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Archive for March, 2010

Aside from the cultural education we received while in the States, the interns learned a great deal about the American political process, as well as the political culture.

There were two differences between Ontario and Colorado that I found of particular interest because they indicated not only procedural differences but also a difference in political culture. Colorado has a system that is more akin to direct democracy than representative democracy. Citizens of Colorado, if they collect the appropriate amount of signatures on a petition (on the order of 150,000) can propose citizen legislation. Ontarians, on the other hand, cannot directly propose legislation in this way. Another interesting difference between these two states: any piece of legislation that affects taxes (either increase or decrease), must go on the ballot at the next election. In other words, every tax change is a referendum issue that must be directly decided by the people. Both these examples show that the people of Colorado feel that they are entitled to have a significant role in affecting legislation, should they feel an issue important enough to bring to the attention of their legislators.

The other most interesting difference between the Ontario legislature and the American model was the role of the legislators. America has a bicameral system at both the federal and state level: there are senators and legislators at both levels of government. Furthermore, the legislators in Colorado and Nashville are part-time, have term limits and are paid significantly less than our Ontario MPPs. This leads to a difference in how business is conducted in the legislatures—there is more emphasis on conducting the business of the House, because there is such a limited time in the Legislature during a session.

All these observations discussed demonstrate that the OLIP trip was very educational and informative as to the political differences between Ontario, Colorado and Tennessee.

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For a week in February the ten Ontario Legislature Interns had the opportunity to visit the state legislatures of both Denver, Colorado and Nashville, Tennessee.  Throughout our week we learnt a great deal about state politics in the United States which proved to be an interesting comparison to the provincial politics we are used to.

The first thing that caught my attention was the architecture of the Legislatures.  Both the Denver and Nashville legislatures were filled with Grecian style columns and marble hallways, which differs quite a bit from the aesthetics of Queen’s Park.  Another physical difference that we noticed – which has quite an impact politically – is that the seats of the House and the Senate are interspersed.  In other words, rather than having each opposing party physically face the other, they were placed beside one another.  When watching the House proceedings, we immediately noticed that it differed quite a bit from the antagonism that is usually evident in British-style question period.  The atmosphere was much more relaxed and collegial.

Another significant difference is that both legislatures are part-time legislatures, meaning that they only sit for a period of the year.  This means that Senators, representatives, speakers and so on had to hold other jobs alongside their duties at the legislature.   We found it interesting to hear how these individuals are able to balance these different responsibilities.

We also discussed the fact that state legislatures have Senates, whereas our Ontario provincial legislature is unicameral.   We also found that there was a general consensus that the Senate did not really serve a substantial purpose.  One Senator in Denver even suggested that it should be gotten rid of, as it just proves redundant.

Another difference, which was most immediately evident in Denver, was the increased presence of lobbyists.   The halls of the Denver legislature were constantly filled with lobbyists.  This is quite a significant difference from Queen’s Park – lobbyists are typically present only on defined lobby days in which they hold formal meetings and receptions with members.

One of the things I most enjoyed about our trip was our visit to the Civil Rights Museum in Nashville.  Through the exhibits we learnt about the formation of the movement in Nashville and the many sit-ins that took place throughout the area.   This experience was topped off when we got a chance to speak with the Black Caucus in the Nashville State Legislature.  They shared with us their experiences, explained what they advocate for currently, and one representative even told us that she was a part of

Finally, I thoroughly enjoyed all of the discussions we had regarding health care with everyone we met.  We discussed the future of health policy in the United States, and were also happy to answer questions about the Canadian health care system.  Overall, a very fruitful dialogue was generated.

Overall, our trip to the legislatures of Denver and Nashville was extremely interesting and informative.  I must say I knew relatively little about the American system before the trip, but that certainly changed upon my return.

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My new placement is with Norm Miller, MPP for Parry Sound-Muskoka, PC Finance Critic and Chief Opposition Whip. My time so far has been a whirlwind of fast-paced new experiences. I have had the opportunity to craft questions and statements, write press releases on a regular basis, draft correspondence, and even shadow Mr. Miller during press scrums and other meetings.

It has been challenging to immerse myself in finance policy, which I tended to avoid as a political science student. However, I feel as though I have already learned a great deal and look forward to each new issue that emerges as we get closer to the budget. This process has allowed me to expand my familiarity with a whole new range of policy issues. Mr. Miller has created an extremely welcoming environment, and makes going in each morning a pleasure. I look forward to the months ahead.

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The Intern’s trip to Denver, Colorado and Nashville, Tennessee could not have been more exciting and educational.  Having personally never visited State Capitols before, I was enthusiastically looking forward to learning about the American political system from a state point of view.  First and foremost, the difference among the states themselves is the main comparison that can be made when looking at the Colorado and Tennessee political and legislative system.  One individual that we had the pleasure of meeting in Tennessee, the head librarian, consistently mentioned that there are 50 states and 50 ways of doing things. How true this turned out to be.  From the passage of legislation, rate of pay, to term limits for politicians, the differences between Colorado and Tennessee were numerous to count.

Another highlight of our trip down south was the interesting and very informative meetings we had with the legislators in Colorado and Tennessee.  In Colorado we met with representatives of both parties that educated us on the workings of their respective State Capitols, as well as the pressing issues surrounding their day to day activities.  Of course the current economic recession was a hot topic, but more locally, there were issues of budget expenditures, issues of education spending, tax revenues, and infrastructure spending.  The Colorado Senate was in a hot debate about raising taxes on soda pop and farming materials.  In Tennessee there were issues of interstate highway construction and education spending.  Overall the issues that we encountered were eye opening because regardless of jurisdiction, issues are similar in vein, but different in context.

Overall, the educational trips to Colorado and Tennessee could not have been more exciting and informative.  We definitely learned a lot, we encountered interesting people, and we participated in strengthening the ties that bind us with our southern neighbours, for not only did we learn from them, but we also imparted some strictly Canadian knowledge on them.  Many Americans asked about our current hot issues, but also they asked about our Health Care System, of which we spoke glowingly about. The trip was definitely a success!

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The trip to the Colorado and Tennessee state legislatures was an extremely informative one. I was able to finally grasp an understanding of the way in which the government is organized in the US as well as get a unique insight into American politics. As a student of political science, and therefore a political junkie, I was very receptive to the unique opportunities we had to meet one-on-one with various legislative members, including two Speakers, Senators and Representatives. We additionally got to meet with a representative from the Women’s Caucus while we were in Nashville, something that I found very enlightening. The house in Nashville currently has a Republican majority, something that is very recent after a lengthy rule for the democrats. While I may not be extremely well-versed in US party-politics, it appeared to me as though this shift had a significant impact on the work of the Women’s Caucus. One thing that I noticed in particular is that the majority of its work is done through an ‘economic-lens’. They had created a report, for example, on domestic violence and the impact this has on the economy and on the ability of the woman to maintain economic independence. This was a very interesting argument, something which I hadn’t really considered previously. When we asked the representative why they felt that using an economic approach was the most effective means of garnering support for women’s issues, she told us that she felt that it was the only way to truly legitimize the concerns of women. Perhaps I have been living in a relatively liberal society for too long, but this immediately appeared to me as a Republican argument. Instead of simply recognizing women’s concerns as they are and for what they are, she felt the need to approach all of their arguments from an economic point of view. While this was only one of the many meetings, I found it to be very telling of the state of affairs in the Tennessee state capital and I will certainly continue to follow the politics there in the coming years and see what happens if/when a democratic majority is regained.

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Ontario Brokers Association Announces Lead Sponsorship of Provincial Legislature Internship Programme

Toronto, Ontario, March 2nd, 2010. Today, The Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario (IBAO) announced their lead sponsorship of the Ontario Legislature Internship Programme (OLIP) administered by the Canadian Political Science Association at Queen’s Park. IBAO first became a sponsor of the programme in 1996.

OLIP is a non-partisan, educational internship designed to offer recent university graduates the opportunity to work at Queen’s Park for both a Government Member of Provincial Parliament and an Opposition Member of Provincial Parliament during a ten month placement. During their placement, OLIP interns also have the opportunity to travel to other legislatures around the country and London, England.

“The Ontario Legislature Internship Programme (OLIP) greatly values enthusiastic supporters, like IBAO,” stated Dr. Henry Jacek, Director of OLIP. “As OLIP’s new lead sponsor, IBAO will inspire other private sector organizations to support the educational activities of the interns.  Without generous sponsors such as IBAO, the interns would not get the career development education that is an integral part of the OLIP Programme.  This travel to other legislatures, supported by our sponsors, makes this programme unique among internship programmes.”

“OLIP is a unique and prestigious programme, offering recent university grads a once in a lifetime opportunity to work with Ontario’s key decision makers,” stated IBAO CEO Randy Carroll. “We are excited and so proud about expanding our relationship with OLIP by becoming their lead sponsor for 2010.”

For more information about OLIP, visit http://www.olip.ontla.on.ca/

For the latest updates from the insurance community, visit www.ibao.org/blog and visit www.Twitter.com/IBAOntario for snapshots of current insurance activity.

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The Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario (IBAO) is a ‘not for profit’ association that represents and serves the interests of over 10,800 independent Property & Casualty Insurance Brokers in the Province of Ontario.

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