:

  • Provincial Greenhouse Gas Reduction Strategy Energy Retrofits - To Develop Pay-As-You-Save Programs
  • Minimum Wage - Consistent formula for calculation


Minister of Municipal Affairs
Minister of Service NL
Minister Responsible for Fire and Emergency Services –Newfoundland and Labrador
Minister Responsible for the Government Purchasing Agency
Minister Responsible for Workplace NL
Registrar General

With a clear need for the additional affordable housing options across the province, it is important that Crown lands and land transfers be judged as viable options to support these developments. Working in conjunction with the NLHC such developments should be pursued as part of a Housing First Approach to ending youth homelessness in the province.

Additionally, by working in partnership with community organizations and the Department of Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development, updates to the public procurement framework would unlock greater impact, innovation and opportunities for social enterprise.

Our analysis of the ministerial mandate letters suggest that a provincial plan to end youth homelessness would align and propel the following departmental commitments:

  • Premiers forum on Local Government
  • Crown Lands - Land Transfer
  • Public Procurement Framework


Minister of Finance
President of Treasury Board
Minister Responsible for the Status of Women
Minister Responsible for the Human Resources Secretariat
Minister Responsible for the Public Service Commission
Minister Responsible for the Office of the Chief Information Officer
Minister Responsible for the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation

Family violence, domestic abuse, trauma and sexual assault are often the tragic and preventable experiences of young women who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness. Prevention of violence against women, as well as specialized, flexible and diverse supports that work for all women are pivotal pieces to not only reducing violence and providing safety, but also furthers the creation of a province where women can and do engage, contribute and participate effectively in society. For women who are mothers, combining this approach with family friendly policies can have massive inter-generational effects to create positive outcomes that directly tackle poverty, marginalization and homelessness.

Looking broadly at the community sector, multi-year funding arrangements are smart investments that provide long-term positive outcomes for our province. Good planning inevitably drives great impact. This is true for business, for government as well as for community serving agencies. By committing to multiyear funding arrangements with youth serving community based organizations, agencies can focus on long-term changes and systemic solutions to issues facing at-risk and homeless youth.

Our analysis of the ministerial mandate letters suggest that a provincial plan to end youth homelessness would align and propel the following departmental commitments:

  • Shared Priorities - Multi-year funding arrangements with community based organizations
  • Family-friendly policies for the workforce
  • Prevention of violence against women and vulnerable populations


Minister of Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development
Minister Responsible for the Forestry and Agrifoods Agency
Minister Responsible for the Research and Development Corporation

Social enterprises provide youth serving agencies an avenue to directly showcase the potential of their youth clients. At-risk and homeless youth are often stigmatized and unable to secure employment. The social enterprise approach tackles both by providing meaningful training and employment, while breaking down stigma by providing services that the broader community can engage with. To sustainably create new opportunities for youth, having access to support and resources to launch and grow new social enterprises will be an important component of a provincial plan to end youth homelessness.

To allow this approach to flourish there is a need to accompany tools and resources for social enterprises with new social enterprise friendly changes to the public procurement framework.

Our analysis of the ministerial mandate letters suggest that a provincial plan to end youth homelessness would align and propel the following departmental commitments:

  • Develop Provincial Social Enterprise Strategy in partnership with not-for-profit sector
  • Young entrepreneur retention program


Minister of Natural Resources
Minister Responsible for the Office of Public Engagement
Deputy Government House Leader

A provincial plan to end youth homelessness must consider the whole province and the needs of our diverse communities. We know that the development and implementation of this plan must include working in close partnership with identified experts in government and other youth serving agencies. By working in partnership with the Office of Public Engagement, we can effectively gathering critical information, consult with groups across the province, and effectively articulate its vision and purpose to the community and government at large.

Our analysis of the ministerial mandate letters suggest that a provincial plan to end youth homelessness would align and propel the following departmental commitments:

  • Public Engagement


Office of the Premier
President of Executive Council
Minister for Intergrovernmental Affairs
Minister of Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs

A provincial plan to end youth homelessness must specifically address our diverse communities. Aboriginal and LGBTQ2S* individuals are over-represented in homelessness statistics across Canada. As we develop a deeper understanding of their unique challenges in Newfoundland & Labrador, they must be met with unique approaches and solutions embedded within a broader focus on all youth.

Plans and policies across the country that tackle youth homelessness are shifting towards long-term and systemic solutions. The traditional approach of focusing on emergency responses is now understood to be important but insufficient. There is recognition across the sector and governments, backed by rigorous research, that homelessness can be ended by focusing on prevention and on housing and supports.

Our work and deep partnerships in the youth serving and homelessness sectors across Canada suggests that the development and implementation of a provincial plan to end youth homelessness requires first for us to believe that better is possible, and an internal call-to-action from the highest and most respected leaders in government. Such a plan would require a collective rally of ministers who believe in the plan, led by the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador. We see this leadership and this vision within your government.

Our analysis of the ministerial mandate letters suggest that a provincial plan to end youth homelessness would align and propel the following departmental commitments:

  • Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs - Ensure programs and services reflect the needs of Aboriginal people
  • Government leadership

Public policy tactics

Effective advocates develop deliberate messages, use savvy lobbying techniques and build organizational capacity. Key strategies include press conferences, op-ed pieces and guest articles, phone calls and letters to elected officials. They also plan local events such as site visits and ceremonies.

You can increase support for the ending youth homelessness initiative by:

  • Raising concerns; for example, point out the negative consequences of existing or planned actions,
  • Swaying decision makers’ thinking,
  • Letting other opinion leaders know where you stand,
  • Finding out about the priorities, concerns and interests of decision makers and who has decision-making power,
  • Building new relationships, create a positive image, raise profile, build ongoing support and new allies,
  • Offering solutions, exploring options and partnership opportunities,
  • Raising public awareness and concern to build wider spread support for your cause.


Public Policy Tactics

The Be HIPP manual to engaging in public policy advocacy provides a number of useful tips for selecting your public policy tactics.



• When relaying a simple message;

• As a follow-up to letters, concerns, invitations;

• Alert to upcoming actions;

• To try and secure a meeting date;

• To relay the importance of an issue; and

• To get information (e.g. identifying who’s the best person to deal with).


• Use to formalize invitations; advise of your interest in meeting; raise a concern; give recognition or show appreciation; pass on congratulations or thanks.


• Can reach several people at once with the same message, making it easier to reply if your message is not complicated,

• Useful as a quick reply to those comfortable with this technology.


• Raises awareness, ensuring others know about your ongoing contributions to the community,

• Keeps your organization on the radar screen,

• Creates a positive impression,

• Don’t create information overload by sending irrelevant information that appears unprofessional.


• Opportunity to show what you do, others can see what success looks like and better understand what is required to succeed,

• Allows politicians to hear firsthand from the front line and those affected by your issue,

• Include politicians in fundraising efforts, educate them on how your work links to their constituents.


• Adds legitimacy to your issue,

• Gets your issue on the government’s radar screen,

• Reinforces other messages by demonstrating evidence, especially if it adds to existing evidence.


• Write an op-ed piece, an opinion piece that appears opposite the editorial page, to raise public awareness and understanding about your issue,

• Send a letter to the editor to correct any information that is wrong or to show your organization's support or position for an issue raised in the newspaper.



• Raises awareness and understanding, builds relationships,

• Invite politicians for breakfast or lunch or to see a part of your organization they would not normally see,

• Allows people to see first-hand the impact of your work, especially if personal testimonials are included.


• Positions you as a leader, builds momentum,

• Draws in others and gains their commitment and support,

• Raises community awareness and concern,

• Provides a venue for those affected to speak to decision makers.


• Opportunity to provide technical information and advice and share knowledge or research,

• Good for raising awareness, increasing support.


• Good for generating media attention, showing strength if other tactics are not getting desired attention.



• Gain information about what’s happening,

• Helps to better understand constraints, concerns, possible competing interests,

• Explore possibilities; raise profile; build relationships.


• Helps politicians put a human face to the situation and to see first-hand the realities,

• Helps build greater commitment to addressing your issue.


• Provides a forum to make your views heard and to raise any concerns,

• Enables you to find out more about the government’s perspective on an issue; to hear first-hand their concerns, priorities and interests,

• To look for common issues and win-win opportunities; can explore opportunities for partnership,

• Good opportunity to make your case and position your organization in their minds,

• Recognize that meetings rarely lead to tangible commitments.


• Can help increase attention to the issue,

• Can assist with securing a meeting with key people,

• Can help build internal supporters or champions,

• Get advice on how to proceed, other contacts and possible strategies,

• Gain a political perspective for an issue raised in the newspaper.


• To gather support and build allies by building cross-sectoral support for your issue,

• To raise awareness and increase understanding,

• To line up representatives from sectors that normally would not be involved, to speak out, showing how widespread and mainstream is the support.