This is a personal blog site. It is not an official government site, nor is it endorsed by any governing body or institution.

Monday, 24 June 2013

GEDS - Government Electronic Directory Services

There are instances when you need to deal with a government agency instead of your representative. There are any number of reasons for this. You might want a job with the government. You might want to inquire about a government program. You may think there is funding available and you would like to access it if you qualify. You might want information for a research paper. This speculative list could easily take up several pages.

Very often getting the access you need means making a connection to the right person who can answer your questions and help you with whatever it is you need help with. Before the Internet came along the way to accomplish that was to decide what I thought was the appropriate government department, look that up in the phone book and then start phoning. At some point the phone book provided special pages for government departments, locally, provincially and federally.

I discovered early on that the first person who answered a call might not be the right person I needed. I learned to have paper and pen handy to write down phone numbers. Very often the first person contacted would refer me to someone else and give me a phone number. That person usually wasn't the right person but they would helpfully give me another contact name and number. It usually took me on average seven to eight phone calls to finally get the person who could deal with what I needed.

You may still have to go through some of that, but now we have the Internet and we have GEDS. Click here to access it.

From that web site's frequently asked questions I have compiled what you need to know about GEDS. I will omit quotation marks.

Government Electronic Directory Services (GEDS) provides a directory listing of federal public servants and manages the Government of Canada telephone directories. GEDS searches all regions: Ottawa-Gatineau, Atlantic, Quebec, Ontario, Western and British Columbia/Yukon. Canadians have access to public servants' names, titles, telephone and facsimile numbers, departmental names, and office locations within the governmental structure. In some cases public servants' email addresses may be available.

When searching using GEDS a specific person or position may not be found. Departments and agencies are solely responsible for updating the information regarding their organization in GEDS. Most departments list employees under their Branches. However, some departments only list their main Branches with a general enquiries number with no people entries. Other departments may choose to list contact information of only their managers and upper management. If you find that you cannot find the exact role or person you are looking for then get a piece of paper and a pen and be prepared to make seven or eight phone calls to find them.

There are two ways to search GEDS. One involves entering search criteria for the search engine. The other involves browsing an alphabetical listing of the government's departments. These can be accessed by clicking the appropriate links on the left hand side of the GEDS screen. The default method is the advanced search.

To use the advanced search if it is not displayed click on 'Advanced Search' on the left. For the advanced search there is an entry box and two drop down boxes. One selects the fields for which search criteria will be entered in the entry box and the other selects how the search engine will deal with the entered criteria. Enter the search criteria and select the fields it should match and how the search engine should deal with the criteria and click the 'Search' button.

To browse the GEDS database click 'Department Listing.' A set of buttons with the letters of the alphabet will be arrayed across the top with an alphabetical listing below. You may click a letter or scroll down to find the department you are looking for. When you click on a department you will get listings involving that department. You may have to click on a number of different links before you find a connection that will help you.

If necessary you can click on 'Click here for more help' and that will give you detailed instruction on how to search and browse the database.Spending a few minutes familiarizing yourself with how the GEDS search engine works should make you proficient enough with it to find the contact in the government that you need.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Information About Your Representative - Provincial and Territorial Level

I'm going to look at a representative from Ontario, from Prince Edward Island and from Nunavut. This will show you a pretty good example of the kind of information you can expect to find on your representative at any level of government.

For Ontario I have chosen Paul Miller. His page has his photograph and shows that he represents Hamilton East--Stoney Creek. It shows his parliamentary roles and that he is a member of the New Democratic Party. There are three tabs below that information, Contact Details, Parliamentary Career Details and Riding Map.

The default tab that is open is Contact Details. The information provided includes his email address, Queen's Park address with phone and fax numbers and his Constituency address with its phone and fax number and an email address for that office.

The Parliamentary Career Details tab brings up all the roles Paul Miller has performed while serving in the Ontario government. The Riding Map tab brings up a map that shows the boundaries of the riding that he represents. Under the Contact Details other members may also list their web site address.

For Prince Edward Island I will look at Charles McGeoghegan. His page has a photograph of him and says that he is a member of the legislative assembly (MLA) for District 4: Belfast - Murray River. There is a mailing address for him and an office address. As well there is contact information, which includes a telephone number, fax number and email address. Below that there is a brief biography that includes the information that he is a Liberal member of the legislature.

By random selection for Nunavut I have chosen their Premier, The Honourable Eva Aariak. On her page under her photograph it says her constituency is Iqaluit East and she is an MLA for Iqaluit. In addition to being Premier she holds four other cabinet posts for Nunavut.

There is an email address for her and for her constituency office. There are addresses, phone and fax numbers given for her constituency office and for her legislative office. Below that information there is a brief biography for her.

Looking at the examples discussed here you can see that for any given government representative that there is quite a bit of information presented for each of them. In addition to that each representative usually has at least one email address, telephone and fax numbers that may be used to contact them.

Information About Your Representative - Federal Level

Once you find your representative for Canada, province, territory or locality you will often find a great deal of interesting and useful information about them. I'll just go over some of what you may expect to find.

I will randomly select some individuals who are now holding office in different levels of government and go over the information provided about them. I think that will be more interesting than giving you generic information. As of this writing the people so selected will be holding office. As time progresses that will very likely change.

I will post different parts of this for different levels of government. The information will be similar but there may be differences in the details.

I'll start at the federal level with a member of parliament who holds a portfolio. The first person on the list of Members of Parliament is The Honourable Diane Ablonczy. Before clicking on anything else her listing tells me quite a bit about her. Her name is listed as "Ablonczy, Diane (Hon.)" "Hon." is short for "Honourable" and that tells me she has held, and may currently hold a cabinet posting. Continuing along from left to right on her listing it tells me her constituency is Calgary—Nose Hill in Alberta and that she is a member of the Conservative party.

Clicking on her name brings up a page with more information about her. There is a photograph of her. Below that there is a set of tabs: Offices, Caucus, Committees, Roles, Elections and Votes. The tab that is open by default is Offices and it shows her contact information. For her Hill office it give the address, phone number, fax number, email address, and her web site. For her constituency office it gives the address, telephone and fax number. As well it tells her preferred language, which in this case is English.

Clicking on Caucus shows how the parliaments for which she has been a member. Clicking on Committees shows that she has been involved with one committee. Clicking on Roles brings up the various functions she has performed while a member of parliament. These include the cabinet post she holds and the ones she has held.

Elections shows how often she has been elected to office as a member of parliament. Votes lists all the matters brought before Canada's House of Commons on which she has voted and how she has voted on them.

Next to her picture under her name you will find "Federal Political Experience." When you click on that you will get a listing of all the things she has done while holding office as a member of parliament.

Finding Representatives for Cities and Towns

These days almost all governing entities have web sites. Finding the web site for your city, town, township, etc. is the first step to finding your local representative. In the search engine enter the name of your city, town, etc. You might also need to put the kind of area it is, "city," "town," "township," etc.

Once you find the web site you are looking for the next step is to locate the listing for the local government representatives. Unfortunately this is not always easy. It may take some searching around to find what you need.

With a larger city, look for "City Hall." Other things to look for are "Town Council" or "list of councillors." Usually, especially in larger communities the councillors will represent a specific geographical area, often called a ward. If that's the case look for a ward map. There may also be a search engine where you can enter your street address.

A few minutes of searching about the web site should locate your representative. You may also find other useful information while you are on such a web site. You may find a job opportunity or a service you didn't know was available. I think it is worth your while to spend some time exploring your local government's web site.

Friday, 21 June 2013

More on Finding Your Representative

Over on the right I have compiled links to the web site of Canada's and each province and territory's election organization web site. In addition to that I have compiled the links to the specific web page for finding the electoral districts in Canada, the provinces and territories.

There was a time when the electoral districts in the provinces and territories were the same as those for Canada. This is no longer the case. The electoral districts for cities and townships may not be the same either.

The best elections web site for finding an electoral district is Quebec's. The search box for the electoral districts is on the election organization's home page. With all the other sites you have to go looking for it. I've done that and the results are over there on your right.

Once you have located your electoral district you can use its name to help you find your representative. Then you can write them a letter or an email and say, "Hi."

There are too many cities, towns, townships, etc. to provide links for all of them without getting out of hand. In another post I'll go over some instructions for how to find representatives for those types of geographical locations.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Finding and Contacting Your Representative

I have often found myself in conversation with a person who, for any number of reasons, is angry with the government regarding legislation that is in the works or in the process of being made into law. Then I suggest to them that they write to their representative about the issue that concerns them. The response I get to this type of suggestion varies but invariably comes down to 'No, I won't be doing that.'

With that decision not to voice their concerns and opinions to their government representative a person gives up their right to their democratic participation in their country. I have a suspicion that most people feel that they vote and that's all the control they have over their government.

People may feel that sending a letter to a government representative may be a waste of their time because the opinion they will express in such a letter will be ignored, or that they are only a single individual and the weight of their expressed opinion will be negligible. There is probably some truth to that but I know of a few instances where people have taken their problem to their representative in the government and action was taken on their behalf. It comes down to this: if you don't inform your representative of your concerns and opinions there is absolutely no way they can know them and take them into account.

Here is a list, taken from Post Canada's web site, (Government Mail Free of Postage) of government representatives that you can send letters to without affixing any postage to the envelopes.

  • the Governor General
  • the Speaker or Clerk of the Senate or House of Commons
  • the Parliamentary Librarian or the Associate Parliamentary Librarian
  • Members of the Senate
  • Members of the House of Commons
  • the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner or Senate Ethics Officer 
Over on the right you will find links to the representatives or members of the House of Commons, Senate, Provincial and Territorial governments. In order to determine which one is your representative you will have to find out what geographical political region where you live. In many cases the web page that lists members will have a form in which you can enter your address or postal code.

I plan on posting more information on this topic.

Monday, 17 June 2013

What is This Blog About?

When I was involved with founding, establishing and promoting the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation much of what we did involved contacting and dealing with governments in Canada. We dealt with governments at all levels in the country. This included city governments, which could be classified as township, municipal, urban and so on; territorial governments, provincial governments and the federal government. Of course, we were involved with the fire service departments of government. In addition to that we dealt with a variety of departments as well as representatives at all levels.

That experience gave me an education in the democratic process in Canada as well as a view of the dynamic interrelationship that exists among the governments in the different regions of the country and at the different levels. My opinion has always been that government exists to serve the people of the country and my experience has proven that to be very much the case.

Experience has also shown me that people often express frustration with their governments. I think some of this frustration arises because of a lack of knowledge regarding how to get in touch with, communicate with and access government. I hope that as this blog site grows that I can provide people who visit it with information that will help them to do that.