Catching Up

I have used this week to catch up on office work which was interrupted by the OLIP trip to Quebec City and Ottawa. During my week away, Mr. McMeekin met with several stakeholder groups who have shown significant interest in Bill 41, the Defibrillator Access Act. I have been working closely with Mr. McMeekin’s EA, Lyndsay, to aggregate any feedback and additional information presented in these meetings. In addition to organizing data and research findings from an inter-jurisdictional study for Mr. McMeekin, I have continued to work with the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities staff to complete riding profiles outlining investments in programs and service delivery across the province. My involvement in TCU office work has provided me with the opportunity to engage staff on issues associated with current education policies and programs, giving me a better understanding of their approach to motivating youth and facilitating their growth into professionals. At the end of the week, Lyndsay informed me of a new research project that Mr. McMeekin has asked us to tackle, though I have not received all the details, I am looking forward to working on a new task.

Erica on Ottawa & Quebec

Chaque fois que je quitte Québec, j’ai envie d’y retourner. J’apprécie
toujours l’occasion de pratiquer mon français et la vie politique
québécoise me fascine. En toute matière, les grandes questions de
culture, d’identité, de langue, des relations avec le gouvernement
fédéral et le futur du Québec même sont toujours pertinentes – tous
des sujets qui m’intéressent beaucoup. Nos réunions avec les
représentants du ministère des relations internationales, du
département des relations interparlementaires et avec les députés du
PLQ et du PQ ont réfléchis ces éléments de la politique québécoise.

Our time in Ottawa was eye-opening for me. As an Ottawa native, I
spent eighteen years in that city without ever really being a part or
having a sense of what actually goes on at Parliament Hill. I think
that for many people from Ottawa who are not a part of the political
scene, there is a tendency not to think very much about the culture of
all that goes on North of Wellington Street. For me, spending two days
on the Hill was like stumbling into a world that I had always known
was there, but that I had never really had a clear idea of what it
would be like to be a part of. Perhaps it is because of this
background that I was struck by the insularity of the activities on
the Hill – just as non-government Ottawa folks tend not to think much
about the activities of the House of Commons, I had the sense that
those on Parliament Hill tended not to think very much about Ottawa.
The focus is so much broader and the issues that are dealt with so
much farther reaching. The issues we discussed in our meetings with
MPs reflected the scale of this focus. It was definitely a highlight
to meet with former Premier, Bob Rae and to get his take on his time
at Queen’s Park and his sense of where Ontario politics is heading.

Visiting the Senate of Canada

As you know, this past week the interns traveled to Quebec City and Ottawa for their first educational trip. I thought I would take this time to share an interesting meeting we had in Ottawa. The last meeting the interns had was with Charles Robert, the principal clerk of the Senate of Canada. Mr. Robert gave us an in-depth history of the Senate, and gave his reasons why he thinks it still has value, such as representing the regions and serving as the Chamber of “sober second thought.”  He made the case that while the Senate isn’t democratic, it’s important that it be so, so it can independently evaluate legislation, as long as it doesn’t outright challenge the authority of the House of Commons. He defended the institution against calls for having it be elected, saying it could lose these important roles if that is done. Since I have a background in political institutions, I found his take incredibly interesting. However, I challenged some of his notions of the original purpose of the Senate, and made the case that we would be better served with the Senate’s abolition. We engaged in a lively debate that seemed to entertain the other interns. Despite our disagreements, It was great to hear Mr. Robert’s take on a controversial part of Canada’s political system, and I really appreciate him taking the time to speak with us

A refreshing break from the GTA

This week the interns travelled to Quebec City and Ottawa, which I must say was a refreshing break from life in the GTA. I think we would agree that one week in two of Canada’s most intriguing cities is far from enough but we were nevertheless ecstatic at the opportunity to explore legislative politics in a different context. Thanks to the Quebec Legislative Interns, we met with several prominent professionals who worked within the National Assembly as well as the bureaucratic offices connected to the Legislature. The Parliamentary Interns in Ottawa certainly did not falter in their efforts to make our stay exciting, as we were given the opportunity to meet people with equally impressive dossiers. I find it very hard to pick one distinctive moment during this trip so I will simply describe a few interesting experiences during our stay in Quebec City. We had conversations with Members of the National Assembly (MNAs) from the two main parties (Liberal and PQ), which had a profound impact on how I view the sovereignty issue. Prior to these discussions, I had formed an opinion solely on my exposure to local media as well as my (Ontario) education about French-Canadian identity and Quebec’s desire for cultural preservation and distinction. Subsequent to this trip, I still feel quite strongly about maintaining the Canadian federation including a province as unique and dynamic as Quebec, however, my understanding of the historical, political, cultural and socio-economic factors underlying the sovereignty debate has vastly improved. The MNAs may have disagreed on the appropriate approach for preserving French culture in a predominantly Anglo-federation, however, they all shared a distinct passion for Quebec which indicates the growing relevance of reigniting this discussion amongst tomorrow’s leaders. The Quebec interns were kind enough to arrange a tour of the city from the Observatory, providing a panoramic view of one of Canada’s oldest historic districts. As an Urban Planning graduate with a particular interest in heritage preservation, I found it fascinating how Quebec City has towed the line between protecting the cultural and heritage value of its design, form and structures and modernizing the infrastructure and urban operations of its downtown core. Adaptive reuse seems to play a vital role in advancing the urbanization agenda without compromising the collective identity so clearly entrenched in the city’s physical layout and architecture. The urban landscape manages to tell the story of Quebec while still integrating elements of contemporary planning in its housing, transit and natural systems.

Canadian Political Science Association reception

Our set of meeting in Ottawa has been much of the same we experienced during orientation week: many different perspectives, a full schedule and a lot of interest in our position as interns. We were often on the “Hill” meeting with members of every political party, legislative staff, policy staff and also a visit to the Supreme Court of Canada.
      For me, the Canadian Political Science Association reception on Friday evening was a welcome return to academia. I was actually able to catch up with one of my thesis supervisors, Dr. Boychuk, of the University of Waterloo at the reception! Thinking back to this summer of working through my thesis concerning indigenous health policy, and now being involved in legislation and projects at Queen’s Park, has given me a much different perspective on how politics work. This is also what the members of the CPSA were very interested to hear about our experiences and what has surprised us about working at the Ontario Legislature. For me, after spending time during my undergrad at the Nova Scotia Legislature, I was surprised that in Ontario there does not seem to be very much collegiality among members of different parties. But maybe it’s because the election year is approaching!
     The evening was also an opportunity for us to talk to our federal counterparts, from the Parliamentary Internship Program (also known as the PIPs). Aside from the group being completely bilingual, we had very similar experiences of working with our politicians. Our time in Ottawa ended too quickly, but we were all eager to return to Toronto for the last week of the House sitting at Queen’s Park before the holidays!

Progressive Conservative Christmas party

On Wednesday night Erica, Bryan and I were fortunate enough to attend the Progressive Conservative Christmas party in Toronto.  Most, if not all, of the PC MPPs were in attendance which was exciting as it gave us a chance to socialise with them outside of the fishbowl that is Queen’s Park.  I was fortunate enough to have fairly in depth conversations with Christine Elliott and John Yakabuski as well as my member Steve.  Both Mrs. Elliott and Mr. Yakabuski will have interns come February – my message to those two interns who shall remaine nameless is that you are both very lucky and you should both make the most of the opportunity to work alongside these two exceptional Members!  I also enjoyed the opportunity to meet and learn from the members of the PC apparatus that make the show run from behind the scenes.  Discussions with a number of Mr. Hudak’s team from the Leader’s office, members of PC Caucus Services and the HR team were informative as well as entertaining.  The evening finished with Mr. Hudak delivering a rousing speech which rallied the troops, urging the team to continue their march to the electoral promised land of majority government.  The only disappointing aspect of the evening was that this year Mr. Yakabuski decided against a Christmas sing along, as was the case last year!

La semaine passée, les stagiaires ont visité la ville du Québec.

La semaine passée, les stagiaires ont visité la ville du Québec. Nous avons eu la chance de visiter les sites touristiques, et d’obtenir une connaissance plus approfondie de la scène politique actuelle dans la province.

Mardi, nous avons assistés à la période de question à l’Assemblée Nationale. C’était intéressant d’exposer les différences entre les deux législatures, à Québec et à Queens Park. Nous étions tous d’accord que l’Assemblée à Québec semble beaucoup plus tranquille que Queen’s Park (du moins, ce jour là). Nous avons dîné à un restaurant chic au centre de la législature, avec nos stagiaires homologues à la législature de la ville de Québec qui nous ont reçu très chaleureusement.

Nos discussions pendant nos réunions à Québec ont touché sur plusieurs questions uniques à Québec, y compris l’identité culturelle et linguistique et l’évolution vers le séparatisme. Nous avons rencontré Mathieu Traversy et Alexandre Cloutier, deux membres de l’Assemblé Nationale, qui nous ont donné leurs points de vue sur la possibilité d’un Québec souverain dans l’avenir. Comme ces membres étaient jeunes, attachants et passionnés, c’était vraiment un plaisir de discuter et d’échanger avec eux. Puisque j’ai étudié certaines de ces questions pendant mon expérience universitaire, j’ai profité de l’opportunité de les partager avec les officiels et les MNAs au Québec. J’ai travaillé pour un été pour le Commissariat aux services en français. Là, j’ai appris directement l’importance de la promotion et de la protection de la langue française pour assurer la survivance de la langue française.

Québec est la seule province avec un ministère consacré à relations internationales, et nous avons eu l’opportunité de rencontrer avec deux représentants de ce ministère. Durant ces discussions, nous avons appris les activités actuelles du ministère, visant à maintenir les relations entre la province et leurs associés, en incluant les États-Unis et leurs partenaires dans la francophonie.

En sommaire, notre séjour à Québec était excellent. C’était aussi amusant de passer du temps avec les stagiaires de l’assemblée nationales, et nous les remercions beaucoup pour leur gentillesse et leur accueil chaleureux.