|October – February Placement
|February – June Placement|
|Bryan Bossin||Ernie Hardeman (PC)||Yasir Naqvi (LIB)|
|Melissa Cernigoy||Gilles Bisson (NDP)||Mike Colle (LIB)|
|Natalie Desimini||Jean Marc Lalonde (LIB)||Christine Elliot (PC)|
|Thomas Maidwell||Steve Clark (PC)||Kevin Flynn (LIB)|
|Katherine Preiss||Donna Cansfield (LIB)||Bob Bailey (PC)|
|Erica Rayment||Elizabeth Witmer (PC)||Khalil Ramal (LIB)|
|Michael Smith||Dave Levac (LIB)||John Yakabuski (PC)|
|Charles Thompson||Helena Jaczek (LIB)||John O’Toole (PC)|
|Sasha Tregebov||Rosario Marchese (NDP)||Greg Sorbara (LIB)|
|Lisa Marie Williams||Ted McMeekin (LIB)||Howard Hampton (NDP)|
This was my last week with MPP Levac, as our 1st placements were wrapping up. Unfortunately for me (but not for him!), he was on vacation and so I didn’t get a chance to see him. The week was filled with wrapping up loose ends, and making sure that the rest of the staff were aware of things that we on-going. For the last few weeks I had been working on a newsletter that will be sent out to the riding. I wrote the articles, chose the pictures and designed the layout. About an hour before I was to leave the office, the Liberal Party’s graphic designer sent me the finished draft. It looks great, and I was happy to get a look at the result of my hard work before I left. I had an incredible experience working for Mr. Levac, and with his staff Chris, Heather, Tina, Bob and Sherri. I got to do things I never thought I would: work on legislation about exotic animals, write weekly op-eds, and plan a Ukrainian award ceremony. It’s sad to go, but I’m also excited for what’s ahead: my opposition placement, which will give me an entirely different look at the political process. And of course, our trip to Yellowknife next week, which is a once in a lifetime experience. Even though our time as interns is half over, I know there are still amazing experiences to be had!
These last few weeks in Mr. Hardeman’s office have been as busy as ever. With the new legislative session beginning shortly there are all sorts of preparations that need to be made including scheduling, setting up meetings, and preparing issue binders. Right now I am working on collecting information about a support program for farmers known as business risk management. The program, if implemented, would act as an insurance policy for farmers to guard against the low market prices which have crippled the industry in recent years.
I can hardly believe the first placement is almost finished. I have had a great time working in Mr. Hardeman’s office and learning about numerous issues which affect farmers and rural communities across this province. From attending a town hall meeting with over 1000 farmers, to visiting the constituency office and communities in Oxford, to working as a legislative staff member in the Queen’s Park office, I have been astounded by the amount of learning-by-doing I have been able to take part in. I owe special thanks to Tara Barry, Mr. Hardeman’s executive assistant, who has been a constant source of energy and has given me the opportunity to take part in every aspect of office business. Now I definitely understand why it is said that there is no ‘routine’ day working for an MPP!
In my last week travelling through the riding I took 8 separate flights that were at least an hour, several more driving along the highways and made it through temperatures of minus 43. It was another amazing experience. Gilles and I travelled up to Fort Albany First Nation (450 km north of Timmins) on Friday January 28th to attend a 10th anniversary celebration for the opening of their new school Peetabeck Academy. Peetabeck was built to replace the former St. Anne’s school, which had been a residential school (1903-73) for Ojibwa and Cree children in the region. While we were visiting Peetabeck I had the opportunity to talk to students and teachers and learned about the value of the new school and the increasing number of graduates. Gilles gave a speech and congratulated the community on coming together and building the new school. He spoke about his experience as a young francophone and the value retaining his language brought to his life; for students at Peetabeck learning to communicate in Cree also brings this to their lives.
When we are in meetings with politicians one question we are frequently asked is this: does having been involved at Queen’s Park turn you on or off of political life. It’s always phrased something like that and in some ways it’s a difficult question to answer because the term ‘political life’ is so broad. Among the interns I would venture to guess that not one of us would say that this internship has turned us off of politics or public service, but when a current or former politician asks that question it feels like what they’re really asking is: “Would you want to run?”
That’s a tough one.
It takes a certain kind of person to be a politician; someone not only with a wealth of intelligence and integrity but with positive outlook and a tough skin. To work as an elected official you not only have to be able to engage with the public but you have to have to get yourself elected in the first place. To do that, you have to honestly believe not only that you have it in you to do good for your community – you have to be convinced and to convince others that you can do it better than anyone else. Not only that, you have to willfully expose your life to public scrutiny. Not everyone can handle that kind of exposure. I can get nervous enough in meetings with people who have agreed to speak with me; I can only imagine engaging with a whole riding’s worth of people many of whom would give me the boot at any given time if offered the chance.
But then again I wonder if that’s the kind of thing you can overcome? It’s easy to separate yourself or others into categories of ‘qualified’ or ‘unqualified’ for political life, but I wonder if exposure is something you can just get used to? This week I met with two former Premiers and not once did I feel inclined to pipe down or censor myself. Could it be the same with politics?
Last weekend I attended Dr. Jaczek’s New Year’s Community Levee. During the event I was excited to see her so fluidly and easily engage with her constituents. And then, the unthinkable happened. A woman who I had been talking who evidently liked me well enough piped up at the end of Dr. Jaczek’s speech and shouted “Could you get this man here to say a few words?”. I was mortified. Thankfully, Dr. Jaczek laughed it off and proceeded to give a short speech about the internship and to compliment my work in the office. Still, the exposure left me…shall we say…red in the face.
If this really is the kind of thing you can get over, I think I need more practice.
As chair of Meetings’ Committee, one of my goals was to meet with all living former Premier’s of Ontario. During Orientation Month we had the opportunity to meet Dalton McGuinty (… yes, I know, he’s not “former”, but I’m counting him anyways). In early winter we had the chance to meet Bill Davis. I was a little worried about getting a hold of Bob Rae, but the Ottawa Interns took care of that hurdle for us, which brought the count up to three.
This week, we made it five. On Wednesday February 2nd, we meet with Ernie Eves. Mr. Eves, who was premier after Harris, gave us a lot to think about. My favourite quotable moment was when Mr. Eves remarked, “In politics, perception is reality”. He gave a thorough analysis of the current leaders of the PC, Liberal and NDP parties, as well as the upcoming election.
On Thursday Feb 3rd, despite the much touted ‘snowstorm’, we met with David Peterson. Meeting with Mr. Peterson was incredibly timely, as he was involved in the 2003 negotiations between the federal government and the Northwest Territories concerning the devolution of powers, which was just signed in January of this year. As we are going to Yellowknife in a week and a bit (Hurray!), we really enjoyed hearing about the discussions, as well as the different levels of politics in NWT.
So that brings us to five. My mission is almost complete! Now all we must do is wait until April when we’re scheduled to meet Mr. Harris.
This week I visited Woodstock Ontario and spent some time working in Mr. Hardeman’s constituency office. The trip started out with a visit to Heart FM, a local radio station where Ernie had a chance to speak on-air about the Hawkins-Gignac Act, a bill that would make carbon monoxide detectors mandatory in all homes. In addition to this, I went on a regional media tour with Ernie. The tour covered Stratford, St. Thomas and Goderich and was centred on how the increasing hydro costs in Ontario have made life more and more difficult for families. His staff in the constituency office: Laura, Linda and Elaine, are all extremely hard-working, dedicated and nice. I really appreciated the opportunity to spend some time learning about the work they do. The trip was also a great opportunity to learn more about the riding of Oxford. I really got a sense of the connection that Ernie has with his constituents as it seemed as though wherever we went there was someone he knew and spent time speaking with. I definitely enjoyed my trip and would love the opportunity to visit again
I was fortunate enough to be placed in the office of MPP Ted McMeekin, from the riding of Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale, who is also the Parliamentary Assistant (PA) to Training, Colleges and Universities (TCU). In this placement, I have had the opportunity to engage with TCU staff on current policies and programs changing post-secondary education in Ontario. I have contributed to research packages outlining provincial investments in OSAP reform, apprenticeships and Second Career among many other initiatives. Accompanying Mr. McMeekin to events organized or sponsored by TCU has exposed me to the critical role of stakeholder relations in policy formulation. In these meetings, the PA can connect personally with stakeholders in order to better assess the impact of policy and political decision-making. As the government continues to introduce changes to the structure of student financial assistance in Ontario, it becomes increasingly important to monitor the impacts of these policy tools. I have spent this past week working with the Minister’s staff on numerous files related to this portfolio. This insider’s perspective has given me a better understanding of how staff coordinates to support program delivery as per the government platform. Despite the flooding of our offices in Mowat Block this week, I have managed to remain focused on completing my tasks.
I had an absolutely wonderful trip to Steve’s riding, Leeds-Grenville, in eastern Ontario last week. The highlight of the week was presenting our proposals for democratic reform to a town hall meeting of constituents in Brockville on Wednesday evening. The presentation went well, we received positive feedback regarding our proposals and I even made the front page of the local newspaper! On Thursday we went for lunch with Senator Bob Runciman, Steve’s predecessor and mentor, to discuss some other aspects of democratic reform that we have been considering proposing. He was receptive, friendly and helped us fine tune some of the ideas we have for Steve’s critic portfolio, and the experience of having lunch with such a respected political figure was fantastic. Other highlights of the week include visiting small rural communities, such as Phillipsville and Lansdowne, and hearing how government is working for them, and what we can do to improve their quality of life. Steve’s riding is beautiful and I feel lucky to have experienced an area of Ontario that I have never visited before. One more thing I want to say is this: Steve is an amazing constituent MPP. He knows the area, the people and the issues like the back of his hand. It is the first time I have ever worked with a politician in their constituency. On that basis, he fully deserves to be re-elected in October. I learnt a lot of lessons that I will use in the future from my trip east. I hope these will stand me in good stead in the future, when I hope to represent a riding.