Toronto Youth Food Policy Council

How to Write to City Officials

1. Introduction
2. How to write letters to your City Councillor
a. Tips for writing letters to your City Councillor
b. Letter templates
3. How to write submissions to committees, sub-committees, and community councils
a. Written comments and the public record
b. Procedure for submitting comments
c. Tips for writing comments
d. Examples of past written comments

1. Introduction

City Councillors and other City officials want to hear from their constituents! Written communication is especially useful if you cannot attend City Hall in-person. There are two main forms of writing to City officials:

  • Letters to your City Councillor
  • Written submissions to committees, sub-committees, and community councils

There are a lot of similarities between these two forms. In both cases, you are bringing attention to your issue, stating your position, and recommending future actions to be taken on the matter. The main differences between the two forms are that when you submit written comments to committees, sub-committees, and councils your writing undergoes a more formal procedure, can only be considered if your issue is on a meeting’s agenda, and your comments are put on public record. Choosing to write to your Councillor or to a committee will depend on both your particular issue and your personal preference.

2. How to write letters to your City Councillor

City Councillors, in particular, are eager to hear from their constituents. Keep in mind that it is their job to serve the interests of their ward. A City Councillor will not know what their constituents want if they do not tell them! You can write your City Councillor at any time, and for any issue. You may choose to write your City Councillor for a variety of reasons:

  • To bring attention to, or provide more information for, an issue
  • To urge them to take a particular action, such as voting in an upcoming Council or Committee meeting
  • To clarify their position regarding your issue
  • To show your support or concern about an issue

2a. Tips for writing letters to your City Councillor

To get an idea of how a letter to a City Councillor might be written, read the Toronto Environmental Alliances’ sample letter regarding the the 3Rs for gravel use. While there is no official format for writing letters to your City Councillor, these tips adapted from Citizens for Public Justice and Smoke-Free Outdoor Public Spaces can help guide you.

Include your contact information. This indicates to your City Councillor that you are a constituent in their ward.

Be concise. Written communication should be no longer than one page. If you have any background or supporting materials to your letter, include it in your envelope, or attach it to your email.

Be clear. State your objective from the onset. Follow with a brief introduction outlining your concerns. Keep to the same topic and emphasize two or three major points.

Be personal. Describe your interest in the issue and any experience you have regarding it. Drawing on your own experience demonstrates the direct impact of your issue on you, your family, or your community.

Be assertive. Ask questions that prompt a response. Ask for clarification on your City Councillor’s position. Request a commitment to a specific action, and give the rationale for your request. Request that the City Councillor respond to your letter.

Be professional. Communication should be respectful, even if you disagree with your Councillor. Thank them for any positive action they have taken in the past on your issue.

Follow up. Track your City Councillor’s decisions or actions regarding your issue. Write back to your City Councillor thanking them for their response, and remind them of any commitments they have made. Optional: share your letter with other individuals or organizations advocating for your issue.

Stay organized. Keep a copy of the letter and any supporting materials so that you can easily refer back to them if needed.

2b. Letter templates

Depending on your issue, advocacy organizations will sometimes provide letter templates on their website. Letter templates are useful when you are unsure of what to say, but still want to voice your support for an issue. Most often, all that is required is that you input your name and contact information. There are two main types of letter templates:

3. How to write a submission to a committee, sub-committee, or community council

The City of Toronto’s various committees, sub-committees, and community councils hold regular meetings around citywide issues. During these meetings, the committee welcomes the public to comment on any agenda items that are open for consideration. To comment on an issue, constituents can either present a public deputation in-person or they can submit a written comment.

To view a list of committees with links to their websites, visit the Toronto City Council and Committees Meetings, Agendas, and Minutes website. A committee’s website lists contact information for its Clerk, its committee members, upcoming meeting schedules, previous meeting agendas, and committee decisions.

A written comment is a short letter addressing a specific item on a committee, sub-committee, or community council’s meeting agenda. When you submit a comment to a committee, it is distributed to all of the committee members. Written comments are especially useful if you cannot attend committee meetings in-person, but still wish to address the committee. Similarly to writing your City Councillor, a written submission to a committee may:

  • Provide more information regarding an issue
  • State your (or your organization’s) support or concern for an issue
  • Urge the committee to take particular actions, such as voting on the item

You can only submit written comments if your issue is a specific item on a committee’s meeting agenda. If a committee has already made a decision on your issue, your submitted comments will be forwarded to the relevant City officials for their information, but will not be filed on the official record. In the case that your issue is not on a meeting’s agenda, you can always write to your City Councillor to bring light to your issue.

3a. Written comments and the public record

When you submit a written comment to a committee, sub-committee, or community council, it becomes part of the public record. Your personal information (name, organization, and contact information) will be attached to your comment and will also be part of the public record. The City of Toronto’s public record is made available for public inspection to anyone who asks before or after the meeting. When you write as an individual, your name will be listed as a correspondent in any relevant agendas, decisions, and minutes related to the agenda item. These documents are posted online and may be indexed by search engines like Google.

You should only submit a written comment if you are comfortable with having your personal information and comment made available for public inspection. If you are not comfortable with this, you can still write to your City Councillor to voice your opinions.

Visit the City of Toronto’s Have Your Say website for more information regarding the public record.

3b. Procedure for submitting comments

There are a few steps to follow to ensure that a committee receives your written comment. The City of Toronto has published guidelines for submitting comments here.

Written comments can be submitted by email, fax, or post to a committee Clerk. A committee Clerk (sometimes referred to as a Secretariat) is the public contact person for a particular committee. Contact information for a committee Clerk can be found on each committee’s website.

You can also find a direct Submit Comments button on each agenda item that is open for consideration.

In addition to your written comment, you must include the following information:

  • Statement that you are submitting comments for distribution to a committee or to a Council
  • Name and number of the agenda item
  • Name of the committee or council
  • Date of meeting

3c. Tips for writing comments

Include your contact information.

Be concise. Written communication should be no longer than one page. If you have any background or supporting materials to your letter, include it in your envelope, or attach it to your email.

Be clear. State your objective from the outset. Keep to the same topic and emphasize two or three major points. When requesting a commitment to a specific action, give the rationale for your request.

Be professional. Communication should be respectful, even if you disagree with Councillors or city staff. Thank them for any positive action they have taken in the past on your issue.

Be personal. Describe your interest in the issue and any experience you have regarding it. Drawing on your own experience demonstrates the direct impacts of your issue on you, your family, or your community.

Follow up. Track what decisions or actions were made on your issue and follow up as appropriate. Optional: share your letter with other individuals or organizations advocating for your issue. Stay organized. Keep a copy of the letter and any supporting materials so that you can easily refer back to them if needed.

3d. Examples of past written comments

To familiarize yourself with the style and format of written comments, you can always refer to past examples of written comments found online. Here are some examples to get you started: