More on Yellowknife

Tuesday in Yellowknife was an eventful day for many reasons. We kicked of the morning by sitting in on a meeting of the Standing Commitee on Priorities and Planning. This particular committee works to set much of the agenda for the House.
The meeting was followed by a talk with Tim Mercer, Clerk of the Legislative Assembly in the Leg Assembly’s beautiful caucus room. The room is circular like the Chamber itself, and features numerous pieces of artwork depicting the North. The meeting with Mr. Mercer was certainly a highlight of the trip, introducing us to the ins and out of consensus government and some of the back-room politics associated with this unique system of government. Speaker Jacobson also joined in, sharing some of his insights on the consensus system and how it impacts legislative procedure.
The afternoon was yet another wild adventure. After meeting College Langlois, Director of research for lunch at the Dancing Moose Cafe, we went out for a drive on the ice road to Detta on Great Slave Lake. It was a pretty unbelievable experience never having been out on the ice road before – watching trucks, tankers, cars, snowmobiles, and people walk and ski across one of Canada’s largest lakes.
We returned to the Legislature to observe the opening of the Second Session of the 17th Legislative Assembly. The warm welcome we had recieved from all members of the Leg Assembly and the Speaker continued as we were formally welcomed to the House during proceedings.
Later that afternoon, we met with the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and attended a reception in honour of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
Wednesday was also a day of interesting meetings, starting off with De Beers Canada first thing in the morning. We viewed the video often shown to Aboriginal communities being introduced to a new mining project, and were amazed by the scale of diamond mining operations. We received a quick introduction into the regulatory process, and learned of some aspects of De Beers Aboriginal engagement strategy.
Following out meeting with De Beers, we met with Bob McLeod, Premier of the NWT. The meeting was an very detailed overview of the challenges unique to the Territories and the progress that has been made to address these issues. We also met with Minister of the Environment, Michael Miltenberger to discuss the NWT’s response to wildlife issues and how the committee and consultative process was used in the development of the wildlife act.
In the afternoon, we had the chance to sit down with Ms. Therese Boullard, Director of the NWT Human Rights Commission to discuss human rights in the Territories. We discussed human rights legislation and frameworks, as well as the number of kind of cases addressed by the Commission.

Listening Tours and Lunch at the Fairmount

I took a trip to Queens University last week with OCUFA’s Senior Policy Analyst Karen Wheeler, who also chairs OCUFA’s Status of Women committee. We were on a “listening tour,” to visit the university campus and to speak with women academic staff, librarians, and faculty about the challenges they faced as women at the university. I was surprised to hear how many barriers women in the workforce continue to face, even the smart and professional women I was able to meet on the tour. Most of all, I was surprised at myself. After three years in a university setting, I was still unable to recognize the power relations present in that environment and the impact these relations have on equity. Kingston was also beautiful; it was nice to be out of the city for a little while and to walk along the water. All in all, I have learned a great deal from the tour, and a few life lessons I hope to take with me when I enter the workforce.

Back in the city, I was right downtown again in no time. On Saturday , I attended OCUFA’s annual Teaching Awards luncheon at the Fairmount Royal York. It was inspiring to hear from professors who love sharing their subject area with their students and are committed to building classrooms that help their students to excel. The citations read about the recipients was my favourite part of the event; it was great to hear the anecdotes that brought to life each recipients unique teaching style. The award is a reminder that teaching at universities should be recognized and rewarded when it is done well; after all, it is not easy. I also loved the lunch, the soup in particular. If anyone says there is no such thing as a free lunch, then they haven’t been an OLIP intern.

Visiting Elections Ontario, Loren Wells and Greg Essensa

On Friday, 7 of us made the long trip out to Scarborough to visit the Elections Ontario office while it is full swing. We met with Loren Wells and Greg Essensa, Deputy Chief and Chief Electoral Officers for the Province of Ontario. We learned about the details of administering the Election’s Act and the Election’s Finance Act, and were blown away by how much Elections Ontario is responsible for – from hiring 80,000 people on election day to ordering the pencils used to mark ballots. We were able to realize the scale of an election in a province as big as Ontario; the Office sent off 58 18-wheeler trucks to distribute election material and receives over 5,000 election-related questions at its call center each day. Ms. Wells and Mr. Essensa shared their vision for Elections Ontario, which aims to put the voters at the centre of the process and to make voting as easy and accessible as possible. The Office arranges home voting for those who are disabled, and will be piloting online voting in the coming year. It was also interesting to learn about the Office’s “Minority Strategy,” their plan of action in the event that there is a minority government and an election can be called any day. Finally, it was great to learn from the Electoral Officer’s themselves, who have extensive experience overseeing elections across Canada and internationally.

Meeting Dr. Ann Cavoukian, Information and Privacy Commissioner

Meeting with Dr. Cavoukian was definitely a highlight of our Orientation. It was a blur of a meeting; she was in and out in 20 minutes but left us all feeling inspired by her vision for proactive privacy. Dr. Cavoukian framed the discussion on privacy in terms of freedom and the right to control how one’s personal information is used. She shared her vision for ‘Privacy by Design,’ a framework to encourage companies to guarantee privacy for users as a default setting. What was truly amazing was how Dr. Cavoukian has taken her mandate on a provincial level to a global scale, working on the international level to change trends in data ownership and surveillance. We also learned about ‘Privacy by Re-Design,’ a model to transform existing systems into ones that respect individual privacy, as well as Access by Design,’ whereby public information would be made accessible to all in order to encourage open government. The Commissioner and her office are clearly on the cutting edge of privacy and information issues, and she certainly challenged us all to think in innovative ways about informational self-determination.

Meeting with Sponsor: CIBC

On September 14th, we met with Patrick Kennedy, Government Affairs director for CIBC. Our talk with Patrick was very informative and down to earth. It was great to speak with someone who pretty recently was in our position, starting out and trying to find their place in the public sphere.

Patrick gave us great insight into the job of a government relations expert, some of the issues that matter to the banking sector, and the importance of choosing a career you are skilled at and enjoy. Most importantly, Patrick’s talk showed us why GR is important to educating decision-makers on complex policy issues.

A valuable insight we drew from Patrick’s talk was the importance of understanding the structure of political systems and rather than the who’s who. We hope this year will give us the wide angle on Queens Park that will allow us to really understood how government works and how policy flows through the system.

Meeting with Sponsor: Certified General Accountants of Ontario

Certified General Accountants of Ontario

Last week, we had a chance to sit down with Ted Wigdor and Puneet Luthra of the Certified General Accountants (CGA). For many of us the meeting was our first foray into the world of accounting. We realized that while accounting may appear a little dry on the surface, the concerns of accounting associations are actually very interesting and important to the development of policy. We also learned of the important role played by stakeholders in promoting regulation they judge to be in the public interest as informed by their particular expertise.

One of the most valuable aspects of the meeting was the personal mentorship we recieved from Ted and Puneet on the skills we will need to succeed at Queens Park. Puneet emphasized the importance of knocking on doors, talking to people, and never being afraid to ask for meetings with MPP’s or future employers. Ted gave us advice on how to get into Government Relations work and how to choose a masters program that would prepare us for work in the field if we choose it.

Lastly, we have to thank the CGA not only for their sponsorship but also for inviting us out to lunch! The advice and insight was great but topped only by the chocolate chip cookies!

Humera’s First Week

This past week has been an exciting whirlwind. Its been great meeting with so many knowledgeable individuals and to learn about the politics of this province through their eyes. I have a longstanding interest in media so it has been particularly interesting to hear from former Queens Park reporters such as Jim Coyle and Murray Campbell. At the same time, I have been introduced to many new viewpoints through meetings with polling, business, and GR professionals, as well as various stakeholders.

One of the most important insights from the first week has been the value of collegiality and cooperation in the policy process. We’ve had the opportunity to hear from a wide-range of individuals from across party lines who care deeply about good government and the development of policy that benefits Ontarians. I found their willingness to listen, collaborate, and compromise on various issues inspiring and a reminder of why its important to hold even those who disagree with you in esteem.

But by far the most captivating part of the first week has been just trying to get a feel of Queens Park, of the people and personalities that make the legislature what it is, and the culture of its political life. So far I’ve picked up only pieces of the picture, some contradictory and others consistent. I look forward to the return of MPP’s to the Park and the chance to understand the subtleties of the place as the year progresses.

Introducing the 2011-2012 Interns

Evan Akriotis is originally from Toronto, but has spent the last four years in Montreal, completing a Joint Honours degree in Political Science and Canadian Studies. His research interests include the nature of representation, the interaction between media (particularly entertainment media) and politics, and the politics of the north. In 2010, Evan explored his latter interest in greater depth by attending summer school in Pangnirtung, Nunavut with the University of Manitoba. Outside of politics, Evan enjoys squash, skiing, running, and having his heart broken by Toronto sports teams. Evan is thrilled to be spending this year at Queen’s Park with his nine fellow interns.

Patrick DeRochie grew up in the small southern Ontarian town of Fonthill. In 2008, he completed a BA with a double major in history and political science at the University of Guelph. As an undergraduate Patrick was active in student government and university clubs. While pursuing an MA in International Affairs at Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Patrick interned at the Rideau Institute, and monitored parliamentary committees for the Alpheus Group. Since June 2010, he has worked as an Evaluation Officer at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in Ottawa. Patrick enjoys hockey, soccer, cycling, traveling, movies, music and
relaxing at the cottage.

Belinda Ellsworth is originally from Stratford, Prince Edward Island. Having graduated with distinction from Mount Allison University with BA (Honours) in Political Science in 2009, Belinda is currently completing her MA in Political Studies at Queen’s University. Her research interests include issue ownership in Canadian politics, intergovernmental relations, and gender politics. Belinda is most grateful to be part of the 2011-2012 internship team and is looking forward to living in Toronto. But most of all, she is excited to get started learning the ins and outs of Queen’s Park.

Lauren Hanna is from Aurora, Ontario and recently completed her BA (Honours) in Political Science at Acadia University. There, Lauren studied Canadian and comparative politics including political theory. In 2010, Lauren was one of three Canadian delegates attending the annual Carleton University Students’ Association conference on American foreign policy at the United States Military Academy at West Point. She has worked in a law office and also volunteered in fundraising for social service agencies. Lauren is eager to immerse herself in the rhythms of provincial politics to better understand how this impacts the daily lives of Ontarians. Through the internship, Lauren is seeking direction and inspiration for future graduate studies.

Humera Jabir is a recent graduate of McGill University where she completed a BA (Joint Honours) in Political Science and International Development Studies. Originally from Brampton, Ontario, Humera moved to Victoria, British Columbia in 2006 after receiving a full scholarship to attend Lester B. Pearson United World College. The close friendships she made with students from around the world inspired her to work and travel abroad. Humera is an avid beginner of everything—photographer, guitarist, trekker, and cook. As an OLIP intern, Humera is excited to be back in Ontario and learning about the issues that matter to Ontarians.

Sylvia Kim was born in Sydney, Australia but grew up in Busan, South Korea before moving to Toronto when she was ten years old. Her fascination with South Korea’s rapid economic and political transformation since the 1950s, led Sylvia to study at McGill University where she graduated with a BA (Honours) in International Development. Through the OLIP program, Sylvia is eager to see how leaders and institutions at the provincial level translate their visions into reality. Outside of politics, Sylvia is obsessed with innovative start-ups, salsa dancing, and cooking fusion dishes.

Diego Ortiz was born in Bogota, Colombia and raised in London, Ontario. He completed his BA at the University of Western Ontario and will graduate from the Political Science Honour Specialization program. Concurrently, Diego earned a minor in Global Development from the Centre for Global Studies at Huron University College. He has a particular interest in business and government relations and policy implementation. Diego is very much looking forward to sharing new experiences with his 2011/12 OLIP colleagues and is seeking a career in government relations upon completion of the internship.

Sylvia Peña was born in Regina, Saskatchewan but was raised in Hamilton, Ontario. She has just completed her BA (Honours) in Political Science with a minor in French from McMaster University. Before commencing her studies, Sylvia volunteered abroad in Ukraine with Canada World Youth and in Costa Rica. During the second summer of her undergraduate studies, Sylvia worked as a guide for the Parliamentary Guide program. This experience merged her love for languages with her interest in Canadian politics. Her outside interests include sewing, learning languages, traveling, and dining with friends. Sylvia is excited to be part of the OLIP team for 2011-2012.

Craig Ruttan was born in Kitchener, Ontario and raised in nearby Punkeydoodles Corners. He completed his BA (Honours) at the University of Toronto, specializing in Peace and Conflict Studies. As an undergraduate student, Craig was active in student government and college governance, and worked as a research assistant in mathematics education. This past year, Craig completed his MA in International Peace and Security at King’s College London in the UK. His academic interests include peacebuilding, justice issues, education policy, and the politics of identity. He also enjoys typography, theatre, travelling, ultimate frisbee, and figure skating. Craig is thrilled to be part of OLIP’s Class of 2011-12 at Queen’s Park.

Monika Wyrzykowska moved to Toronto from Berlin, Germany at age 11 and pursued her interest in public policy, albeit with a focus on Europe, during her studies. Monika holds a BA in Economics and European Studies from the University of Toronto and has recently completed her MA in European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies at the Munk School of Global Affairs. After participating in a French-language immersion program in Trois-Rivières and working at the Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et des Parcs in Québec City, Monika developed a deeper interest in Canadian federalism and public policy. Monika is also passionate about issues of multiculturalism and national identity, mostly stemming from her strong involvement in the Polish-Canadian community.

Download the 2011 OLIP Biographies with Photos here