A Meeting with Landslide Ernie (The Honourable Ernie Eves)

DZJqJsxU8AUEuIf

We were all excited to meet Ernie Eves, the last premier we needed to meet to have met all the living premiers in Ontario. Reflecting on all of our past meetings with premiers, we noticed that each premier had a distinct leadership style and often contrasted their leadership styles with other premiers which added interesting insight to understanding Ontario’s overall political history.

Eves was born in Windsor, to a working class family. A lawyer by training, he first got elected to Parry Sound in 1981 by a margin of only six votes, giving him the name of “landslide Ernie”. Eves stressed politics often has more close victories than one would think and every voter counts.

Under Miller, Eves held multiple portfolios from Provincial Secretary for Resources Development to Minister of Skills Development and even Minister of Community and Social Services. When we asked, Eves was very proud of his work on the Native Affairs file, especially his work on the historic move in Ontario to recognize native self-government.

Under Harris, Eves was Minister of Finance and Deputy Premier. As all the interns are very interested in the Harris years, we spent a great deal of time discussing them and Mr. Eves very candidly explained the rationale and fallout of major decisions of the Harris government. Since energy policy was and continues to be a hot button file in Ontario’s political discourse, we had a discussion on the themes in energy policy and where Mr. Eves sees the file going in the future.

Naturally, since the Ontario 2018 budget was revealed, we asked Eves his opinions on it. We discussed balanced budgets and budgets in deficit. More importantly, we also discussed the public perception of the provincial budget and government spending. Throughout our meeting, Eves’ passion for his opinions stood out and we found it fascinating.

Thank you Mr. Eves for the great discussion and taking the time to meet with us!

 

Advertisements

Ontario’s Chief Digital Officer: Hillary Hartley

The interns and Hillary Hartley have something in common: we’re all newcomers to the scene of provincial politics. Deputy Minister Hartley worked in the U.S. federal service before she was invited to take on the role of Ontario’s chief digital services official just over a year ago.
Within the Ontario Public Service (OPS), she serves as the Deputy Minister of the Ontario Digital Service (ODS) and subsequently, as Ontario’s first Chief Digital Officer. Ms. Hartley was joined by Tanya Coyle, Head of Engagement for the ODS.
In California, Deputy Minister Hartley was the executive director and co-founder of 18F, a government agency that builds digital services focused on the interactions of individuals and businesses with government. Ms. Hartley told our group that she co-founded 18F with colleagues she met during her year as a Presidential Innovation Fellow. The US Presidential Innovation Fellow program brings tech innovation talent to government agencies to create transformation change.
Throughout our internship, we’ve had substantial experience navigating online government services to help constituents in M.P.P. offices and conduct research. They’re not always the most intuitive to use or designed with the user experience in mind. The ODS is the government department tasked with improving that. Think of the new and easy to use OSAP calculator. With only a few clicks, you can get a rough estimate of how much you qualify for. The calculator is so accessible that it has led to a rise in the number of students who apply for provincial aid and as a result, overcome the sticker shock of post-secondary education costs.
The OSAP Calculator is just one of many examples of the “simpler, faster, better” mentality that Hartley imparts on her team and the rest of the OPS. By design, government bureaucracy is a complex world, preoccupied with rules and mostly averse to risk. After all, if things go wrong, it’s all on the taxpayers’ dime. The ODS is contending with a sector that needs to become more agile and accessible, and better at adapting to the fast-changing nature of today’s society. To aid the current and future teams of the Digital Service in their mission, the ODS has developed the Digital Service Standard. Beyond user experience, the Standard speaks to creating common platforms, being mindful of accessibility, privacy, and security, and ensuring user success at every stage of the design.
While the Standard focuses on good design, the key priorities of the ODS extend beyond the user experience. We spoke about government procurement methods and how to attract tech talent in the public sector. Deputy Minister Hartley and Tanya also shared with us their vision of the future of digital government in Ontario.
From now on, every time we use the new and improved online services, we’ll be thinking of the ODS team. Thank you to both DM Hartley and Tanya for taking the time to meet with us!

Sitting Down with the Right Honourable Paul Martin

Image may contain: 10 people, people smiling, people standing and suit

On May 17, the interns were honoured to meet with the Right Honourable Paul Martin over coffee and chocolate tarts in a quiet room off the Legislative Assembly’s Great Hall. For many of us, Mr. Martin’s tenure as prime minister aligned with the moment we began paying attention to politics, and so this meeting held extra excitement – and we were not disappointed! Mr. Martin was warm and open, taking time to respond to each question in detail over the course of an hour. Our discussion ranged from pipeline dispute on the West Coast to the best way to manage Cabinet, but the constant theme was the importance of a responsible, honest, and open communication between the provinces and the federal government.

Mr. Martin described his time as a finance minister, and the difficult process of negotiating health care payments with the provinces. Although no province wanted to accept cuts, the eventual agreement only worked because each province felt they could trust the government to follow through on funding commitments once the government had succeeded in balancing the budget. The most important part of this equation, Mr. Martin reminded us, was to fulfil your promises; otherwise, that trust could be gone forever.

We moved on to discussing the dynamics of party leadership, and the surprisingly complex series of events that led to Mr. Martin’s succession to Mr. Chrétien. For us political junkies, this was the most exciting part, as we learned about how a new leader builds his or her team and focuses on the priorities that they see as most important. Mr. Martin concluded by asking us for our perspectives on the #metoo movement, and what changes we saw as necessary within political culture, admitting that harassment and violence in politics was a problem to which no single person had an answer. The solution, however, he posited, would come from our generation, as we sought systemic change within politics and society.

We are grateful to Mr. Martin for taking the time to meet with us, and hope that he may find time in his schedule for interns in years to come, as this meeting was extremely rewarding.

Robert Fisher: An Honourary Intern we were Honoured to Meet

RobertFisher

“I am a strong proponent of institutional memory,” Robert Fisher began, sitting at the head of the table in the OLIP office. In order to understand the Queen’s Park of today, it is necessary to understand the Queen’s Park of decades past: a world of political giants like John Robarts and Bill Davis, a time when increasing numbers of trailbreaking women were breaking into what was very much an old boys’ club, an era in which the public knew provincial politics mattered and the press gallery was consistently full.

And who better to talk to us about the complex histories of Queen’s Park than veteran broadcaster and reporter Robert Fisher? His career spanned 49 years, including a long stint at Queen’s Park. In the 1970s he was working in Quebec and was the first to announce the kidnapping and later death of the province’s Labour Minister, Pierre Laporte, at the hands of the FLQ. From 2000 until his retirement in 2015, Fisher provided political analysis for CBC, anchoring that network’s Ontario election coverage in 2003, 2007, 2011, and 2014. Enigmatically non-partisan, Fisher has received invitations to run under the banner of political parties from across the spectrum—which he declined.

Fisher shared with us a number of vignettes from his career covering politics in Ontario, many of which were humourous. For example, in the pre-Internet era, journalists covering political campaigns in remote corners of the province had to go to some pretty extreme lengths to file their stories on time. This process often involved: recording your story in a bathroom, storing it in a grapefruit bag, and bribing a pilot to take it back with him to Toronto. Other anecdotes were specific to former parliamentarians: Frank Miller liked to tease Fisher about his yellow socks; enthusiastic voters occasionally asked David Peterson to sign their loafers; once at an official event Pierre Trudeau changed into a teensy-tiny speedo and dove into the hotel pool, stunning reporters.

Some of Fisher’s recollections were more serious. He wrote his master’s thesis on the experiences of female MPPs at Queen’s Park, ultimately reaching the conclusion that the presence of women makes a real difference in political decision-making—for the better. While Queen’s Park may have become less of an old boys club over the years, female politicians still experience unique challenges because of their gender. According to Fisher, the nastiness of online vitriol now directed towards female political leaders is unprecedented in the Ontario political context.

We were the 32nd OLIP cohort to have the pleasure of meeting Robert Fisher. His dedication to the program resulted in him being named a “Honourary Intern,” and we can say that—without a doubt—it was an honour to meet him.

Renu Mandhane: The Ontario Human Rights Commissioner

 

We visited Chief Commissioner Renu Mandhane at the Ontario Human Rights Commissioner’s office in downtown Toronto.

Before her appointment at the OHRC om 2015, Chief Commissioner Mandhane was the Executve Director of the International Human Rights Program at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law. Her practice has been focused on criminal law, and she was most recently recognized by the Canadian Lawyer magazine as one of Canada’s most influential lawyers for her advocacy related to solitary confinement. For these and many other reasons, it was an absolute honour to meet Chief Commissioner Mandhane.

During our meeting, Chief Commissioner Mandhane discussed her personal journey, her vision for the Commission, and the different types of activities that the OHRC is engaged with. She spoke about shifting the OHRC’s focus more towards understanding and tackling more systemic forms of discrimination in the province. Most recently, the OHRC has released reports on the over-representation of Indigenous and Black children in Ontario’s child welfare system, racial profiling by police forces, and sexual harassment experienced by women in the workplace, among others. Chief Commissioner Mandhane noted the importance of relationship-building in her role. The treatment that many marginalized communities experience makes it very difficult for them to place trust in the hands of public bodies.

We found the framework within which the OHRC operates to be fascinating. Unlike other Commissioners we’ve met, Chief Commissioner Mandhane is not an independent officer of the legislature. Instead, the OHRC is an arms-length agency of the government. However, it does share some similar traits to independent officers. The Chief Commissioner is hired by the Ontario Legislature, has a responsibility to report annually, and is independent of the government of the day. The OHRC is also one of the few government agencies that has the authority to write binding policies for the province. Commissioner Mandhane emphasized that the OHRC is one pillar of Ontario’s human rights system, alongside the Human Rights Tribunal and the Human Rights Legal Support Centre.

In addition to its ability to write policy, reports, and submissions, the OHRC has a broad litigation mandate that gives it the power to investigate, enforce policies, initiate a claim or action at the Human Rights Tribunal, and intervene on pertinent court cases. Commissoiner Mandhane spoke in detail about the significance of this mandate to the OHRC’s crucial work.

It was inspiring to hear about the incredible and important work that the Commissioner and her staff do. Thank you to everyone at the OHRC for you warm welcome!

 

A Meeting with Our Sponsor: Loblaw

 

Image-1.jpg

A great part of the programme is the relationship interns have with sponsors. In past years, interns have met with long-time sponsor Loblaw at their Maple Leaf Gardens location on Carlton Street in Toronto.  This year, the interns had the unique experience to visit the relatively new Loblaw Digital offices in Liberty Village.  This visit provided great insights for the interns given the increasingly important role of e-commerce and digital projects in grocery and agri-food industries.

 The visit began with an informative tour and history of Loblaw Digital from Paul Sudarsan, Director of Business Development and Strategic Partnerships.  The interns were fascinated by Loblaw Digital’s collaborative workspace and culture.  It was also great to hear about their rapid growth and current projects.  A particularly interesting initiative is the collaboration with Metrolinx to expand “click-and-collect” service to commuters so they can pick up groceries at GO stations.  They have also developed the websites and apps used by Loblaw platforms.

 The visit concluded with an informative discussion with Jesse Dhaliwal, Senior Government Relations Analyst, and Alain Brandon, Senior Director of Corporate Social Responsibility and Government Relations.  Learning about Loblaw’s interactions with government was valuable for the many interns interested in government relations and the role of the private sector in public policy.  The interns also learned about the disruptive role of technology in the industry, and how initiatives like Loblaw Digital help to turn these challenges into opportunities for employees and consumers.

A Conversation with David Lindsay

david.jpg

David Lindsay is no stranger to Queen’s Park. The current President and CEO of the Council of Ontario Universities (COU) has walked through its halls holding a variety of positions in politics and public policy. We were excited to meet with him and hear about his vast experience in politics, public service, and in the higher education sector. David Lindsay was joined by Krista Orendorff, Senior Director of Government and Strategic Partnerships at COU.
Mr. Lindsay shared anecdotes about his time in politics and in the public service. From 1995 to 1997, he was Chief of Staff to then Premier Mike Harris. It was this work that sparked his interest in transition of power from one political party to another following elections. Although it’s a process that has taken place many times in our province, it has seldom been studied or written about. Mr. Lindsay outlined all the actors and stakeholders involved in a government transition, and some of the downfalls of how they are often carried out.
During that same government, David Lindsay became the founding President of the Ontario SuperBuild Corporation, which was responsible for infrastructure planning in the province. Mr. Lindsay then became the CEO of Colleges Ontario, and later returned to public service, where he held the role of Deputy Minister in several ministries during the McGuinty government.
David Lindsay has a unique understanding of the post-secondary landscape in Ontario, having served both as the CEO of Colleges Ontario and COU. With Ms. Orendorff and Mr. Lindsay, we discussed the past and future of higher education, and spoke about how current economic and social trends will affect the evolution of colleges and universities. We also discussed other pressing issues, including tuition costs and financial aid, and the increasing demand for STEM graduates, among other topics.
Thank you to David Lindsay and Krista Orendorff for having a lively conversation with us on higher education policy in Ontario!