OLIP Study Tour: Québec City & Ottawa

Day One – Québec City: The House of the People

Landing in Québec City is like walking into a storybook, and the National Assembly of Québec is like its gingerbread house. Festooned with golden fleurs-de-lis, green maple leaves, and featuring a pale blue chamber instead of the traditional parliamentary green, the interns were struck by the sheer beauty of the building upon arrival to the city.

While the National Assembly itself embodies history and tradition, this has not stopped its staff from being forward-thinking and innovative. Our first meeting of the day, with Philippe Vincent Foisy of 98.5 FM, Caroline Plante of the Montreal Gazette, and Maya Johnson of CTV Montreal, involved a fascinating look at how the Press Gallery in Québec has adapted to the modern electorate. With a Press Gallery consisting of 59 members, the journalists at the National Assembly are a force to be reckoned with.

Michel Bonsaint, Secretary General of the National Assembly, is another great innovator at the National Assembly. Mr. Bonsaint performs the function of Clerk for the Assembly. Under his direction, a new, contemporary visitor’s centre is being built at the front of the parliamentary building. It will be accessible and designed with the public in mind, since, as Mr. Bonsaint pointed out, the National Assembly “is the House of the people.” It will include broad windows through which visitors can watch committee proceedings, and exhibits highlighting the historic significance of the National Assembly.

Mr. Bonsaint previously had great success with a vegetable garden planted in front of the Assembly. He told us, “When I see a kid with a strawberry in their mouth outside the Parliament, I think that’s very cool; it’s beautiful.” That joy and enthusiasm for parliamentary democracy was evident throughout our time at the National Assembly; like biting into a strawberry on a warm summer day.

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Exploring both Inside (and Outside) of the House   

Did you know that the province of Québec was the last province to disband their upper house in 1968?

Or, that when when cameras were introduced in 1978, the Legislative Chamber had to be painted blue to ensure that Members of the National Assembly did not appear sick from the green walls on TV?

During our first afternoon in Québec City, we took a tour of Québec’s beautiful Assemblée Nationale. Under the watchful eye of our tour guide Randy, we explored the legislative and former senate chambers. Built in the French Second Empire style, the outside of the building and the interior design represent French influence. Functionally, the Québec Legislature reflects a Westminster-style government. Effectively, French on the outside and British on the inside. The mix of British and French influences in the Assemblée Nationale’s architecture, which symbolized Québec’s long and unique history, fascinated us interns.

We finished off our formal part of the afternoon by chatting with Krystal Mclaughlin, coordinator of the Legislature’s educational services. Ms. Mclaughlin is responsible for all of the model parliaments as well as the Québec boursiers stagiaires. Along with boursiere Julie Martel, we all compared our experiences as legislative interns/fellows, thinking about best practices for both of our programs.

To finish off our first day in the great city of Québec, we shared a meal and drank a few pints of the finest Québec has to offer with the Boursieres at Pub Le Projet. After warming up at the cozy pub, we strolled out into a cool Québec evening to check out Rue Saint-Jean, Old Québec, and the Plains of Abraham. Spent from a day of engaging meetings and beautiful sights, we went to bed early to prepare for an exciting morning of meetings with Deputées.

Day Two – Québec City: Inspirational Words from the Members Themselves

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I started our second day in Québec City in the dark. However, a frosty run along the rolling hills of the Plaines d’Abraham was well worth it to watch the sunrise over the Fleuve Saint-Laurent. Our first meeting of the day was over breakfast in the National Assembly with a Member of the National Assembly (MNA), Sylvain Gaudreault, from the Parti Québécois who represents Jonquière. After the bacon, Mr. Gaudreault passionately described his riding and the need for the separatist movement to modernize in Québec. We then proceeded to the library of the National Assembly for a tour of their collection, including a 5 million year old fossil in a marble pillar. It was both an informative and delicious morning!

Next we met with David Birnbaum of the Québec Liberal Party who represents the riding of D’Arcy-McGee in the National Assembly. He described the unique experience of representing a riding with a large anglophone population in Montreal, and spoke passionately about Québec nationalism and multiculturalism. Mr. Birnbaum also left us with inspirational advice should any of the OLIPers ever decide to seek elected office: first, figure out why we want to run and only pursue that interest if it is for the right reasons and second, that we should only run if we truly believe that becoming a politician is an honourable, serious and legitimate way of contributing to positive change in the world.

Afterwards we chatted with Maryse Gaudreault, Liberal MNA for the riding of Hull a woman who wears many chapeaus both inside and out of the Québec Legislature, including that of Vice-President of the National Assembly and Chair of the Non-Partisan Women’s Caucus of the Québec Legislature (amongst many many others). Donning a proudly feminist hat, Ms. Gaudreault spoke of the importance of women standing together in the Legislature to address issues facing women in politics as well as women across la Belle Province.

-Sara Gajic, Emily Trudeau, Hannah Forsyth, Leslie Muñoz

All Aboard! Bonjour Québec City!

With each clickety-clack of our train, we grew more excited to arrive in Québec City, the first stop on our very first study tour as OLIP Interns. We would like to thank our sponsor, VIA Rail, for helping us on our study tour journey — first to Québec City followed by Ottawa tomorrow!

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We were thrilled to have the opportunity to visit the Assemblée Nationale du Québec today to compare the inner-workings of Québec’s provincial legislature to those of Queen’s Park and the many experiences we have had in the Pink Palace these past few months. 

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We will be posting right here on our OLIP Unplugged Blog as well as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram so make sure to follow us on all of our social media platforms to view our adventures every step of the way!

Au revoir from all of the OLIP Interns in Québec City!

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October in Review

Two down, eight to go!

In the blink of an eye, we’ve made it through another busy month of the Ontario Legislature Internship Programme! We learned beans about chili, went behind the scenes with our public broadcasters, continued to meet with fascinating and influential people around Queen’s Park and…we started our placements!

After a final week of MPP interviews at the start of the month, we were finally placed in our first session offices (you can check out our bios on the OLIP website to see who is placed where!). The first few weeks in our placements have been an exciting time: getting to know our members and their staff, attending stakeholder meetings, writing questions for Question Period, and testing our orientation knowledge by not getting lost (or at least, not too lost)! Many Interns were also given an introduction in the Chamber, making us a part of Leg history, forever recorded in the Hansard.

Outside of the offices, OLIP’s media tour continued with Andrew Coyne, who bridged the gap between print and television journalism with his entertaining insights into politics and the news in general. Next, 45 years to the day of Bill Davis’ first electoral win as Premier, we visited the broadcast network he established — TVO. At TVO, we had the opportunity to visit the set of The Agenda and chat with host, Steve Paikin, who shared with us some of his amazing experiences working at TVO and his admiration for Mr. Davis (the subject of his latest book). Our October media tour wrapped up at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation with Mark Bulgutch, a multi-talented journalist, producer, author, line-up editor (and the list goes on) accompanied by a viewing of the National from the control room. But it wouldn’t be a visit to the National without Peter Mansbridge, who we had the opportunity to meet on set during one of his breaks.

The Interns were also invited to attend the Ontario First Nation Economic Forum, where we had the chance to learn more about issues in Indigenous communities and attended incredible panel discussions regarding challenges and opportunities for economic development in First Nations communities. We also heard inspiring keynote addresses from Chief Clarence Louie, Gary Davis, and Ted Nolan. A big thank you to the Chiefs of Ontario for inviting us to attend!

The current Interns also got acquainted with past interns during an alumni pub night and through meetings with those in and around Queen’s Park as staff and stakeholders. We also participated in the annual chili social and Intern games at the home of honorary intern Rick Sage (and his wife Lorraine Luski, who is also an OLIP alum).

Last but not least this month, we met with the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario who had a wealth of knowledge about the province we live in. Her insights about Ontario are a result of her experiences working in the Public Sector and getting the chance to further explore Ontario and meet its citizens in her role as Lieutenant Governor.

To catch up on everything we did this month, check out our other blog posts and follow us on Twitter. After this action-packed month, we can’t wait to see what November has in store!

The Upcoming Churchill Society Dinner, a 33 Year Tradition

Each year, the OLIP Interns look forward to donning their fanciest attire while attending an annual dinner hosted by our sponsor, The Churchill Society for the Advancement of Parliamentary Democracy. The Annual Churchill Society Dinner is an event that honours the life and contributions of Sir Winston Churchill while recognizing the good works of a specific individual who has devoted their life to the betterment of parliamentary democracy.  

Here’s a look back at Annual Churchill Society Dinners of years past and the OLIP attendees who assisted with the annual function.

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The tradition continues this year for the Annual Churchill Society Dinner which will take place on Thursday November 24, 2016 at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in downtown Toronto. This year, Peter Mansbridge, long-time news anchor of CBC’s The National, will be the evening’s guest speaker, while The Honourable R. Roy McMurtry OC, O.Ont, QC LSM will be given the Award for Excellence in the Cause of Parliamentary Democracy. Tickets and tables to this black tie event are still available on The Churchill Society’s website. Click here for more information.

You can read more about The Churchill Society for the Advancement of Parliamentary Democracy by visiting their website or you can follow them on Twitter by clicking here. See you this Thursday evening!

Be Our Guest! Looking back at our Fall Reception

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The invitations had been sent, the food had been ordered, and by some miracle, the technology was cooperating. The only thing missing was our guests.

This was the scene in the Dining Room on the evening of Wednesday November 2nd, as ten Interns anxiously awaited the start of our Fall Reception. OLIP hosts two receptions every year – one in the Fall, the other in the Spring – to celebrate and thank all those who make this program possible. After weeks of preparation, nervous excitement filled the air as we waited for our guests to arrive.

As with any party, the host always fears no one will show up: Did the invitations have the right date? Will disaster strike at the last minute? Will people forget our reception and choose to watch Game 7 of the World Series instead?

Thankfully none of these fears were realized. With the help of all the Interns, (and an 8:00PM first pitch in Cleveland), the night went off without a hitch. We were thrilled to see MPPs from every party reminiscing with their past Interns; it was fun to watch our OLIP sponsors reunite with Interns from previous years, and get to know this year’s cohort; we were excited to welcome many of the Assembly Staff who have supported OLIP since its inception; and many of the Independent Officers of the Assembly also made the time to come say hello and show their support.

It was evident to all in attendance that OLIP is greatly admired. In fact, many of our guests refused to leave until well after the food was gone and the bar had closed! Thankfully, our alumni chair planned ahead and we were able to move everyone to our after party at Prenup Pub just down the road where the reunions and celebrations continued late into the night. The evening was truly a testament to the impact OLIP has on so many people’s lives at the Legislature.

As receptions chair, I would be remiss not to say thank you to all those who made the evening possible. In the interest of space I cannot list everyone here, but the teamwork that went into making the evening a success is exemplary of the many talented and selfless individuals that tirelessly work to support OLIP. Thank you all for your hard work – we’ll see you at our next reception!

Up Next on the Interns’ Agenda

It can be heartbreaking to find out that a celebrity or public figure that you once admired is not as nice as they appear to be on TV. Perhaps it’s a sign of that particular humility of Ontario celebrity (the same humility that makes Torontonians insist that Toronto is not a “real” global city like New York or Paris) that the Interns have not yet had this experience with any of the provincial celebrities we’ve met so far. Case in point is Steve Paikin, host of the current affairs program The Agenda, who is exactly as kind, thoughtful and humble as he appears on television – if not more so.

The Interns were fortunate enough to watch Mr. Paikin film the extro to a show at the TVO studio on Yonge Street, and then speak with him for an hour afterwards. Mr. Paikin invited us all to his table on set, insisting that he always looks forward to meeting the Interns. He took particular note of our names so that he could address us by first name throughout our conversation.

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Steve Paikin, Host of TVO’s The Agenda, with the 2016-2017 OLIP Interns

This is the kind of care that makes Mr. Paikin so good at what he does. He has interviewed authors, politicians, and experts on every topic. Each one of them gets the benefit of a fair and stimulating conversation with Mr. Paikin. This legendary evenness is also the reason that Mr. Paikin has moderated three provincial and three federal leaders’ debates. Like the Interns, Mr. Paikin sees non-partisanship as a requirement for what he does. A good interview requires an open mind, and that is something he excels at maintaining.

The hour with Mr. Paikin flew by, as it so often does on his program. So for the Interns, that’s all for tonight on The Agenda.

A Tasty OLIP Tradition

With a program that has spanned four decades comes a multitude of traditions. This past October, this year’s cohort of OLIP Interns enjoyed the annual OLIP chili luncheon. For a number of years, the Interns have been hosted by former OLIP Intern and Coordinator, Lorraine Luski. Joining Lorraine was her husband, Rick Sage, a former OLIP Coordinator and Honorary Intern as well as their daughter, Linnea.

It is hard to think of a better way to warm up on a cool October day than enjoying a bowl of hot and delicious chili! We were given not one, not two, but three different kinds to pick from (are you getting hungry yet?) Add some fabulous homemade cornbread (thanks Hannah F!) and you’ve got yourself quite the fall feast!

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Lorraine, Rick and Linnea are aficionados of all things chili — and all things Texas! Did you know that the official flower of Texas is the bluebonnet or that the flags of six different nations have flown over the state? Now you do! We learned these facts and more during a fun quiz accompanied by chips, guacamole and fiesta music. Watch out Jeopardy – we could tackle any category about the The Lone Star State!

Our chili was followed by the traditional ‘Intern Game’ where we put our memories and charade skills to the test. Many laughs were shared as we all tried to impersonate everyone from political figures to pop stars!  

We are so grateful to Rick, Lorraine and Linnea for opening their home to us and for expanding our chili palette as well as our knowledge of Texas. I know we all left with wonderful memories! Thank you Rick, Lorraine and Linnea!

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